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Letter from Switzerland

by Stefan Wanzenried MA, MCIPR

I run a PR agency called keen PR in Bern, Switzerland. Many of my clients are in the public sector, but I consult private sector companies as well. Before starting my agency in 2009, I was Deputy Director and Head of Corporate Communications at the British Council Switzerland in Bern. You can follow me on Twitter: @keenminds or send me an email at: stefan.wanzenried@keen.ch.

PR is becoming more digital

PR in Switzerland is becoming increasingly specialised – and increasingly digital, not least as a result of the rise of social media and the convergence of print and online media. In my view, figuring out what 'digital PR' means and should mean to us and our clients, is one of the important challenges ahead. Both in the agency and the corporate world, 'digital' jobs such as community managers, SEO analysts or social media managers are fast on the rise. Surprisingly though, a recent study showed that, while two thirds of Swiss corporations use social media such as Facebook, YouTube or Twitter to enhance their customer dialogue, only 20% have a social media or content strategy in place. It seems that social media is still managed in an 'off the cuff' fashion by many. Our challenge as PR and communications professionals is to help our clients work out a structured approach to digital communications that fits their needs and their culture and to help them navigate through the multitude of options efficiently and effectively.

Big challenges ahead for pr suisse

In Switzerland, the highest PR degree in the market has traditionally been the Federal Diploma for PR Consultants awarded by pr suisse, the Swiss professional association for Public Relations. In recent years, however, an increasing number of communications degrees at BA and MA level have proven to be strong competition for the more rigid PR qualifications. In their press release of June 2013, pr suisse announced that it would join forces with the SPRI – who have been in charge of the courses leading to the federal diplomas – in order to place the specialised PR diplomas firmly on the map again. Ironically, perhaps, as far as the education market is concerned, there has been a lack of PR for PR in Switzerland.

 

Many professionals, including myself, are also looking beyond the border for benchmarks and standards, such as the CIPR degrees, that enable them to give evidence of their experience and skills vis-à-vis their clients and their peers, to be part of an inspiring and diverse network and to take part in continuous professional development. Given the increasingly internationalised work environment in Switzerland, it is very likely that the CIPR degrees will continue to gain importance in the future here.

PR - going strong

From a market perspective, PR is going strong in Switzerland. It seems that the recent economic and financial crisis has not necessarily led to a cut in communications and PR budgets. From 2011 to 2012, the 25 largest PR agencies in Switzerland regulated by BRPA have, on average, maintained their total number of employees, ranging from four to 60 employees per agency. The turbulent economic environment has even inspired creative crisis communications campaigns such as the one for the newly formed Notenstein bank, which centres around the impossibility of predicting the future – almost a paradigm change in Financial PR. It shows that PR is an all-season discipline, and many companies today appreciate the need for active dialogue with their customers, both when they're doing well and when they're not. The variety of challenges we come across as a result, is one of the reasons I love what I do: every new client brief inspires us to achieve the maximum and to help our clients navigate both turbulent and calmer weather.