Drugi jezik na kojem je dostupan ovaj članak: Bosnian
By: Ekrem Dupanović
This year prof.dr. Božo Skoko will mark 20 years of career in PR. It will also be 20 years since he and his colleague Mario Petrović founded the PR agency Millenium Promocija.
When they made the decision to set up the agency, Božo was working on Croatian public broadcaster HRT. He studied public relations as a profession that was penetrating from the West during the 1990s. It seemed quite exotic to him.
When he decided to leave the journalistic waters and move to the world of public relations, his colleagues from the television told him that PR is a profession that will truly come in ten years at best, that there’s no hurry and that he should stick with the television as more stable and safer.
However, Mario and Božo embarked on that adventure exactly because it was just in the making. Fortune would have it that just as they were opening the agency, he was offered a post as an assistant at the Faculty of Political Science at the University of Zagreb, where he held a Promotional Communication course, with the intention of initiating a course in public relations.
This enabled, or rather forced him, to quickly absorb knowledge from the global stage, to read literature, monitor, travel the world and learn the theory and practice of public relations.
In two decades prof. dr. Božo Skoko has built a striking career in theory and practice of public relations.
Millenium Promocija has grown into one of the most successful communication agencies in Croatia, but also the region. It monitors and creates trends, spreads optimism in the industry, cooperates with other agencies on projects that are multidisciplinary and seeks synergy of communication specialties.
It has been more than a year since some facts that Božo shared in his lecture at the PR Days Mostariensis in Mostar caught my ear. I’ve wanted to talk about these facts with him for Media Marketing since, but we could never find the right time for both of us.
Even when we finally got to get together for a long talk at the Sheraton Zagreb, publishing of the interview had to wait a bit more. I guess till my thoughts settled in, and then it simply starts going on its own. This will be one of our first interviews in the year in which Millennium marks twenty years since its foundation.
Because of the length of the text we decided to divide it into two parts. You can read the second part on our portal tomorrow.
ED: PR market in Croatia is growing. How is this growth reflecting on Millenium Promocija?
Božo Skoko: Millenium feels this return of optimism and market growth. Evidence of this are raising revenues, new agency projects and departments, new hires, as well as new clients. For example, after the summer, we started cooperation with several new clients. We are especially proud of the fact that we have become the official PR agency of Samsung for this part of Europe in international competition and that we have started to cooperate with one of the best banks in this region, Privredna banka Zagreb. But it’s not lively just on the international level. In Croatia as well there’s an increase in investment in PR and market communications.
ED: Is it because of frugality measures that marketing is moving to PR because it’s less expensive, or is PR really gaining in importance?
Božo Skoko: I think PR is gaining in significance, and that organizations are becoming aware of the opportunities it provides them. If there is some overspill, then it’s happening in advertising, where budgets from the traditional media are moving online. However, PR is getting closer to the classic consulting activities, it is helping organizations not only manage their market image, but also to solve their business problems thus directly contributing to business success. These are now measurable categories, so it is no wonder that public relations often take up a part of the budget that has so far been spent on other items.
Even those corporations that have not yet used public relations services are opening up to that segment, and those who have had a good experience are simply expanding the scope of business. For some time, agencies popped up in the market like mushrooms after the rain. A row of former journalists and consultants got engaged in the PR business, offering their services on a one-man-show basis, but this momentum blew up as the serious corporations realized that they need agencies as partners, with big teams of consultants who can offer them not just some media coverage, but everything else, from analytics and research to serious communication strategies and management support.
And that’s how big agencies such as Millenium profited, as they could provide strategic support and tackle any communication challenge. Consultants working with clients are also very important. They must have knowledge, experience, contacts, but also innate predispositions. We have an excellent team of more than thirty people, including advisors to two prime ministers, former journalists and editors … However, we are particularly proud of the fact that most of the people who came to the agency as interns after graduating from the university, whom we nurtured and trained, have stayed with us. Our executive director Vladimir Preselj is a man who grew in the agency after finishing college, and has went with us through the entire journey from assistant, over project leader, to senior consultant. I think it’s the key trump card of an agency when it can show long-standing references, satisfied clients, top team, knowledge base and experience …
Millenium remains fully dedicated to public relations, as our core business
ED: We are witnessing that digital agencies are moving towards full-service agencies, while full service agencies are turning to digital. And everyone is dabbling in creative a bit. I believe Millenium has found a better model – you remain a PR agency, covering the digital segment as well, and connecting with other agencies on big projects.
Božo Skoko: It’s true that it’s easier for clients to have one agency doing all for them, because it saves them energy, money and time … On the other hand, nowadays, when the boundaries between the various types of communication are being erased, and communication is done integrally across platforms, there is a tendency for unification of an entire spectrum of services.
