UNLEASHING THE POTENTIAL OF STRATEGIC COMMUNICATION
Katya Dimitrova, founder and managing partner of Interpartners communication group, on what advertisement and PR are today
Celebrating 30 years on a market is an achievement for any company in our fast-moving world. This is even truer in the quickly changing and highly competitive field of advertisement and PR. Interpartners, a Bulgarian communication group, has done just that. It started in 1992 as a company for full advertisement services to become an ecosystem of organisations for strategic communication and branding with many loyal and satisfied clients, including some of Bulgaria's top brands. Interpartners believes in offering not only a highest quality communication service as creative solutions and mix, but also a vision for business development and long-term success. It achievest this through its brands – the creative and digital agency Interpartners, InterImage for corporate communications and employer branding, Media Camp for media services and the recently acquired PR agency Key Experts Group. Interpartners is also active in 8 markets in the region through its own partnership network, SEEnthesis.
All of these are reasons enough to meet with the woman behind Interpartners. The company's founder and managing partner, Katya Dimitrova, is a communicator in her heart as is evident by the long list of international companies and public institutions she has consulted. She believes in inner growth and has made her mission to inspire young Bulgarians to remain in Bulgaria and make it a better place. Katya Dimitrova, who is happily married, has personal stakes in this mission. Her son and daughter are now in university and she knows that they can become agents of positive change for Bulgaria.
What is the most valuable lesson that you learned about advertisement and PR in the 30 years of Interpartners on the market?
A team is successful when it learns something from any situation. Sometimes failures provide more valuable lessons than successes as they make us stronger and better prepared for the future. Success belongs to the prepared. This is why my team and I believe in lifelong learning and constant updating our competences.
One of the most valuable lessons in my professional career was that our egos as creators and strategists should take the backseat. We work "behind the scenes" and we like it that way. Our job is to turn our client companies and brands into stars!
We also have to learn to be genuinely happy for our competitors' success. This is the only way for the communication sector to grow and benefit all stakeholders. Our competitors' success motivates us to be better, to innovate and aim higher. We are eager to work synergistically even with our biggest competitors.
Last but not least – communication professionals should always find a way to be open and honest!
What is the most important thing that clients' should know for successful advertisement and PR in the early 2020s?
Advertisement and PR are not separate fields anymore. Communications are being integrated. Clients now seek a complete solution for their business – not just an idea or originality, but a strategy that will bring their product or business to a new level.
Advertising agencies' products or PR tools are not enough anymore. You need to understand the clients' business model, to focus on its advantages and to offer a vision on how to find the right audience. This is why we say that we create concepts which materialise via multimedia/multichannel communication.
Overexaggerated or declarative slogans are a thing of the past now. Modern audiences are a click away from learning more about the business and whether its messages are honest. The honest and open conversation with the customers builds a loyal relationship with them.
The digital environment is a tool that works, but only because of the content created by humans. Technologies are our future but they will not replace the authors, the strategists and the content creators.
Measuring results is also important. The image effect or brand recognition can be measured not only in the digital world. This makes us, communication agencies, a strategic partner for businesses.
You marked the company's 30th anniversary with two special surveys. What are the results?
We wanted to celebrate our jubilee in a way that would bring added value to us, but also to our colleagues, partners and clients. Together with Research Center Trend we surveyed the values of the Bulgarians and the ethics of the local communication community. The Covid-19 pandemic changed people's value system and we, communicators, have to know the new realities.
Our survey on the Bulgarian society's current values found out that people put peace, family, safety and human rights first. Sadly, they still do not trust the judicial system. They do not believe that businesses can be honest and that business success is possible just with hard work. Bulgarians choose security over freedom and are sceptical to people of different race, sex and sexual orientation, to disabled people.
Our society is moving in the right direction of more acceptance, optimism and trust, but we are not there yet.
The survey of our professional community showed that we still put competition over synergy. Yet, I am an optimist as in practice there is more collaboration between agencies, an increased desire for collective protection of our interests, loyal competition, developing your own team and not headhunting around, and fighting to get paid adequately for our strategic work.
Soon, we will present the results publicly, but we decided to share them with Vagabond's team first.
Why did you decide to incorporate Key Experts Group into Interpartners?
We were not seeking expansion through acquisition. Interpartners group is recognisable enough, about 80% of new business is through recommendation by satisfied clients. Besides, our own PR brand, InterImage, is a leader in employer branding and corporate communication.
We made the jump after our KEG colleagues proposed it. Their founder and owner wanted to change track and offered her business to join our structure. In our field we do not "acquire" clients or contracts. We have to convince them to stay with us. I am happy that KEG clients' recognised us as a strategic consultant and partner who cares for them and has more resources, including outside Bulgaria.
I believe that with care and professionalism the results will be excellent!
Is the Bulgarian communication market different somehow from the regional one?
The Bulgarian consumers are very demanding because they are well informed, open and eager to learn new things. They want to make the best choices for themselves and are more digitally fluent than the average. The brands and the companies need to tailor their communication strategy for the Bulgarian market, not just to adapt solutions from other countries.
In Bulgaria, everyone knows everyone. In business this can be an advantage as it allows quick access to people and information and makes solving problems and/or crises faster.
We, Bulgarians, often lack confidence but we do not have to because of our rich historical and cultural heritage, and our intellectual potential.
What is the most important quality for an advertisement agency?
To believe in what it does and to bring meaning to it. To be able to work behind the scenes and to put its clients in the limelight. To be able to create, develop and maintain a team, to build professionals and cultivate talents, and to hand down its know-how to the next generation of communicators. This, however, should be backed by experience, creativity, knowledge and high internal standards to give our clients what works best for them!
Have you ever said "no" to a client and why?
Of course. We do it every time when something will not work for our client's business. The skill to say "no" means that you respect the opposite side, that you care for them and value their time, and that you are confident in your expertise.
Often a "no" is more important than a "yes." As the proverb says, "When we lose something we do not know what we are gaining." We, at Interpartners, are trying to cultivate our vision in such a way to always know what we will gain if we decline an offer.
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