Drugi jezik na kojem je dostupan ovaj članak: Bosnian
By: Ekrem Dupanović
Aida Salkić leads the corporate communications of ASA Prevent Group. She loves her job. She is great at it. She is constantly improving, following trends and trying to apply them in her business. She understands the position and importance of PR in companies. She sees the problems of the profession, and she sees the solutions, but because of the disorganization of this industry in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it is difficult for PR to take the place that belongs to it in the communications industry of today.
Media Marketing: For seven years now you have been in the PR of ASA Prevent Group, one of the leading export oriented companies in Bosnia and Herzegovina. How big is the challenge of doing PR in such a big and complex company, and at that to do it in BiH?
Aida Salkić: My first work experience in the Group was in the field of logistics, which was a very good foundation for further development and improvement. First of all, this job has enabled me to better understand the way things work, the internal politics, as well as the production process itself, and that is crucial for external communication. Thanks to that position, I could later be better involved in building a communication strategy and ultimately in spreading the vision and mission of the company in the public. The initial challenge of working in such a large and complex system is to explain to people the association between ASA Group and Prevent Group, which simultaneously operate as two separate companies. Simply put, the ASA Prevent business system consists of two groups, one of which, ASA Group, operates in the service segment and towards the domestic market, while the other, the Prevent Group, operates in the manufacturing sector and is exclusively export-oriented. Doing PR in large corporations requires a lot of flexibility, everyday learning, lobbying and understanding of the company’s strategy.
Media Marketing: Corporate communications which use PR as their channel have generally bureaucratized public relations, and they mainly communicate through cliché public statements. How do things stand in ASA Prevent?
Aida Salkić: Corporate communication is going through a kind of transformation and the fact is that we are in a brand new age. PR, as one of the basic channels of corporate communications, is often ignored or is somehow lost in the sea of information that come from advertisers. Even you have recently wrote that the PR has disappeared. I wouldn’t go that far, but we can certainly agree that B2B PR is being largely neglected. We are talking about the classic “Sell the company first” approach in the case of companies that are exclusively production oriented, and whose interest groups are other large companies, employees and local communities in which they operate. As today “industrial” is in, I often call this kind of PR as industrial PR. Such companies have a very low budget for advertising, but they have to maintain and build the image at the same time. That is why they rely more on internal resources when PR is concerned, and they build their stories on business results and concrete values they represent. Then we get the stories about employment, social responsibility, and overall contribution to society. The fact is that it’s challenging to turn such stories into interesting and enticing content that is not cliché, but that, among other things, is the task of PR and the journalist who will recognize the importance of information that is being disclosed to them. Additional participation in open dialogues, panels, and conferences is a very important way of creating critical thinking and delivering the value that the company represents.
Media Marketing: What is the nicest story you have told to your public so far?
Aida Salkić: Though the story of the opening of Prevent Goražde was one of my first big projects and the headline news in all news programs on that 18 May 2012, I would still single out the story of the Hastor Foundation. The story of the innovators representing BiH at the World Olympics, the story of Meša who is teaching the blind girl Adna to play music instruments, the stories about the friendship and mutual respect of all 1,714 young people from all over BiH who volunteer to help each other in school and other life commitments. Such stories tell us that this country has heroes, and make us fight for their future.
Media Marketing: How much do companies from the sector of industrial production follow new trends in communication?
Aida Salkić: This is another of the challenges of PR today, especially if we are talking about bureaucratic systems where there are multiple levels of decision-making. The European Communications Monitor in the 2017 Guidelines brings the trends we are all aware of, and it is just a matter of time when their use will be unavoidable in communication. Switching to social media and visualization is perhaps the simplest solution at the moment, but the greatest challenge will be to recognize new trends for companies in the manufacturing sector. In addition to the classic PR, companies need to focus more and more budget on creative solutions, PR departments and content that can follow hyper-production of information and modernization.
Media Marketing: Online vs. Offline communication? What is your opinion, and what are your experiences?
Aida Salkić: Online communication is certainly faster and more efficient in generating feedback. Also, more and more people are switching exclusively to this way of communicating, so targeting and measuring the results is easier. Ultimately, this kind of communication allows higher level of manipulation of the target group. Offline needs to be supplementary to online communication and is still a very important channel of communication. Maybe I’m “old school” but I still like to take the time to watch news on TV, or read a good investigative story in the newspapers. Whether we want it or not, the fact is that the digital age brings us more superficiality, because today we read the news by skimming the headlines on the portals we track through social networks, and we create our perception of reality based on that.
Media Marketing: What are your experiences with crisis communication? In these seven years, have you ever needed to use crisis communication, and was it towards the external, or the internal audiences of the ASA Prevent Group?
Aida Salkić: I’m glad we mentioned this area of communication, because it is neglected at PR and marketing conferences and seminars. The three basic rules are: Tell the truth, tell it fast and tell it all. Sounds simple, but companies are often unprepared for a crisis and they avoid fast reactions.
Crisis communication is an integral part of PR, and when you work for a complex business system then it’s part of everyday planning. I was lucky or unlucky enough to have the opportunity to learn about crisis communication on concrete examples involving employees, the local community and the general public. The manufacturing sector is very challenging when it comes to internal and external communications because there are environmental and social risks that need to be addressed in a quality manner. In this, the key is the link between internal – offline and external – online communication, which is then adapted to the interest group we send messages to. The messages we send must be tailored to the listener because the sensitivity level is very high in the event of a crisis, and a single wrong word can cause a counter effect. Crisis communication is a process that takes place even after the crisis is over, because it requires continuous monitoring of internal processes, management support, and careful management of external information to restore public confidence.
Media Marketing: The last big project was the Sarajevo Film Festival. What impressed you the most this year, and what will you remember most fondly?
Aida Salkić: The Sarajevo Film Festival is getting better every year. The team led by Mirsad Purivatra really does a great job and this year the organization was at a very high level. ASA Group has been with the festival for 15 years, and this cooperation has grown into a true partnership. This year we came out of the classical business promotion and presented ourselves with the visuals that celebrate the festival and movie stars that we bring to the red carpet for years now. It is difficult to name one thing that impressed me the most. I sincerely enjoy all the eight days of the festival and every event has its own special magic. The world premiere of The Frog was one of highlights and deservedly took the Audience Award, and I’m glad ASA Group hosted this projection in the Open Air cinema.
Media Marketing: How do you envision the development of PR, at least in the next few years?
Aida Salkić: Unfortunately, the importance of this profession has not yet been understood in BiH, so companies, as well as institutions, opt for the engagement of experts in the field of communication only in crisis situations. It is necessary to strengthen the PR profession, which is possible through the pooling of professionals in this area and their joint activities.
As I said, a transformation is needed that will adapt us to the modern age, to the generation Z which is setting completely new standards. At the same time, PR must remain a “strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between the organization and its public”, so that the information that the companies place in the public space through the media, events and various other forms of communication are useful, direct and clear.