Innovative Estonia builds dynamic relations profession – Association President Aive Hiiepuu describes the country’s progress
Aive Hiiepuu, President of the Estonian PR Association
Could you give us an overview on the state of Public Relations practice in Estonia? What is the PR consultancy landscape like?
The Estonian PR market is relatively young; we have a total of about 20 years of development. Some years ago, we celebrated the 15th anniversary of the founding of EPRA. Estonia has been in a very fast paced development phase since the end of the Soviet era; the PR market has been developing at a similar pace. Today, there is no opportunity that exists in the old EU countries, that the Estonian PR professionals would not know about or know how to use. I would say that Estonians tend more towards innovation than sticking to old dogmas.
The average Estonian PR professional is in their 30's or 40's and has been active in the field for over 10 years.
Top professionals have made a name for themselves at agencies and during the last few years, many "one-man-show" agencies have sprung up. Many of these players have previous experience as top specialists or managers at larger agencies. There are also those, who have entered the PR speciality from other fields such as politics, and now apply the knowledge gained there in advising businesses in that same field.
What are the main challenges and opportunities for growth for Estonian PR professionals?
Estonia's small size is both a joy and a worry. A number of innovative solutions can be tested in a small market with minimal time and costs. Results are obvious and measurable. However, the small size of the market does not provide the opportunity to carry out large-scale projects, including those that come from Europe. Our turnover will always be smaller than larger countries, it is also dictated by the number of people working in an agency - in the Estonian context, a PR agency with 10 employees is large.
Charity work is a new trend. Increasingly more PR people are active with many large charity projects, creating a significant added value to society. This provides the opportunity to work on a cause dear to one's heart, to gain peace of mind, while at the same time significantly expanding their network and creating a positive image.
What role does social media play in Estonian media landscape compared to traditional media?
The role of social media has increased rapidly over the last five years. Media channels, which at times had risen to cult media levels, have today lost some of their shine and have also brought its users feet back firmly onto the ground. It's no longer a belief, that if you are not on social media, then you do not exist. In Estonia, for the most part, social media equals Facebook, as nearly a quarter of the population, mostly. the younger and more active ones, use FB on a daily basis. The dynamic growth of social media channels have fragmented media use and any influential PR campaign cannot be planned solely on the basis of mainstream media channels. Only a short time ago, social media was classified as a non-traditional channel, while today it is treated as an equivalent of mainstream media.
What relationship does Estonia have with other Scandinavian and Baltic countries? Are there any opportunities to create synergies with other PR professionals in the region?
The majority of international company campaigns are also run in Estonia, in such cases one of the Baltic countries is usually the project leader. Only 5 years ago, it was usually Tallinn, which housed most Baltic corporate headquarters; today however, the centre has shifted to Riga. EPRA as a professional association interacts closely with colleagues from Latvia, Lithuania and Finland. We work together to give out the Baltic's PR award: the Baltic PR Awards.
What role does EPRA play in Estonia’s professional public relations community?
EPRA is a professional organisation whose role is to be the centre of competence and ethics for the profession. EPRA brings together PR professionals throughout the country, offering them the opportunity for monthly training sessions and discussions, bringing together professionals who work in the same field on a daily basis. We continually monitor the market and annually recognize the best players. We give out the Public Relations Professional of the Year award and choose the best projects in each category from among projects completed each year.
Could you give us some information on EPRA’s communication journal “Kaja”?
Kaja (eng. Echo) is a communications magazine for the specialty-related self-education of PR experts and managers. The magazine provides self-teaching material for all specialists involved or interested in the field of communications. The magazine is published by Estonia’s leading business newspaper, Äripäev, in co-operation with the Institute of Communication at Tallinn University. The magazine has an appointed council, of which I am also a member.
Every new issue of the magazine contains a theme that focuses on a particular area in the field of communications. Different experts and opinion leaders impart their knowledge on how to communicate with the media and how to inform the public in situations where traditional notification channels and marketing efforts fail to work. The magazine also includes information about the current situation in the field of communications: news, study results, trends, changes and developments that are taking place both in Estonia and all over the world.
One of the main projects of EPRA is the PR Handbook, which was published in cooperation with a leading business daily newspaper, Äripäev. What does it consist of?
The "Communications Handbook" covers current and interesting public relations topics in both theory and with practical examples ranging from public relations strategic planning through to online - and social media. A collegium of competent PR specialists is responsible for the content of the handbook. Additional chapters will be produced for the handbook on a regular basis, according to what is relevant and important. The handbook has proven itself as a useful tool and has found a place on the desks of both managers and public relations specialists.
In October EPRA will hold the first Estonian Communication Conference of its communication journal “Kaja”, where Anne Gregory will take part as speaker. What is the conference theme? Why should a PR professional attend the event?
The conference format is Communication Management Think Tank and it will focus on the subject of "How to measure the effectiveness of communication?"
Communication effectiveness measurement, which will be the focus of the Think Tank taking place on November 5th, is currently a topic of interest throughout the world. I am delighted that we can offer Estonian communication managers the opportunity to draw from the latest information and tips on this subject with a meeting with the president of the alliance of global public relations and communication management organizations, Global Alliance President Anne Gregory, and also with a world-class communications expert with 30 years of experience, Kevin Traverse-Healy.
Participation in the think tank will provide an opportunity to receive up to date information on what's currently important in the communication field, as well as to get useful advice and inspiration.
We hope to develop the KAJA Communication Management Think Tank into a communication management annual top level event, where our experts and professionals will discuss important communications subjects with the participation of foreign communication experts. Please join us!