However, I don’t think it’s wise to randomize in our industry, because if you are an expert for everything, then you are good at nothing. It is difficult for someone to be a leader in crisis communication, traditional public relations, creative, digital, media lease …. Millenium remains absolutely loyal to public relations as our core business. We followed market trends, adjusted to the needs of our clients. For example, when some major media planning and leasing agencies went down, clients came to us with questions if we can cover that segment for them, so we hired several great experts for that segment, and we offer media planning and buying services for a certain circle of clients on the principle of a boutique agency.
Clients get excellent service, we work great with the media, but we do not delude ourselves with beliefs that we will challenge some of the big agencies that are dedicated to that. Likewise, we also have a small digital segment because it’s an inseparable part of everyday communication.
But when we go into big projects, we often do it in synergy with other agencies, especially in the field of creative, big events and productions, and there we find the best in the market. We don’t experience them as competitors but as partners. I am delighted that some of the top projects, which have been recognized even at a global level, have brought a synergy between us and some other agencies. Everyone takes their share of responsibility and their part of the cake.
ED: Which agencies are that?
Božo Skoko: There’s a saying – First-class mingles with first-class, second-class mingles with third-class… We have implemented two internationally recognized and award-winning exhibitions with agencies Bruketa&Žinić&Grey and Brigada.
We broke the ice and impressed the public with the exhibition Smoking Culture 2012 at the Zagreb Glyptotheque, in which we spoke about the smoking phenomenon in our region in an innovative and creative way – from Emperor Franz Joseph, who broke the taboo of smoking and opened most tobacco factories in this part of Europe, over its popularization, to contemporary bans and taboos. We covered the phenomenon of communication, campaigns, design, smoking in art, film, its influence on everyday life … It was a kind of an homage to TDR and its brands – the Tobacco Factory Rovinj that was marking the 140th anniversary of its existence, and was later sold to the global BAT.
Along with our three agencies, and colleagues from Adris, led by the excellent communications expert Predrag Grubić, we also gathered other top experts such as the leading Croatian art historian Igor Zidić, design theorist Feđa Vukić…
I have to admit that it was a real challenge because we were walking the edge of taboo. We talked about smoking as a phenomenon that cannot be talked about or advertised, we talked about smoking hazards, and at the same time we communicated all the good things the tobacco industry in Croatia did.
The second exhibition-event we worked on together was the spectacular exhibition Croatia je Hrvatska – We Write Our Own History, which we did for Croatia osiguranje insurance company. It was a kind of a time machine in Zagreb’s Grič tunnel, through which more than 100,000 visitors in 45 days became acquainted with the parallel history of Croatia as a country and Croatia as a company, and at the same time they interactively added history from their own families to the exhibition. For this project, we have won all the prizes that could be won at the international awards shows – from London to Moscow.
We also worked on a series of smaller events with some other agencies. We collaborate with very high quality designers like Vladimir Resner, Studio 2M, Zvonimir Hrupec, Vedran Matić, Tihoni Brčić, Josipa Maras, SGI Studio …
Sometimes, even on some of the classic communication projects we hire some colleagues outside the agency as an additional expert if they are specialized in a particular segment. We simply recognize who is good at something and we use them in order to create great projects through synergy.
There’s a saying – First-class mingles with first-class, second-class mingles with third-class…
ED: Optimism for the agency market, aside Millenium?
Božo Skoko: Well, in the public relations market we have experienced a kind of catharsis. First, there was a major crisis that only large agencies survived. Much has collapsed. When the budgets got slashed only the most resilient ones could survive.
Then, former Prime Minister Milanović banned state institutions from working with all PR agencies, so we couldn’t do business with state-owned companies and government institutions. So we had to turn to the business sector alone.
This all largely resulted in the clean-up of the market, and the most healthy ones continued to do business. After some kind of consolidation, a strengthening of sorts came. I think the overall cake covered by PR market in Croatia is growing.
On the other hand, this requires from us a lot of flexibility and a lot of adaptation. It demands that we keep up to date with all the advanced trends in the world and bring them to our market.
PR is making a great comeback. Not only because we have started working again with the state institutions again, as this is still a negligible percentage of the overall market, but because the companies generally understand that they need PR. They realized that neither digital, nor advertising, nor advertorials nor influencers can replace classic PR. You simply have to have someone to manage your communications at all levels.
ED: Current trends are content marketing and native advertising, which are quite close to PR. Is Millenium active in these fields as well?
Božo Skoko: We are aware of new technological opportunities that are opening, and we follow trends, but we don’t let them rule us. We always try to think outside the box. We have an excellent digital team gathered at the M Digital agency we are supporting. They work a lot, even in the international market. They use some of the most up-to-date technology platforms and have great results, for example in tourism. And one of our biggest clients in this area is Lošinj Hotels and Villas, or Jadranka d.d. from Mali Lošinj.
There is this synergy between public relations experts who help in creating content, and digital technicians who provide technical and technological support. There’s no doubt that this is the future.
However, we also have to keep in mind that communication management still implies interpersonal communication, mass communication, and traditional media … That is why synergies are the best. Definitely this is the future, and we invest heavily in research, knowledge and people.