Drugi jezik na kojem je dostupan ovaj članak: Bosnian
By: Ekrem Dupanović
Today we bring you the second part of the conversation with prof.dr. Božo Skoko. The first part, published yesterday, can be found here.
ED: Everything eventually ends up in some of the media. How is the media scene in Croatia anyway?
Božo Skoko: I dare say that a few years ago the media in Croatia had touched the rock bottom in terms of their professionalism. And then they began to realize that the true path is not sensationalism, populist race for readership, publishing unverified information, cheap bowing down to the government, or some interest groups …
Transformation and major changes have happened. The level of professionalism and credibility is increasing, the media in Croatia are more serious, they are starting to take more account of content, strengthening social responsibility. The higher quality of media is returning.
Obviously, leading the way are Večernji list, Styria and Hanza media, with Jutranji, Slobodna, Globus, Gloria … when it comes to print. All three national TV channels invest heavily in their news programs, there are a number of quality radio stations, specialized portals.
Clearly, there’s still a lot of yellow press, phantom portals, all used to muddy the water or slander someone… But the trends we see here in Croatia are overall positive. However, what I have to observe is the slight gap between content in traditional written media and on portals.
For example, serious daily newspaper produces content that is increasingly better in quality for their print edition, while on the portal they compete with the competitors for clicks, so you can read content that is far from the print standards. When I talk to editors, they often say, “If you want to be competitive on the online market, then you have to fight for clicks, post some eye candy and almost nude pictures to make people click. In newspapers, to keep the readership, we can’t do that. There we have to be serious.”
So there’s a big gap in that segment.
ED: What does this say about the readers?
Božo Skoko: Print media may lose in terms of mass, but will surely have a more serious audience looking for better information. Portals are increasingly present for entertainment and bite-size information, and if people want to only inform themselves via Facebook and social networks they will certainly be more disinformed, since there you have subjective selection.
Serious media out there will have to make a change, and not simply try to warm up to the audience and grab their clicks, but to try to educate the audience for more serious and useful content. I don’t think they have to educate them in ideological or other sense, but they have to change their habits.
After all, the educational component is an important part of the media mission. I am convinced that the truth is not told by those who say that the audience doesn’t want to read serious content. They do.
See how niche profiled portals are faring, who have an audience with which they’ve gained credibility. They are doing great on the market.
I’m following the situation in the west. If you have a niche, credible portal, it has its own permanent audience. It doesn’t have to be measured in hundreds of thousands of people, but if it has a narrowly profiled audience, then it becomes very interesting to advertisers. That’s how they reach a more homogeneous target group.
This tyranny of clicks is a bit irritating, but is unfortunately still the only one relevant. Because if we lure a certain number of readers to click on content, it doesn’t mean they have read it, and even if they have read it, it doesn’t mean they believe it, and even if they believe it, it doesn’t mean they have a high opinion about the author and the portal.
Believing that more clicks means a better medium for advertising is a delusion. That’s just not true.
ED: What would then be your recommendation to advertisers? What should they take into account when choosing a portal on which to advertise?
Božo Skoko: I even did some research on this subject and they confirmed that mass audience does not mean certain success. It’s much better to target audiences that are relevant to a particular product or service, that trusts a certain media and is attached to it.
What do hundreds of thousands of clicks mean if it’s not the audience that will open their wallet tomorrow and buy something from you? It’s better to go to a niche media, which has a specific audience that may be of interest to us, and who believe in this media, which spends more of their time there, and constantly return to it.
So, the future of advertising is in more direct targeting of audiences, not in mass reach, but also in PR, in creation and adjustment of releases for each individual media, depending on their profile and audience.
If people want to inform themselves solely through Facebook and social networks, they will certainly be disinformed, because there you have subjective selection
ED: So, relevance before mass.
Božo Skoko: Absolutely. The advertising industry should govern itself not by clicks, but by influence and credibility of media. We need to ask whether a certain media is trusted, whether it is publishing objective, interesting and useful information, because if people don’t trust a media, they will certainly not get engaged with your commercial message in such an environment.
I think these are the criteria we will have to gradually introduce, and not just count clicks. Mass doesn’t mean anything. We don’t know what the audience is, whether they are bots or live people.
