Monetary unit: Lats
Capital city: Riga
Major languages: Latvian, Russian
Major religions: Christian
Ethnic composition: Latvians, Russians
Age breakdown: -
Life expectancy: Male: (2011) 68.8 years Female: (2011) 78.7 years
Education: 100% literacy in over 15's
Urban/Rural split: Urban: (2011) 67.5% Rural: (2011) 32.5%
Income per household (USD): 12,350
Broadband internet users (%): -
Source: Encyclopedia Britannica
In the fourth quarter of 2012 the Latvian economy was the fastest growing in the EU, expanding by 5.1% on a year earlier. Growth above 5% in both 2011 and 2012 has seen this Baltic state rebound positively from the 2008-09 financial crisis which saw nearly a quarter wiped off GDP.
This economic resurgence has been reflected in the country's PR industry. Evija Ansonska, Chairwoman of the Board at the Latvian Association of Public Relations Consultancies (LSAKA), says: “In the past 12 months we have seen most of our members continue to grow, building on gains made in 2010, and restoring much of the ground they lost as a result of the 10-15% decline in the market prior to that.”
In fact, she believes a major issue for Latvia's PR industry is now the shortage of talent. “In both the public and private sectors, there are not enough experienced professionals,” she says. “Our higher education institutions cannot provide a solution to this problem without the help of employers, so LSAKA is working hard to improve the quality of communications and public relations courses.”
While Latvia suffers from the fact that it is a small market, it benefits from close ties to Estonia and Lithuania, and from its links to the regional giant that is Russia. One agency boss says: “There is an increased demand for coordinated communication for the whole Baltic region.”
She continues: “Some agencies are opening branches in neighbouring countries, whilst others are looking to strengthen relationships within a network of affiliates. It is also worth bearing in mind that Latvia is still a bilingual society with almost 40% of the population speaking Russian.”
For Latvian speakers the main television channels are LTV1, LNT and TV3, the main radio stations are Latvijas radio 1, SWH, and Radio Skonto, and the most important daily newspapers are Diena, Neatkariga Rita Avize, Latvijas Avize.
Then there are the news agencies LETA, and BNS, and the Internet portals www.DELFI.lv; www.tvnet.lv; www.apollo.lv .
There are also many important Latvian magazines from business titles Dienas Bizness, Kapitals, and Forbes, to lifestyle and celebrity titles Privata Dzive and Kas Jauns, women's titles Santa and Lilit, men's title Klubs, and fashion titles Pastaiga, L'Officiel.
For Russian speakers there is an entirely separate media. The main television channel is PBK, the radio station is Mix FM, and the daily newspapers to be aware of are Vesti Segodnja and Telegraf.
Rus.delfi.lv and Novonews.lv are the leading Internet portals for Latvia’s Russian speakers.
Equally there are Russian language magazines: business titles Biznes Baltia, lifestyle and celebrity titles Otkrito, women’s title Lilit RU, men’s title Patron and fashion title Pastaiga RU.
Industry insiders highlight the following brands as leading the way in Latvian PR: national chocolate factory, Laima; national electricity provider Latvenergo; national forestry company Latvijas Valsts meži; Swedbank and SEB banks, the country's two largest banks; mobile telcos Latvijas Mobilais telefons and Tele2; retailers Rimi Latvia and Maxima; petrol forecourt owner Statoil Fuel & Retail Latvia; pharmacy firm Grindeks; cosmetics company Dzintars, and catering firm Lido
Edelman affiliate Komunikaciju agentura picked up the Corporate Social Sustainability & Responsibility gong at the latest Baltic PR Awards for its campaign around senior citizen computer literacy on behalf of telco Lattelecom. 73% of Latvians aged 55 and over lack computer literacy skills. Lattelecom’s “Connect Latvia!” campaign is now in its fifth year and its aim is to provide free computer literacy classes for at least 30,000 senior citizens by the Republic of Latvia’s 100th anniversary.
Ansonska at LSAKA reports that in Latvia larger agencies are outpacing smaller competitors, with a major gulf now opening up between the top ten and the rest. She adds: “There is also a major shift taking place with some agencies continuing to offer classic PR services and more progressive ones extending their expertise to offer digital communications, lobbying or change management.”
The members of LSAKA are: BPS PR; Deep White; Hauska & Partner; Hill & Knowlton; Komunikaciju agentura/Edelman Affiliate; MRS grupa; Nords Porter Novelli, P.R.A.E. Sabiedriskas attiecibas; PR Stils; Repute; 2C.