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Inside Croatia: Koraljka Rak, CPRA General Secretary, talks about CSR as a key area of growth, the rise of digitalization and the challenges for the profession

April 29, 2014

 

Koraljka Rak, CPRA General Secretary

Can you give us an overview of public relations practice in Croatia? What are the main trends for the PR profession in Croatian society?

 

In December 2013, the Croatian Public Relations Association conducted  research among Croatian communication professionals which showed the expected market stabilization of public relations services in 2014.

 

70% of PR professionals expect in 2014 the same PR budgets as in 2013, while only 17% expect budget cuts.

 

A similar, but slightly less optimistic trend is noticeable in estimating the number of employees in public relations, where 58% of respondents expect no change in the number of employees in their organization, and 28% of them expect staff reductions.

 

The industry is mainly focused around the capital Zagreb and local PR agencies. Tourism plays a key role in the Croatian economy, while finance and telecoms are also very important. Newspapers remain crucial despite growing use of social media. Efforts around digital are improving and CSR is identified as one area of growth.

 

The major challenge for Croatian PR industry is building and maintaining the reputation of the profession in the coming period.  In 2012 Croatian government banned the use of PR agencies, stating that the PR professionals are to “earn their bread“ from private companies, while the State should not engage and pay extra for external associates if it has its own, in-house professionals. As a consequence of this decision public administration authorities terminated existing contractual relationships ordering PR services from PR agencies, while causing damage to the whole Croatian PR profession.

 

 

Focusing on the Croatian Public Relations Association (CPRA), how does it enhance the value of the PR profession in Croatia?

 

CPRA works tirelessly to promote high standards and ethical practice, as well as ongoing lifelong education among its members and the PR society in general. The Annual conference and the Grand Prix Award for communication projects are the most recognized CPRA’s activities. They successfully promote excellence among colleagues and encourage further education, as our conference not only hosts prominent international and domestic speakers; it also provides specialized workshops for attendees.

 

We are also very much aware of the need for strengthening the public image of the profession here in Croatia, which to some extent holds its ground in several affairs concerning public administration and fictive PR agencies, as well as in big differences in quality and education among PR professionals.

 

That is why we are working on a certification program which should be a proof of quality and an inevitable step for every respectable PR professional.   

 

 

Do you work only with public relations and communication professionals or do you also work with PR students?

 

Majority of our members are communication professionals, but over the last few years more and more students are approaching, aware of the possibilities CPRA can offer them. The student section holds workshops and lectures on a monthly basis, and our more experienced colleagues are always willing to share knowledge with them. Budget friendly prices on all of our events and literature, as well as a possibility to actively engage on CPRA’s projects, or perhaps finding an internship are only some of the perks student can enjoy.

 

 

As you know, “Communication with conscience” is the theme of the 2014 World Public Relations Forum (September 21-23, Madrid), where delegates will also discuss on authenticity and ethics in communication. With this in mind, how important is ethics in Croatian public relations practice? And how are ethics applied and measured?

 

Abiding ethical guidelines is a minimal criterion for a transparent and fair market competition and a prerequisite for a positive public image of the profession. At the beginning of the year, for the first time, CPRA sent a copy of the Code of Ethics and a Statement of Acceptance to all its members who are obliged to sign the Statement which commits them to follow the rules of the Code in their everyday practice. CPRA’s Court of Honor on the other hand acts reactively to possible violations of ethical standards, and therefore has an authority to warn or even cancel membership.

 

 

Another asset strongly related to authenticity and ethics is reputation and at the end of May you are going to hold your Annual Conference on the importance of this key factor for companies’ success. Can you give us more insights on how the theme of “reputation” will be approached at the conference?

 

PR is all about reputation, yet many leaders don’t seem to realize the significance of a proper reputation management, until the crisis strikes. The conference will shed light on different aspects of this topic, which will range from maintaining reputation in corporate environment to political experiences as well as challenges of digital communication. It is important to cover the issue of reputation through different contexts; that will allow us to identify common elements and come up with useful conclusions.