On the other hand, if we cheat someone to click on our content, we are basically cheating ourselves. A similar situation has already taken place in the West. In print media, the mass reach suddenly evaporated, making advertisers to communicate over narrowly profiled media.
First to take this road were luxury products, and then it spread across the entire range of industries, as advertisers realized it was far more effective than targeting broadly, where they failed to hit anyone.
After all, we in the agency already have requests from clients who don’t want their ads alongside shows such as Big Brother or similar, even though they are the ones with big viewership numbers, because they don’t want their brand to be associated with such content.
ED: Is Media Marketing one of such narrowly profiled media that has the credibility among its audience in the communications industry?
Božo Skoko: It most certainly is! Of course.
ED: Why are agency poor at communicating themselves?
Božo Skoko: There are several problems in play, but also trends. On the one hand, you have agencies that don’t like to brag. Which is OK. Humility is a virtue. And client is always the more important one, while the best PR moves remain a secret.
On the other hand, I think that this own agency communication and own PR are often underestimated. Agencies are focused on the client and often have no time for themselves.
The third reason is that there is always a doubt if some agencies can communicate news that relate to their clients before they get consent.
I think the real reason lies somewhere between these three things. But as regards the claim that agencies should definitely work on their own PR, in that I agree with you.
Each agency, in addition to numerous consultants working on client projects, should also have one advisor / account manager who will regularly maintain media relations in terms of communicating information from the agency itself.
I think that is the solution and that would be very practical. Because if everyone communicates, then nobody communicates in the end. Everybody expects that it will be communicated someone else in the chain, and eventually no one does it.
ED: What is the future of PR? Do young people like that job, and do they feel passion for it?
Božo Skoko: If the interest for the courses at the University of Public Relations are an indicator, then the profession certainly has a future. Interest in public relations is far greater than for journalism, media and other related disciplines.
We see this from the number of applications, by number of people in lectures, and the like. On the other hand, what makes me happy is seeing my former students get jobs in a strong international competition.
For example, in Brussels, at the European Commission and in the European Parliament, there are several of my former students who got a job in international competitions and are now working in European Union institutions. This means that the knowledge acquired here is recognized internationally and that our graduates are globally competitive.
On the other hand, I’m glad that a lot of opportunities are opening for young people who are studying communication. They don’t only work in agencies and corporations. The doors of business, sports, political institutions … are opening for them. I see them literally in all the fields in which they land a job relatively fast.
ED: Everyone needs communication.
Božo Skoko: This is confirmed by many researches. For example, for a long time in America it was considered that for the success in the market, it is crucial to have a foundation from STEM education, meaning you have math and tech literacy.
However, research on the latest trends shows that those who are more communicative and more educated become more successful. If you are good in this field, you can learn everything else and you can succeed in any business segment, whether it is managerial, PR, marketing or other.
ED: Within your profession, you specialized in destination branding, and have become undoubtedly the leading expert in the entire region.
Božo Skoko: This is the love that was born out of my university engagement.
When I left HRT, where I worked as a journalist and editor for five years, and went to the Faculty of Political Science as an assistant, I was most attracted to the segment of international public relations in the scientific sense.
How do public relations work on an international level among different cultures, in different media systems, and in different societies. Within this segment, I was particularly interested in the area that was still in its infancy at the beginning of this century – how do countries communicate?
I must admit that my inspiration was also the man who dealt with this, who was my first mentor at the faculty – Dr. Marko Goluža, an expert who designed the first Croatian tourist slogan “A small country for a great vacation”.
A special segment that I was interested in, which was just beginning to be mentioned, was the branding of states. Thanks to the excellent cooperation with my doctoral tutor, Dr. Ivan Šiber, an expert in social and political psychology and political marketing, I decided to first explore the role and importance of the image of states in international relations, and then the image of Croatia in the countries of the former Yugoslavia, and how this image reflects on political, economic and all-other relationships.
I have analyzed all the available materials in the world about this topic and I have done extensive research on public opinion and media, literally from Vardar to Triglav.
It was a pioneering work in our region, which inspired me and made me continue exploring and advancing in this area. In addition to my scientific career, I started to work practically to test the theoretical approaches.
