Eurocom Worldwide interviewed Sandra Sinicco, founder and CEO of GrupoCASA in Brazil, about the impacts of COVID-19 on the Latin American PR industry.
Eurocom Worldwide: Sandra, how would you describe the current atmosphere in Brazil?
Sandra Sinicco: Brazil is currently facing three simultaneous crises: The COVID-19 crisis – the growth in cases here is moving faster than it did in China. Then, the economic crisis, which was already ongoing before the pandemic; and lastly, a political crisis, generated by the lack of leadership and lack in commitment to national and international affairs of our current president. All of that taken into consideration I can safely say that I have never witnessed such a situation in all 33 years of having a company in Brazil. There are no experts that can foresee how and when we are going to overcome this hurricane.
Eurocom Worldwide: How extensive is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on GrupoCASA’s business in Brazil so far?
Sandra Sinicco: We are lucky that until now we haven’t faced any problems regarding decreased revenues or loss of clients. I believe this has to do with the fact that we were already operating in the context of the economic crisis before the pandemic, which meant working with fewer clients than usual already. Due to the economic crisis we made all the necessary adjustments last year and are prepared for the worst-case scenario.
Eurocom Worldwide: Would you say that the situation is similar to PR agencies in other Latin American countries or does it differ from country to country?
Sandra Sinicco: Each country is experiencing the COVID-19 crisis in a different way. However, from what we have seen in these past weeks, all agencies have lost clients, and some are already facing monetary problems. Those who seem most affected are those focussing on Press Relations and Events. Digital and Internal Communications, on the other hand, are still moving forward or expanding – but in the middle of chaos.
Eurocom Worldwide: What are the key challenges that you experience while servicing clients during the crisis and in what way have your clients‘ needs changed?
Sandra Sinicco: I have to be more present in the day-by-day tasks, and the quality of deliveries has to be absolutely perfect. This is due to the fact that our agency is very lean nowadays, and we need to strengthen close relationships with our current clients.
This was more of a change for myself than for the team. They are already used to working from home three days a week, as that has been our modus operandi for over ten years now.
Regarding the clients, I can see that the Brazilian clients are facing more troubles adjusting to the crisis than the foreign clients due to their lack of experience with working from home. However, both foreign and local clients are more stressed and demanding more creativity from our side as well as new ways to communicate. I personally feel happy about that because these are challenges that make us more relevant and indispensable in the scene.
Eurocom Worldwide: Have you amended your service portfolio accordingly and what have been the most successful campaigns so far?
Sandra Sinicco: Considering that quite a while ago I had already transformed GrupoCASA into a consultancy for innovative companies and sectors, I don't think that we have changed our portfolio. Instead, I believe that our clients are starting to understand and request projects that we have been proposing some times ago. They are becoming more open to test new forms of communication.
Webinars and newsletters are being used as never before. Overlapping different channels of communication and analysing the results of the impacts among the targeted audiences is also a key challenge in order to get the absolute most from everything we do. Technical tools are boosting the possibility to analyse reactions and behaviours in-depth and in brand new ways.
For example, we have created more digital campaigns to get kids and parents involved in positive themes. We have created a Latin American campaign for Trina Solar – one of the biggest photovoltaic panel manufacturers in the world – which invites children and parents to create a one-minute story about the sun and its role for a better quality of life (e.g. smart cities deploying technologies using the sun power allowing a higher level of welfare for everybody). The three best stories will be transformed into three videos produced by Full Sail University in the USA – a university that graduates film industry professionals. The videos will then be part of a Social Media campaign in the Latin American region. And all this was created in São Paulo, Brazil – involving China, Miami, six Latin American countries and Spain.
We have also created a series of webinars about PV technology showing how the sector is dealing with COVID-19, best technical approaches, new regulations etc.
In addition, we are launching a series of webinars under the umbrella of the LatamEdge Awards in order to talk about the impacts of COVID-19 on Latin America's innovative sectors and the scale-ups community involving partners and clients. Before the pandemic, we only communicated through panels.
Eurocom Worldwide: Has your level of cooperation with your Latin American partner agencies significantly changed during the crisis?
Sandra Sinicco: We are more united now than ever before. In fact, as soon as the pandemic started, we scheduled a conference call in order to share ideas and projects so that we could face the crisis together. It was a relief to talk to everybody and to be supported. We are now on the way to launch common services and campaigns in the region to increase our visibility among potential clients. Luckily, demands for RFP are still coming from abroad.
Eurocom Worldwide: What is the most important lesson you have learned in managing your team and servicing your clients since the beginning of the pandemic?
Sandra Sinicco: I think that people when experiencing a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic are mostly longing for safety and predictability. It is very hard to satisfy these needs since life has never been safe and predictable and you cannot deliver this type of security when the market is in the middle of a gigantic hurricane.Therefore, during these times, showing real empathy is the key to surpass the storm. Support colleagues with ideas and create projects in common to work on. That is extremely important now and eventually makes the difference between closing your business or keeping your doors open.
Regarding clients I see that they are struggling with a lot of different issues and that we, as their communications agency, need to become more relevant by developing further strategic and thought leadership skills and be less technical, assuming more relevant roles than just a cog in the machine.
Eurocom Worldwide: Do you think that there will be any positive outcome for the PR industry in Latin America through this crisis?
Sandra Sinicco: I think that, as always, PR shows its value when facing a crisis. Dedicated PR that does not brainwash and delivers relevant and meaningful messages to the audience will grow a lot after this crisis. That being said, I would like to see more action being taken from our industry towards positioning ourselves in a much more pivotal way in the future. We cannot continue to be perceived as if we play an irrelevant part in the economy and be the first dismissed in a crisis. I believe PR agencies need to connect more and more with themes like Compliance, Sustainability and Transparency to be regarded as important thought leaders within the "engine of capitalism".
Eurocom Worldwide: Sandra, thank you very much for these valuable insights into the Latin American landscape!