Like many developing public relations markets, the Czech Republic can be viewed as a pyramid: at the bottom there are lots of firms competing primarily on price and offering a mix of product publicity and special events, often with dubious professional and lax ethical standards; in the middle, there are a growing number of more reputable firms known primarily for their ability to execute efficiently and deliver value; at the top there are a handful of strategic public relations firms whose best work is as good as the best in any of the more developed markets. In the Czech Republic, Ewing PR is firmly established at the top of that third group.
The firm was a pioneer in the Czech PR market in the early 1990s, when it was founded by American ex-pat Melinda Ewing, initially focused on events but developing rapidly into a full-service operation. In 1999, Ewing returned to the U.S. and handed the firm over to its two current principals: Pavlina Rieselova, who worked in public affairs and not-for-profit PR in Canada before joining Ewing, and Jiri Hrabovsky, a veteran of Czech TV and former news anchor who also worked in communications at Skoda Auto. They have elected to focus on developing Ewing’s reputation in the corporate and crisis communications arena, eschewing the higher volume work in the middle market for the higher value at the top.
They are supported by a strong manage-ment team that includes Radim Jung, recently appointed managing director of the Slovakian operation and Ondrej Drabek, a former business writer who worked in-house at Vodafone before starting his own creative shop and moving to EPR in late 2008. New additions over the past 12 months include Ondra Kubala, an award-winning veteran of Czech Railways, and Martin Jaros, a former automotive editor. The firm has also been working more closely with its digital and social media specialist (a 50 percent stake was acquired two years ago) and its managing director Ondrej Drabek.
Subsidiery BeefBrothers enjoyed healthy growth over the past 12 months, as did the Slovakian operation—under new management and recovering after a difficult year—but the economic recovery in the Czech Republic did not really begin until the end of the second quarter, and so the core Czech business has been flat for the second year. The firm did pick up two major assignments, however, the first for the Czech Statistical Office and the 2011 Census and second for the Czech Doctors Association. It continues to work with U.S. medical technology company Medtronic; ACSS (the Association of Construction Saving Accounts); private banking firm Lombard Odier; and HomeCredit.
After BeefBrothers won the APRA (Czech PR association) award for best campaign in 2009 (for its Digital Slovakia assignment, also recognized in the SABREs last year), Ewing PR took top honors in 2010 for To Steel or Not to Steal, a campaign it conducted on behalf of the minority shareholders of Arcelor Mittal. Another major highlight is the firm’s work for the Czech Doctors Association called “Thank You, We’re Leaving,” which focuses on low pay for medical profession and includes lobbying for hospital doctors to protest by handing in their notice at the end of the year. As part of the effort, Ewing is driving a 1960s retro ambulance around the country, stopping in every city with more than 15,000 people, meeting local media and local doctors, rallying public support while providing free blood pressure tests. The 2011 Census is another massive project, combining media relations and community outreach.