Now we are working on branding of the Mali Lošinj island and the hotel company Jadranka, then Karlovac, which celebrates the 440th anniversary of its existence next year. We work with several counties like Istria and Međimurje.
In recent years, I have been conducting a lot of research in Bosnia and Herzegovina on the topic of identity and image, in cooperation with the German foundation Friedrich Ebert Stiftung based in Banja Luka and with a great colleague Tanja Topić. All this resulted in the proposal of the branding strategy of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which we even presented to the BiH Presidency at the time, but politics didn’t really have understanding for this.
In recent months I have been involved in a private initiative from Herzegovina. People working in tourism have teamed up with the desire to make a step forward in packaging and promoting the growing tourist offer of the region. I was happy to respond. In Herzegovina, and some other regions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, tourism is simply happening, and now it is strategically necessary to start managing it and make a brand from this region.
ED: Exhibition Croatia je Hrvatska – we write our own history, which we already mentioned, marked the year behind us. You’ve been collaborating with Adris for more than a decade now…
Božo Skoko: Colleagues from Adris really give us great artistic freedom, first and foremost the head of corporate communications at Adris Predrag Grubić, who always had the understanding to cross the limits of classical communication.
It is a pleasure to work with such people. And the head of the corporation, Ante Vlahović, is always pushing for excellence and moving the boundaries not only in business but also in communicating with the market.
After all, they initiated the founding of the largest corporate foundation in this part of Europe – the Adris Foundation – which has been carrying out excellent projects in science, culture, creativity, heritage, nature protection … for years. I love the chance to do my part in this segment as well.
And I also have to admit that it was Grubic who connected me with Davor Bruketa, which grew into a great synergy between the two of us, bot also between our two agencies.
After the Culture of Smoking and the history of Croatia insurance, we are thinking of making a big project at sea together with our Adris colleagues, given that Adris has two companies that are related to the Adriatic.
One is Maistra which has a great hotel offer, and the other is Cromaris, the largest Croatian exporter of fresh Adriatic fish. That’s why it’s time to make something spectacular about the sea.
We have some ideas, but let’s leave them a secret for the time being. It will be a great surprise.
If you have a narowly defined and credible portal, it has its loyal audience, which doesn’t have to number in hundreds of thousands. If it has the niche audience, it becomes very interesting to advertisers as it gives them way to reach a more homogenous target group
ED: Millenium, university, destination branding… and you regularly make contrubutions as Zagreb commentator for the FTV in Bosnia and Herzegovina, you work with Croatian TV stations… You’ve published six books. The last one, Understanding Croatia, is from what I hear a hit on Amazon. How long is your work day?
Božo Skoko: It barely squeezes into 24 hours. And on top of all that, I try to leave time for my wife Martina, and my two boys. I try to be well organized, and I also have good associates.
ED: Do you even have any free time?
Božo Skoko: I manage to find it, because family is very important to me. In leisure time I like to go to the cinema with my wife and see some new movies. And when we catch a few free days we like to travel. It’s both useful and fun.
I read a lot, usually before bedtime. I read everything from scientific literature, fiction, magazines to comics. Since I’ve been a journalist for a long time, it’s not hard for me to write. That’s why I write some books for my soul, and some for my scientific interests.
For example, a project that we didn’t mention, and which also picked up a range of international awards, and which we created for the soul, is the monograph Hercegovina – the land of light. This is a book made by a great designer Boris Ljubičić, the great master of photography Ivo Pervan and me.
The monograph was followed by a commemorative film that we worked on with a great composer and pianist Matej Meštrović, who also composed a special music dedicated to Herzegovina. The Agency, together with its partner, Branimir Markot, has invested significant funds into the project and clearly did not make money on it, but we left a trace …
Every now and then a project pops up outside the regular scope of business. After a book on Croatian identity and mentality in English, written for those who really want to know more about Croatia than tourist guides can offer, I’m writing a scientific book Public Diplomacy and Strategic Communication of Countries.
It will be a student handbook, and that’s where I will unite all the latest knowledge about how countries should communicate in the 21st century in a globalized world.