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Letter from Hungary

by Andras Sztaniszlav

Andras is a corporate communication expert with a background in media. After working in the press, he joined the Hungarian Prime Minister's Office as a press officer and member of the communication advisory team. Later on, Andras established his own PR consultancy with his German business partner focusing on strategy, planning and evaluation. He worked for top-tier clients, including some of the biggest Hungarian corporations. Having recently moved to the UK, Andras is keen to develop and broaden his experience, and is seeking a new opportunity with global clients. He is a member of the Hungarian PR Association and has recently joined the CIPR as a Global Affiliate. You can email Andras Sztaniszlav at sztaniszlav.andras@gmail.com.  

Hungary's PR market tends to follow international trends, employing the same channels and offering the same range of services as mature markets. Hungarian professionals take part in global industry competitions and face the same challenges as PR people everywhere (e.g. lack of credibility, evaluating performance from a business point of view, interacting with other professions). Although companies implement new trends quickly, the small size of Hungary's PR market means that the profession is in a less mature state than those of other countries. For instance, in Hungary one can see a considerably limited proliferation of social media channels, and less sophisticated PR services than in the UK.

Big vs. small

Although multinational corporations tend to work with large consultancies, a great part of the market is covered by small, local agencies. Global PR firms still have a significant advantage based on their capability to better assess multinational client expectations, share best practices and do campaign execution with only limited control from their clients. In contrast, more and more small boutique agencies have arisen from nowhere and are focusing on specific areas such as channel, stakeholder and personal competency. These smaller agencies are a key element for innovation and the implementation of new trends. On the downside, boutique agencies tend to accept projects for which they do not have the right skills and offer extremely competitive prices which in turn can lead to 'price wars' affecting larger firms.

Development of Hungarian PR practice

In its the early stages of development, Hungarian PR's role was mainly to manage traditional media enquiries. Today, despite the spread of PR within business, media and press relations are still the core of PR and are focusing on one-way communication. Social media are likely to change this as corporations increasingly have their own direct connections to their stakeholders and journalists need interesting and easy to cover stories to keep their readers' interest. The trail-blazing storytelling PR practitioners and content marketers are poised to dominate the market in the next few years.

Challenges

The PR market in Hungary still faces a difficult challenge due to the unpredictability of the country's economic outlook and the lasting effects of the global financial crisis. Businesses expect direct sales support from PR professionals, which leads PR agencies to focus on creativity and execution with only little thought devoted to long-term strategic planning and measurement.

Two professions have close relations to Public Relations and are in very different situations. Corporate Social Responsibility has become common among influential companies. Although its intention was to promote ethical and sustainable business practice, some corporations and consultancies still tend to reduce it to little more than a "greenwashing" PR activity. In spite of this, major companies are recognised internationally for their positive effect on energy consumption, community engagement programmes, and their honesty and transparency in CSR reporting. From this perspective it is encouraging that we do not see any pressure from any stakeholder groups on corporations.

Public Affairs, another area of interest, is still in its infancy. Due to the over-expansion of politics into the public and corporate realms, the status of Public Affairs professionals remains somewhat vague. One telling example of this is that public debates are still relatively uncommon in Hungary's schools, academic, corporate and public institutions.

Leaders of the profession

The Hungarian PR Association, the country's only professional body for the PR industry, is currently on the verge of a major expansion which will improve its scope to cover the whole Hungarian PR market. The newly elected president and managing board represent a new generation, whose main task will be to massively increase the number of members and engage with all types of Public Relations professionals, from those who work at agencies to those who work in-house for corporations, public bodies and non-profit organisations. New programmes and best-practice sharing platforms are to be introduced and I predict a rising need for a strengthening of international relations.

I am more than happy to share my deeper insight of our PR industry with those who have (or plan to have) operations in Hungary or with those professionals who are simply interested in today's communication market.

Quick facts about Hungary

  • Landlocked country in Central Europe, bordered by Austria, Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia.

  • Capital: Budapest

  • Official Language: Hungarian (Magyar)

  • Area: Total - 93,030 km2 (35,919 sq mi)

  • Population: 9,942,000

  • Currency: Hungarian Forint (HUF)

  • Source: The Hungarian Tourist Board