Q: How was 2017 for BDR Romania compared to your expectations?
Catalina Rousseau: A hectic year with ups and downs which challenged us to go even further in terms of strategy and creativity, in order to meet our clients` goals.
Our expectations for more work for our consultants in the field of Strategic Communications with focus on Crisis Management, Public Affairs, research based communication plans, have been met, as we had to respond to market unpredictability, generated by fast movements on the political scene which impacted the business sector. Challenges are opportunities for us, therefore there were important developments in our activity, we won new clients, and we managed to maintain an important turnover and profit margin in both Romania and the Republic of Moldova.
Q: What are the trends in terms of communication? Do the companies (clients and prospects) fully realize the need to include “communication” in their business model?
Catalina Rousseau: As said, strategic communications dominated the scene, and we had remarkable projects in 2017. On the other hand, our clients, multinational companies have intensified corporate communication activities, significantly increasing their participation in Corporate Social Responsibility Programs, developing communities, responding to the local needs. This trend gave us tremendous opportunities to create and implement beautiful campaigns, with tangible results countrywide. Key fields were: education, science, health, culture and environment protection. One other emblematic trend this year was Employer Branding, as investors in our market are interested in attracting talents in various industries, mainly in production units, while also creating career opportunities for specialized professionals, at home.
Not in the least, Branding and Branding Culture were acting as queens of the year. Our Superbrands Program for Romania is now at the end of the road for the 2017 edition. We will celebrate soon the outstanding results for all those brands, either Romanian or foreign, which have been awarded the Superbrand status in this market, following the consumers research developed with the globally reputed IPSOS institute, and the judging process by the Superbrands Honorary Council comprising almost 30 respected personalities in business and other relevant fields. The Superbrands Status is unique and confirms performance in branding, being globally recognized in more than 100 markets.
Q: The market conditions looked incredible in 2017 (if we eliminate uncertainties and ad-hoc fiscal measures). How did Romanian companies capitalize on this (lower taxes, lower interest rates, economic growth in almost each sector) to set milestones for future development through communication?
Catalina Rousseau: Indeed, the market conditions looked incredible, but were they really so? I would comment this attribute from the other perspective, which was put between brackets: uncertainties and ad-hoc fiscal measures have created market unpredictability, making many players in the private sector feel unsafe, and even unhappy, in different situations. As communicators, we have had a lot of hard work to deliver to our clients, and I am very glad to say that we succeeded in reaching their goals. Regarding potential intention of clients to capitalize on ad-hoc fiscal measures, we have not felt any benefits so far, in the absence of a coherent vision and pragmatic economic thinking at the decision makers’ level. We hope that competence will overcome and we expect that the market conditions will improve for business and investment in 2018.
Q: How do you argue those concepts met in some companies – “we know how to communicate” or “we do not need to communicate”?
Catalina Rousseau: Usually we do not argue, as from past experiences, sooner or later the need of communication specialists erupts, usually in crises situation when an uninformed management is not capable to handle the critical moment, letting the crises hit the company reputation. In such unhappy situation, professionals’ support becomes a must; we simply jump into the situation, create a Task Force, and solve the problem. We have refined expertise and relevant case studies form our past work and such experience has always proved to be successful for clients in need. However, the majority of companies has a solid communication culture and understands the role of the professional advice and refined expertise which adds so much value for business. In these cases, teaming with the client counts and in many situations the simplest communication exercise turns into innovative art.
Q: What sectors were more interested in corporate communications and professional communications in 2017?
Catalina Rousseau: Automotive, Energy, Financial services, FMCG, Healthcare, Investment Funds, Logistics, Lifestyle, Logistic, Postal and Courier Services, Social Media, White Goods, European Institutions, if we look at our own portfolio of clients in Romania. As a side comment: actually we could draw a map of investment interests in our country each year, just looking at sectors where communication needs are higher. For sure dynamic sectors like retail and telecommunications will be there.
Q: As you coordinate BDR activities both in Romania and Moldova what are the main similarities and differences between the two countries, in terms of understanding the need for professional communication.
Catalina Rousseau: We speak the same language which makes communication easier. The big advantage of Moldova is an increasing demand of strategic communications services. These make a difference. In Moldova we assist international institutions, which offer technical support to the Moldovan government, or conduct programs as part of the UN system, but we also work for multinational companies headquartered elsewhere, in Europe. The two key factors governing communication in the neighboring market are competence and quality. Moldova has highly competent staff engaged in this activity, either in state-owned institutions or private sector, professionals usually educated abroad, who return to Moldova to help its progress. Their determination imposes high quality for the communication work and deliverables, they want results and objectives fulfilled aspects which are not negotiable in Moldova, just like in the case of our clients in Romania. Moldova struggles for the status of emerging market. We believe in its potential and its future, our agency being operational there since 15 years ago.
Q: Arguably, there is a crisis in Romania, and that is the workforce crisis. What were the challenges that you faced in 2017 to keep your key employees and to also attract new ones in such a fierce competition environment?
Catalina Rousseau: We have not faced such crises, and hopefully we will never do. Our success story is our great team, and from what we know, we have something unique in our market, BDR Associates being the only agency in Romania enjoying a core of professionals, who have been with the agency since 10, 15, 20 years ago. People stay with the agency mainly thanks to the work environment which enables them to enjoy their work.
At the same time our work is always a challenge, imposing strategic thinking, innovation, creativity. Days spent in the agency are never alike. Even those colleagues who left many years ago, find always their way back to BDR, either on special occasions in the life of the agency or simply visiting, even if many of them live now on other continents. I think that one important heritage of the agency comes from the expertise of expats who have been integrated in our team along the years. The multicultural environment and diversity of experiences from Asia to the States have enriched us professionally and open our minds even more. We are constantly looking for talents irrespective of origin, so our door remains largely open to all dreamers, if they accept hard working and are competent too.
Q: What’s your view on trade and investment in communication in 2018 and please give us your opinion on the sectors that will better understand the need for communication.
Catalina Rousseau: I believe that in 2018 our expertise and professional capabilities will be needed and valued in strategic communications mainly, and it is the current market conditions which dictate this conclusion. 2018 will be a challenging year, including historically. Companies will struggle to keep their market position, which will make them more creative, more present on the public scene, more present in the life of communities with innovative programmes oriented towards education, health, environment protection, and sustainable development. The same struggle for qualified labor will generate more employer branding programs, more reputation building trough media and digital communications. I expect solidarity of all business sectors in a common effort to consolidate the market and its predictability; this means more work for the strategic communicators. The business sector through its respected leaders will contribute, influence and determine progress of an economic vision in support of a friendly business environment and our mission will be to make their voice have high impact.
Q: As BDR Romania is in the market for more than 20 years, what is your statement on “Romania - then and now’’?
Catalina Rousseau: Speaking about our past: we started our business in the communication industry as pioneers in the field, being idealistically inspired by the historical Good Morning Romania IEC campaign which I had the privilege to run in the mid 90’. We hear today, after more than 20 years, slogans like Wake Up Romania. I think that « Welcome to Romania » should become the appropriate slogan for the future, encouraging investment in a country which already changed its image abroad and which inspires so many businesses.
Q: Do you have a final comment for our readers?
Catalina Rousseau: Yes, stay here and put your intelligence, your innovative thinking and all your talent at work to make your future in Romania.