Patrcia Vila speaks, among other things, about the process of merging the JeffreyGroup with Hill+Knowlton and the main demands of the area
General Manager at JeffreyGroup Brasil, Patrcia Vila began her career in corporate communications at the age of 25. She has seen several market transformations and claims that, with artificial intelligence (AI), we are experiencing yet another revolution.
Since then, the personal computer has appeared and with it e-mail, which revolutionized the way we communicate, then the internet, digital media, cell phones. Technology has given speed to all things, multiplied the individual’s power to express opinions, changed the press landscape, intensified surveillance over organizations. Now, with artificial intelligence, we are experiencing yet another revolution, he says.
Among other topics, the executive talks about the process of merging the JeffreyGroup with Hill+Knowlton and the main demands of the area. The great demand of customers today for integrated communication.
When did you start working with corporate communications and what were the most significant changes in the market since then?
I started working in the area at the age of 25, when I joined Basf’s social communication department. At the time, the chemical industry was leading the movement towards greater openness by Brazilian companies to structured relationships with stakeholders, and that was my great school. I had the privilege of learning from great professionals, at a time when we still typed up memos to send via internal mail and communicated with the head office by telex. Since then, the personal computer has appeared and with it e-mail, which revolutionized the way we communicate, then the internet, digital media, cell phones. Technology has given speed to all things, multiplied the individual’s power to express opinions, changed the press landscape, intensified surveillance over organizations, which brought advances to the corporate world and its role in society. Now, with artificial intelligence, we are experiencing yet another revolution. Everything will change again and I will confidently embark on this adventure, as I have done so far.
How is the process of merging the JeffreyGroup with Hill+Knowlton going? What stage are you in?
The acquisition of JeffreyGroup was announced in September 2022 as a strategic move that positions Grupo H+K as the leading global communications agency in Latin America. Since then, the integration process has been advancing, especially in the back office areas, as the JeffreyGroup will continue to operate under its own identity within Hill+Knowlton. Brian Burlingame, who has been CEO of the JeffreyGroup since 2015, leads all H+K operations in Latin America, spanning its two brands.
In practice, what does it change to be part of WPP, the largest communication group in the world?
Joining the WPP Group strengthened our position in the market and opened countless opportunities for JeffreyGroup to gain scale in the business. In addition, our people now have access to new tools for work, self-development and the exchange of knowledge with other geographies and other agencies, also benefiting customers.
What does Jeffrey’s concept of being the only agency focused exclusively on Latin America mean?
The JeffreyGroup has grown consistently over three decades with its distinctive and exclusive focus on Latin America, serving large companies and global brands. With headquarters in Miami and offices in So Paulo, Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro, Mexico City and Buenos Aires, the JeffreyGroup’s focused work has made us a dominant force in the region. During this period, we developed innovative and award-winning corporate communication and public affairs projects in a wide range of industry sectors. We were also pioneers in creating a model for regional coordination of communication programs, which greatly facilitates the life of executives with responsibility for multiple markets in the region. Now, as part of a global network, we expand our business opportunities and access to new tools and new knowledge, both for our customers and our people.
You were a PR judge at Cannes Lions last year. How was the experience and what did it add professionally?
An invigorating dip into creativity. I think that defines the experience. In all, I judged close to 500 cases in different disciplines and market segments and identified trends and common traits in them that brought me a renewed vision of communication work. Most of all, this opportunity helped remind me of the immense transformative power of what we do. PR Lions don’t reward innovation for its own sake, but the ability to transform the world through innovation, and it’s always good to see that magic happen.
What is the importance of awards for the area?
We do not conceive or execute projects to win prizes. We are primarily committed to efficiency, ethics, quality delivery, business results and customer satisfaction. But it is precisely the focus on these elements, combined with the work done with our interfaces, that takes us to the awards. Awards are the crowning achievement of an effort, the public recognition of a job well done and the opportunity to celebrate achievements with the team and clients.
Why are the jobs of an advertising and PR agency increasingly intertwined? How is this alignment done?
Digital technology and the consequent multiplication of communication channels available to society have blurred the roles and boundaries between spontaneous media and paid media. Dialogue with stakeholders can today travel through numerous channels beyond the traditional media and take different forms. People have become media, content and data intelligence have come to define strategies, and the nature of space and format have ceased to delimit what is PR and what is advertising. In this scenario, it is natural for the disciplines to work together or even mix. Alignment needs to happen from the outset of the strategy and take hold in the planning stage, to avoid dissonance in execution. Communication, however, maintains its primary vocation of creating connections and influence with authenticity and credibility, with the mission of increasing the value of reputation as an intangible asset.
What are the main demands of customers today?
The great demand from customers today is for integrated communication, which aligns messages and actions with the organization’s purpose and the demands of society, and establishes a consistent dialogue with multiple stakeholders. This modality is complex and increasingly requires understanding of business and different communication disciplines. Although the scope of the work itself does not always cover all audiences, it is mandatory to carry it out with a view of the whole and coherence.
How to maintain the reputation of a brand and act in crisis management?
A brand’s reputation is the sum of all its actions and manifestations. It builds and varies over time as a result of the perceptions it awakens. Maintaining reputation, therefore, is an imprecise concept, as organizations transform, evolve (or sometimes involute) and adapt to changes in society. For lack of a better term, I think that reputation shaping best reflects this task that requires constant vigilance and a permanent choice to do what is right for the long term, even when a short term solution seems more attractive and less painful. Acting in crisis management follows this same precept of doing what is right for the long term and being more or less successful depending on the sum of the successes and mistakes of the organization so far, especially in terms of transparency and ethics. There is no magic formula for this.
Read the full interview in the June 12 issue of PROPMARK