Impact PR, a leading PR agency in Bangladesh, recently celebrated 15 years of operations in Bangladesh. The agency which was founded by M Shamsur Rahman, renowned journalist and Editor-in-Chief of Independent Television and Editor of the newspaper, The Independent, pioneered the PR industry in the country. Over the years, the agency has expanded their portfolio of strategic PR solutions and continues to evolve ahead of its competitors. The company has worked with some of the biggest businesses in Bangladesh, the likes of Beximco Group, British American Tobacco, Robi, Unilever, and more.
Bangladesh Brand Forum recently had the opportunity to talk to Sabrina Zaman, CEO of Impact PR, regarding the achievements, challenges and promises of the company and the PR industry.
BBF: How did Impact PR begin its journey in Bangladesh?
Sabrina Zaman: It all started when M. Shamsur Rahman, having worked in Dubai’s lucrative Public Relations sector, saw the opportunity and the need for a PR industry in Bangladesh upon his return. When we were starting out, we were met with pessimism from the agency networks regarding the viability of such an industry. It was during this time that Aftab Ul Islam, Chairman, IOE Bangladesh Ltd. – impressed with the concept – encouraged us and provided us with a small office space to start.
The first five years of operation was an uphill battle against the lack of awareness and appreciation for a PR specialist. We had to work tirelessly and over a long period to convince our clients to come on board with our proposition. Thanks to our efforts, we were able to establish the necessity and value for PR.
In its 15 years of operations, what are the achievements that Impact PR is proud of?
Our achievements range from expanding and evolving our solutions to entering and perfecting our trade in unique industries. When we worked with our clients in different industries, we also promoted and tried to bring equity to the industries too. This resulted in both the benefit of our clients and a transparent and healthier outlook on the industry in question. We are the only PR practitioner to have over 13 years of experience working with the telecom industry. We are the only industry working with the tobacco industry which brings with its unique challenges that we have creatively approached with our strategies and PR plans. Furthermore, we have established confidence within the media over the credibility of our content.
How do you work with clients to ensure PR success?
In order to reach the goals of our clients, we develop and structure the strategies accordingly for them. The organic PR that is generated – the various press conferences, events, press releases and more – that take place throughout the year fall into the strategies proposed. For example, when we work with our clients in telecom, they set forth their mandate for a year – be it youth focused or regional visibility. Then we develop a calendar for the year and work accordingly seeking out appropriate instances for impactful public relations activities.
We ensure that the messages that our clients send out effectively reach the target audience at the right time. We also play an advisory role in highlighting some of the areas that our clients could work on, in order to illicit the best response from the public.
How does having a PR strategy add value to a company’s marketing efforts?
We believe that PR sends an honest and powerful message and is highly effective when done right. Imagine coming across an article about a renowned and successful female personality and it happens to mention her favorite shampoo brand. The effect this would have on your subconsciousness and purchase decision is more substantial than if you’d instead been exposed to a television or newspaper advertisement.
When we worked on the PR for the film “Debi”, the buzz and hype it generated surpassed the traditional marketing of other films. The outcome that you see was the result of only exploring a fraction of the possibilities and we could have done more with the right budget. That should tell you about the power of PR.
What are the predominant issues in the PR industry that need to be overcome?
The major challenges include monetary issues, a predominant lack of structure and lack of experienced talent. There is no industry standard pricing model that everyone agrees upon. When a client asks for a year-long plan from competing agencies there tends to be immense variations in price quotations. In order to get the contract, many agencies will cut back on essential costs lowering the value and effectiveness of the PR proposition. Therefore, as a client, it becomes difficult to assess the true value of the proposed work.
This problem could be mitigated if we had an association for agencies which could set standards on quality, value, and price. Furthermore, since this industry is still small, we still have to heavily invest in training and recruiting good talent and building a greater appreciation for the value of well-designed PR efforts.
What is the overarching vision of Impact PR?
We have one dream and that is to see the Public Relations Industry become fully established in a massive scale in Bangladesh and for the corporate scene to realize and reap the full benefits of PR strategies. Towards that end, change is evident not only in terms of wider recognition but also in terms of the scale of value we provide. Just a decade ago, the industry was almost non-existent but now almost every multinational has a PR strategy in place and a designated PR agency. Initially our clients only asked for basic PR support but over the years their trust in PR grew allowing for the development of more ambitious Public Relations strategies.
What is the future direction of Impact PR as it chases its vision?
We wish to continue our trajectory in establishing a solid PR industry with Impact PR at the forefront. We are exploring and hoping to pioneer unique projects in Digital PR which is a very exciting market right now with a lot of possibilities. As a PR agency, we are continually working with our clients to take on more ambitious tasks. Our clients enable us to evolve our strategies and therefore allow us to evolve as a company. As a pioneer, we take responsibility to build awareness and spearhead development of this industry. The day this dream is realized is the day Impact PR’s efforts and achievements will be acknowledged.