A new trend – the role of communication manager is fully entrusted to an agency
More and more international and Estonian companies are moving in a direction where the entire work of a communication department is outsourced to an agency. Is this decision justified, and in that case, what is the key to smooth cooperation?
Although, at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, it was thought that many companies would manage communication with the help of in-house staff, the reality has turned out the opposite. Even before the crisis, the trend of outsourcing the entire communication management service had begun to grow. In particular, from an agency that provides a full service – strategic communication, daily media communication, and social media as well as internal communication.
In order to make such a cooperation smooth, one person should still be responsible for marketing and communication in-house. Whether it is a marketing or communication manager, the two areas are so intertwined and should, ideally, support each other, it doesn’t matter how the responsible person is titled. However, it is common that the person responsible for communication in the company is the marketing or brand manager.
Agency vs communication or marketing manager
Outsourcing the entire communication service is especially common in international companies, which very often connect the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian markets and outsource all project management and daily communication from one agency.
For years, Coca-Cola and McDonalds, for example, have been doing the same, outsourcing all communication management. According to Nele Normak, Coca-Cola’s Head of Public Relations in the Baltics, this is both cost-effective and significantly more convenient for the person in charge. “A few years ago we made the strategic decision to consolidate marketing, PR, and government communication under one single agency.
Different brands need a diverse range of communication to reach their target groups and get the best results. The use of an agency adds freshness, and offers innovative approaches and diverse perspectives,” explained Normak.
A similar example is Citycon, where the marketing team consists of marketing and communication manager Helina Leif, and the coordinator of the shopping centers. The latter mainly dealing with internal communication. Their communication service is outsourced entirely to META Advisory.
“Other Nordic countries with a number of Citycon shopping centers have their own communication managers. Similarly to Denmark, Citycon has only two centers in Estonia (very few compared to Norway, where there are 24 centers – H.L.), whose communication needs and volumes do not require the hiring of a separate specialist. However, I feel that since, in Estonia, my area of responsibility is both marketing and communication, the use of a PR agency is absolutely essential during the high season. Firstly, it is cost-effective; and secondly, I appreciate the agency’s support, particularly in crisis communication issues and media relations. When publishing data or news, it is often good to have an impartial partner who has no connection to Citycon. That helps to see the bigger picture and to provide better comments, which also have a greater impact on the customer, who does not know the background of the center’s decisions,” Leif explained.
Which is more cost-efficient?
Many are afraid to hire an agency fearing it would be very expensive. In practice, however, hiring an agency is sometimes more cost-efficient than hiring one high-level communication professional. Especially because obtaining services from the agency provides access to specialists of several different areas, who will help to grow both the company’s reputation and the sale of your product or service. Today, a modern communication agency offers services to help build product and service brands, to plan marketing based on customer segments, and to build a company’s reputation and develop it from month to month, as well as managing the company’s relationship with the public, media and local community.
Especially in times of crisis the agency can be of great help, as there are experts who have managed the crisis communication of several companies and gained valuable experience. Thanks to this, it is possible for a company to feel more secure every day.
The 2020 labor market survey done by CVKeskus.ee, the largest employment portal in Estonia, and the Salary Information Agency, revealed that the median gross salary in Estonia for a marketing and communication specialist is 1,400 euros and 1,850 euros for a top specialist. At the same time, it is true that an experienced communication manager is no longer attracted to such a fee. However, it is possible to get a monthly contract from the agency for the same amount of money, which can cover the basic needs of a smaller company.
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The Green Turn finally reaches everyone
Climate change, plastic pollution, and biodiversity loss – these problems are all increasingly at the heart of the populations of advanced societies, affecting consumption decisions and governments around the world.
The Green Turn is no longer just an intellectual topic of discussion at the dinner table for well-off citizens in hipster districts. It is a reality and directly affects each of us, touching virtually every business sector and continent, from the EU Green Deal to Joe Biden’s ambitious climate plan, as well as Japan’s and China’s increasing efforts in implementing the Green Turn.
Although the climate debate often gives the impression that the energy sector plays a key role in reducing emissions, i.e. stopping the burning of fossil fuels, this is only half the truth – if at all. Everyone must contribute to a climate-neutral society: the individual in their daily life and in their consumption decisions; the entrepreneur by innovating their services or products; and society as a whole by creating and framing policies through the democratic process.
Over the years I have advised companies operating in a wide variety of business areas. Today, there is no one in my portfolio for whom sustainability or green thinking is not an important issue. And not only in terms of communication, but fundamentally – on a strategic level. However, it seems to me, a great many companies have not yet taken steps in this direction. I do not know whether it is a lack of knowledge or indifference, but I am sure of one thing – sooner or later everyone will have to face the changes that are driving the green revolution. And it is better to deal with them sooner rather than later.
The Green Turn can be perceived differently. On the one hand, there are restrictions on the freedom of enterprise, along with additional obligations and limitations. On the other hand, it contributes to a better living environment and creates new opportunities for many companies and economies, to become more prosperous.
Both attitudes are also transferred to corporate communication. It is quite easy to see who is doing climate or sustainability communication simply because others are doing it, and therefore believe they should also do something. But other companies have content and communication going hand in hand, each supporting the other.
In general, my advice is the following: if you do nothing, then better not to talk, but if you want to talk, then start doing.
Green aspirations must not exist in communication alone. There must be deeds behind the words. Believe me, the green literacy of journalists and consumers has greatly improved and there is no point in attempting to pull the wool over their eyes. It is so transparent. The stupidest thing is to get caught up in greenwashing. There are companies, both here and in the rest of the world, who have stepped in shit with both feet already. Terms such as environmentally friendly, carbon neutral, natural, ethical or sustainable should only be used if they are based on real action. Words alone no longer work; the conscious consumer is aware of the finest nuances of greenwashing.
If the foundation is laid properly, strong walls and a roof can be built on it. The value of modern communication should be to generate business benefits for a company, not just to capture attention. The core strength of a communications consultant lies in how to convert sustainability communication into success in key business areas.
What does this mean? Various studies have shown that sustainable companies are becoming more and more attractive for both investors and cooperation partners, and strategic communication plays a very important role in highlighting these values. It is necessary to explain, to the target groups important for the company, what they gain from the company’s use of environmentally friendly technologies, and what green thinking and innovation brings to them, as well to other customers, partners, and existing or future employees. It is necessary to explain to each target group, how the company’s green aspirations affect them and make their life better.
I have noticed that many companies are afraid to set ambitious goals, because they are afraid that they may not meet them. This should not be an obstacle. Even if the targets are not met in one year, it should be publicly acknowledged and pronounced, clearly, what will be done to succeed next time. Clear and measurable goals and the efficient communication of them is always a good way to announce your green aspirations.
It is obvious that by hiding their heads in the sand, all companies face a situation, sooner or later, where they have to adapt to new realities or lose out by becoming the losers of a changing world.
Let’s follow the example of organizations that are taking both big and small steps towards a better future, and welcome the change with gratitude. After all, this is actually being done for the benefit of all of us and our future generations. Let’s stop living at the expense of the environment and start cooperating with nature. As we introduce new practices, we actually quickly realize how natural and logical this is for all of us. It is not worth seeing the Green Turn as coercion. This is an opportunity. Both in terms of commerce and communication.
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