PR according to Pavlíček

Martin Pavlíček has a long history at UNYP. Starting out in one of the first Communication Bachelor’s cohorts, he went on to work for some of the most challenging public relations departments in the CEE region. He then returned to UNYP twice – once for a Master’s in Communication, and also an MBA. Unable to face the thought of leaving UNYP for good (and who could blame him?), Martin returned for a fourth time – this time sharing his PR knowledge with students. He is currently Co-Managing Director of Havas PR Prague.

We asked Martin to share his thoughts on Havas PR, the state of PR today, and his tips for students who want to break into the field.

 

1. Can you describe Havas to us in your own words? We can read the official stuff online... What is Havas? For that matter, since the majority of our readers may not be familiar with it, what exactly is Public Relations?

Havas is a 360 degree multicultural melting pot of communications projects. It’s about 150 people from 30 different countries synchronizing on similar wavelengths, and integrating the daily rush of communication projects which range from mandates for huge companies like Google, ING Bank, and T-Mobile to assignments for smaller exciting startups. Havas is the constant pressure of deliverables, projects, and complexities, and the fun of meeting individual clients for a barbeque on our terrace overlooking the river and Old Town. Havas is an orchestra that might seem chaotic and cumbersome at first glance, but which is alive with sparks of creativity, and new technologies and data that are used in unprecedented ways.  

Public relations is only one piece of the whole communication puzzle, delivering mutually beneficial relations between companies and their many audiences. But there are no silos today; PR is starting to merge with digital and social media, with events and launches. And we are often the orchestrator of them all….

 

2. How would you describe the PR ‘market’ in Prague? A small pond, or a dense jungle? Has it changed a lot in the last decade? How?

A lot of companies are becoming more and more educated about PR and its tools, and are thus better and better able to use them well. Whether on the client or agency side, the Prague pond is really small. Over the last decade there has been a strong push from the side of the smaller agencies to challenge the large ones to become more agile and cost effective. On the other hand, clients have started to look for more and more integrated solutions. That’s where the big players have the upper hand.


3. How much of the PR field is culture-specific? Does Czech PR differ much from, say, French or American PR?

American PR, for example, is openly moving more and more towards influencer management with a lot of paid cooperation. Generally, the west is far ahead with the concept of corporate-created content becoming a source of news. We see this trend in the Czech Republic, but media relations still make up a larger chunk of our PR bread and butter.

 

4. Crisis communication has become very popular among students at UNYP and ESC, at both bachelor’s and master’s levels. Do you think this is this due to the vulnerability that social media has brought? Or something else?

Crisis communication is an exciting part of PR, until you have to go and talk in front of the cameras about something really tough, with the anchor pushing you, and when the end result of what you say might shape the reputation of a company for years to come... I think it’s popular because students feel there is a rush of adrenaline in this discipline – much faster than the slow unfolding of an educational campaign which takes a year to change people’s minds. And it’s like poker – you are never quite sure what cards the others are holding…

 
5. Without going into a lot of detail, can you give us a contemporary example of what you think of as good PR – say, in the last year? How someone or some company handled a situation somewhere in the world well? And also an example of the opposite?

Being a relatively new dad, I always think about the Contours stroller campaign two or three years ago. To help parents choose a stroller, they constructed an adult-sized replica stroller that could be test-driven – and the video content generated millions of dollars’ worth of free media coverage. All it took was a brilliant creative idea. Felix Baumgartner's record-breaking Red Bull freedive from the edge of space is another great example. In terms of the opposite, Versace is a frequent culprit in terms of sensitivity towards cultures and nationalities – and of course, these frequent fails immediately spread across social media.

 
6. Do you remember the first time you recognized PR ‘in action’? When you realized that a communication situation was being ‘managed’?

In my first days working in internal comms in a large utility company, I went on a huge roadshow that was talking about a major transformation of the company. By the time we got to the second town, I realized that all the company representative speeches were rehearsed to absolute perfection. Some of the board members delivered an identical speech word by word, sticking to the script, not deviating an inch. Using the same gestures, the same rhythm, putting stress on the same words – it felt kind of funny and scary at the same time.

 

7. A career in Public Relations remains a top choice for students at UNYP. What advice would you give students looking for a career in PR?

If you like variety, are not afraid of constant change, and don’t mind being forced to control what is often beyond your control, then PR is your game. If you can combine people skills with writing skills, add a bit of structure and people management, then you are made for PR. Don’t get lured by the glitter of ads and social media, there are far deeper waters in PR. Don’t be afraid to start at the bottom, whether on the agency or company side - although in an agency, the learning curve might be a bit quicker. Try as many parts of PR as you can, until you find a place where you feel like a fish in water – and then swim! If you’re unsure, fake it till you make it!

 

8. What is the most important thing you have learned in your PR career?

The game chooses its players, not the other way round. If you don’t have it in you to win, the game will reject you. On the other hand, I would like to hope that I have learned to be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting their own difficult battle, which you cannot see. Lastly, try to influence what is in your power, and forget all the rest – and hope that you are well able to discern between the two! 

 

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