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Interview with PR-Journal

Since 2011, mc group has been the unchallenged market leader in Pfeffer’s PR-Agency ranking. Harald Zulauf (CEO) gave the German PR-Journal an interview for that purpose.

Harald Zulauf, CEO of the mc Group, which has again topped Pfeffer’s PR agency ranking list.

mc Group tops PR agency ranking list since 2011 – “PR-Journal” interview with CEO Harald Zulauf

The unchallenged market leader in Pfeffer’s PR agency ranking list since 2011 is the Berlin-based international agency network mc Group, formerly Media Consulta. With audited revenue of EUR 56.58 million (2015: EUR 54.9 million), representing a 3% increase on the previous year, mc pushed well ahead of its nearest rivals: the agencies fischerAppelt (EUR 49.1 million) and Ketchum Pleon (EUR 48.95 million). PR-Journal spoke to mc CEO Harald Zulauf to discover what drives these figures and the main sources of the group’s revenue.

During the past financial year, mc issued very little communication about itself. The last official business-related press release published on the website dates from 9 May 2016. The subject of this press release was the revenue figures for 2015 and the main drivers indicated were significant seven-figure accounts with the European Commission. A good number of existing contracts with EU Directorates General were also mentioned.

PR-Journal: Mr Zulauf, what developments can you report since then? Can you give a brief run-down of the most important accounts added in 2016 and which have contributed further to your growth?

Harald Zulauf: The main reason behind the mc Group’s continued growth is its standing as international market leader in nation branding. In 2016 alone, we were able to acquire the accounts of the tourism ministries of India, the Philippines, Morocco and China. These are usually integrated accounts that include social media, trade fair and event organisation or advertising campaigns in addition to press relations.

The second growth driver is corporate branding, where our clients include Lidl in Germany, the Pentahotels Group from Hong Kong and China’s Hainan Airlines. Sports branding, where the mc Group started out, is another important area. In 2016, for example, we acquired the communication account for the Laureus World Sports Awards, which includes PR activities for the awards ceremony in Monte Carlo.

Loyal clients

We are proud that the majority of our clients have remained loyal to us over a number of years, and that we have concluded many long-term framework contracts in the public sector. One example is the European Commission, on behalf of which we successfully implemented the 2016 pan-European information campaign for the EU investment plan, aimed at supporting economic growth and creating jobs. Added to this were accounts with federal and state government agencies in Germany, such as the Federal Ministry of Health and the DAAD, as well as regional marketing activities for federal states including Thuringia.

PR-Journal: Pfeffer’s PR agency ranking primarily focuses on agencies with a distinct PR DNA. How do you still fit into this profile?

Zulauf: The mc Group does indeed operate as a fully integrated group of agencies nowadays, with some of these specialising in the areas of public relations, digital media, content creation, media planning, events, publishing, TV production as well as sport and entertainment. The core of our DNA is most definitely PR, however, as this is where we started out. All of our integrated accounts are driven first and foremost by PR activities. This does admittedly mean that our PR employees need to have a higher level of communication expertise, in other words knowledge of other disciplines, but this also makes their job much more interesting. Two thirds of all accounts are content-driven, integrated PR accounts with traditional press and media activities, PR consulting, social and digital media as well as events or corporate publishing.

All disciplines under one roof

PR-Journal: Mr Zulauf, mc has stood unchallenged at the head of the PR agency ranking list since 2011. How have you managed to push so far ahead of the competition? Zulauf: It comes down to two clearly defined structural USPs. The first is the fully integrated set-up of the agency. This means that the client can find all disciplines under one roof and work with specialist agencies that are familiar with each other and which have conceived and successfully implemented several accounts together over a number of years. This results in greater efficiency, optimised synergies between the disciplines, and reduced overhead costs. The second structural USP I would mention is our international outlook. We are the only German communication agency to currently have a presence in 82 countries on all five continents, and also the only agency in Europe established in all 28 EU Member States. As such, we are in a position to conceive and implement pan-European or even global accounts from here in Berlin on an integrated basis. This capability is beyond even most of the agencies in London and New York.

No shortage of new talent

PR-Journal: Agencies as a whole are complaining about the lack of young talent available. Have you also noticed greater difficulty in attracting young people to agency roles?

Zulauf: We are happy to report that we are not faced with this problem. Because of our integrated approach and above all our international outlook, the mc Group in Berlin receives a more-than-adequate number of applications from young job-seekers. Also, since we do not always insist on knowledge of German for many of our global accounts, and instead look for very good English language skills, we receive applications from all over the world. Our employees are drawn from over 25 countries, a number that cannot be equalled by any agency in Germany. The languages you will hear include Arabic, Hebrew, Russian, Ukrainian, French, Spanish and Mandarin, and everyone speaks excellent English.

PR-Journal: On your website, you seek to attract new talent with selling points including an international outlook, employee satisfaction as well as fair and flexible working hours. Are these realistic scenarios for an agency, which as market leader, must itself strive for maximum efficiency? Zulauf: Being highly efficient is a must, especially since the mc Group integrates all disciplines under one roof. We have the necessary structure in place, however, and we were indeed rated as the most efficient German agency in a survey of German marketing directors conducted by Handelsblatt.

Plus hours are compensated by time off on a 1:1 basis

Employee satisfaction, as well as fair and flexible working hours, are top priorities. Of course, additional hours do tend to arise during busy periods such as an event or when preparing a tender, but we compensate these with time off on a 1:1 basis. Our mc Academy offers employees a wide variety of further training opportunities, and we also run a programme encouraging participation in sport. I must also mention our summer and Christmas parties, which receive citywide attention in Berlin. We conduct regular employee surveys to gauge the mood in the individual units and in the agency group as a whole, and we strive to optimise any areas for improvement. Things are by no means always easy, but our success up to now proves that we are on the right path.

Since 2011, mc group has been the unchallenged market leader in Pfeffer’s PR-Agency ranking. Harald Zulauf (CEO) gave the German PR-Journal an interview for that purpose.