Webb Dowse in the media

It takes years for company to build reputation and only a few crisis hours to destroy it

01.09.2014

David Dowse gave an interview for eKapija business portal and he talks about PR scene in Serbia – should you hire and agency or use internal communication teams, how to best react in crisis situations and what are the universal truths of proper PR?

David Dowse, partner at Web Dowse agency – It takes years for company to build reputation and only a few crisis hours to destroy it
Wednesday, 08/27/2014|14:41 | Source: eKapija  sr

David Dowse

To be better than competition and stick to golden communications rules are two basic guidelines for David Dowse, one of the founders at Web Dowse in Belgrade. In his interview for eKapija, he speaks about to what extent PR field in Serbia has changed in the past seven years since Web Dowse exists, who the best PR experts are, whether companies should hire agencies or hire internal PRs and whether ex journalists are the best at this job.

eKapija: You came to Serbia seven years ago. Where the public relations are today, did Serbia progress in this field?

I think there have been many changes since I arrived in Belgrade in 2006. The global recession shook up our industry, and several of the main players who were on the scene then are no longer operating in Belgrade. Those of us who survived have become more flexible and responsive to client needs.

There has also been development in what clients expect and their understanding of how professional communications works for them. Agencies that can bring international standards and experience and offer real added value, beyond simple help with press releases or events, are more likely to succeed now.

We should also mention the on-line revolution; communication channels are constantly evolving, and those in my profession who cannot evolve with it are unlikely to be around in another 7 years. We’ve made this a core part of our thinking at Webb Dowse.

eKapija: Bearing in mind that financial situation is still very difficult – companies sometimes decide to use internal resources instead of paying PR agencies. What do you think about that trend? Are PR agencies better than companies and why?

I am sure you’d expect me to say that a PR agency is always better – especially ours! But there is a role for both approaches, of course, and we often work very successfully in partnership with in-house teams. We are an extension of the in-house resources, not competitors. We can add specific expertise, strategic advice, technical capabilities, creative ideas – a whole range of things. Or, of course, where a company has only a very limited internal resource, we can offer a full ‘turnkey’ service – effectively acting as the in-house team. This is a particularly attractive approach for new companies setting up their local or regional operations.

eKapija: We are facing situation in which integrated communications and online PR are becoming more and more important for success of companies and PR professionals as well. What can we expect in future? How do you see the future of PR and PR professionals?

Change is constant. I strongly believe that as PR professionals we have to respond to change in 2 key ways; firstly, to keep our expertise and understanding of communications channels ahead of the game, and second, to continue to emphasise the golden rules of good communication that remain constant throughout – clear, consistent messaging, tailored to the target audience and delivered in context and via appropriate channels – these were the principles of good PR when I started my career. They remain completely valid today, and I think they will always be relevant, wherever the online media revolution takes us.

eKapija: How do you see the impact of social networks on the PR professionals’ scope of work and everyday duties?

The impact of social media is simply revolutionary, I think probably on the same scale as printing was when it came into wide use. There are two key aspects that we have to keep on top of as PR professionals. Firstly, speed. If we hesitate or prevaricate, we have already lost control of the communications agenda. Second, engagement. I have always said that all good communication is a two-way process, with listening at least equally important as speaking. Social media takes this to new and important levels. This is a major challenge, not just for PR professionals and Agencies, but also for our client companies.

eKapija: Do you think that Serbia has enough experts who are able to manage social media and online PR successfully?

No . But there are very bright, new people arriving on the scene all the time. I just hope they get the training they need to help them become good PR professionals as well as sharp social media players. The PR industry is ever-growing, so it’s important for PR professionals to continuously learn and develop new practical skills. In two decades PR professionals will be mostly familiar with SEO optimisation, programming and advertising; they should be able to shoot and edit video content, write a blog and manage all social media networks successfully.

eKapija: What’s your impression –do, PR professionals and companies in general, pay enough attention to crisis PR? Do they think about crisis PR only when someone is dealing with a crisis?

Nobody likes to pay for house insurance – until the day their house burns down. Crisis Management is one of my personal expert subjects, and I’ve seen a great many examples of just how badly things can go for companies when things are poorly handled. It really is true that a corporate reputation takes years (and often millions) to build up – and it can be lost in a few hours of a serious crisis. So it still amazes me that companies don’t invest in professional training and processes. Preparations is the best defence – but if you can’t go that far, get the best advice you can afford – and do it right away!

eKapija: Do you recognise the difference between PR professionals based on their background and the previous working experience? I am asking you this from a perspective of journalist, because often can be heard that the best cooperation is established between journalist and ex journalist now PR managers in companies.

Excellent PR professionals can come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Ex-journalists can sometimes very successfully make the cross to PR, especially when a media relation is a major function in the PR role. But media relations are sometimes only a small part of the overall communications mix. Really effective PR experts will need an understanding of psychology, sociology, languages, conflict resolution, writing and presentational skills, analytical practice, inter-personal skills and plain common sense – as well as a good understanding of what journalists want and need from us! In my experience ex journalists understand the importance of the listening and asking the right questions. They easily communicate, and successfully use the power of storytelling.

eKapija: What do you think about the trend that journalists are becoming PR professionals? Is the difference in wages between these two professions the most important and strongest drive for a change?

Of course, salary and also working conditions may be a factor. Traditional media, and traditional journalism, are under big pressure as the publishing model shifts in emphasis from print to on-line and advertising revenues fall. Sadly, this means that the demand for high professional standards in journalism is also falling. A career in PR may give some journalists new challenges and opportunities, but it could also bring a certain restrictions.

eKapija: Are you satisfied with the business operations of Webb Dowse in Serbia? What are your plans for the next period?

We established our agency in December, 2007. A global recession hit less than a year later. During this very challenging period, we have grown our operations to include most of Ex- Yugoslavia, and into Bulgaria and even Algeria and Azerbaijan. We have also repeatedly renewed and grown our business with key international clients, some of whom have been with us right from the start. I think we must be doing something right!.

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