Letter from Romania
by Iulia-Mihaela Matres
Iulia's career in PR began in 1999, in the first Romanian PR agency: Perfect Ld, where she set the foundations of the Media Monitoring Department while learning the ingredients of successful press conferences. She worked for clients such as Balli, Europay International, Marriott Grand Hotel, Philips and Xerox. Currently she is employed as PR Specialist with SC Industrie Mica Prahova SA, a Romanian company operating in the sector of road marking and traffic signs.
Last year, after the successful completion of her CIPR Diploma (Distinction), she became a full Member of the CIPR.
After his first trip to Transylvania, a beautiful Romanian region, The Prince of Wales was, as he himself declared, "totally overwhelmed by its unique beauty and its extraordinarily rich heritage." Indeed, Romania is a country with wonderful traditions which have been well preserved over the centuries despite the constant challenges we had to face.
Here's a tip: don't be fooled by the Romanians' attitude towards their country. They love it very much, even though they constantly criticise it. When it comes to foreigners, Romanians do their best to impress and welcome them. We enjoy being good hosts and creating a positive image, so PR comes naturally to us. On the negative side, there is a propensity towards self-pity in the Romanian character and a tendency to over-analyse everything. These traits are reflected in the media, as well.
PR is a young industry in Romania, as in most of Eastern Europe. I consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to witness the early days of public relations in my country. In a way, PR is still in its early days here, since there are employers who assimilate it with sales and/or marketing. Some even view the PR person as some sort of office assistant.
As presented in a recent analysis conducted by the Romanian Association of Public Relations Professionals (ARRP), only a few of the ministries in the Romanian Government acknowledge and use PR as a management function. Most PR professionals working in government have non-executive positions instead of occupying strategic posts.
Fortunately, there are many companies in which the management understands the value of PR and employs it accordingly.
Nevertheless, PR has had an amazing evolution here. We have public relations faculties, specialised courses to choose from (CIPR courses included) and a young generation which is more and more attracted to this domain. Well-known PR agencies such as Chelgate, Fleishmann Hillard, Weber Shandwick (to name only a few) have offices or affiliates in Romania. Many successful PR departments have been developed in the local branches of international advertising agencies (BBDO, Leo Burnett, Ogilvy, etc.).
Moreover, Romanian PR professionals have won some of the most prestigious international awards - for example, the Cannes PR Lion and the Golden World Award from the International Public Relations Association (IPRA).
Despite its amazing evolution, the Romanian PR industry has some serious issues it needs to confront and these are connected with moral values. As long as payment to journalists for media coverage continues to exist, we cannot speak about professionalism when we refer to the people involved in such practices. There is a strong need for an association to set the standards in PR, especially the ethical ones.
In my opinion, the most important issues concerning the PR profession in Romania are:
the lack of concerted effort from professional associations and universities to support new and existing PR practitioners
the need for professional standards, including a code of ethics.
Most foreigners working in the communications sector have either started their own businesses or they occupy managerial positions in established companies. Their input is extremely well valued here, especially because they bring a solid know-how combined with a fresh perspective on the Romanian economy.
According to very recent statistics from the National Audiovisual Council of Romania (CNA), there are as many as 750 TV stations, 633 radio stations and 3727 cable distribution networks in Romania at this time. Thus, Romania has one of the most developed audiovisual markets in Central and Eastern Europe.
However, many studies have pointed out that both PR people and journalists in our country view the Romanian media as less credible than in other countries. This happens because the owner and the political affiliation of the respective media have a strong influence on the editors' opinions.
Today, more and more Romanian PR practitioners prefer to distribute their press releases and communication materials online. The online environment has gained the attention of PR people for various reasons, the first one being its accessibility. At the same time, the feedback from the publics comes more rapidly and the entire communication process is accelerated. Nevertheless, printed media still holds its share of the pie.
Associations, resources, and events
The Romanian Association of Public Relations Professionals (ARRP) is the professional body for PR people in our country.
PR Romania is a specialised website for Romanian Public Relations professionals. It has a large collection of interviews, articles, case studies and links to various resources on the web.
There is also the PR Forum – the place where the Romanian PR industry gathers every year to discuss the tendencies, opportunities and challenges for the communication sector.
And, of course, we have the PR Award, the competition honouring the best public relations campaigns and people, whether agency or corporate.