Krešimir Macan: Crisis communication and politics have imposed themselves as a consequence of experience and speed of work

Krešimir Macan

Krešimir Macan gave an interview to Media Marketing, in which he talked to us about his private life, about himself, his wishes and his life journey and also about Manjgura, the Government and the future. He spoke to Ekrem Dupanović, we bring you the whole interview.

Media Marketing: You’ve been working in PR for the last 26 years, you started during the war in Croatia. You didn’t study PR, you’re an electrical engineer. War, electric engineering, PR… is it all connected or did it just happen?

Krešimir Macan: The things that happen to us in life is serendipitous and leads us to our true self. But you have to be ready for it. I speak four languages, I was a tourist guide in Dubrovnik, where I grew up; I was working for the legendary agency Atlas, in 1991 I was a war guide for international journalists all over Croatia, later I joined the Ministry of Information which de facto waged the media war. And I was passionate about coding. The war directed me to storytelling, and coding knowledge is still useful today, because coding and communication strategy are the same thing – you have a goal and a desired result. My education was an excellent base for the digital revolution which, unlike for many of my colleagues, came naturally to me.

Media Marketing: You founded Manjgura 20 years ago, did you have a plan for its development, did you know what you wanted and did you achieve it?

Krešimir Macan: There was plenty of scope for PR in the market, Croatia was opening up to the world and I took a risk. During the first year, I was working within the IT industry, advertising and events, later on my colleague took over the agency’s helm until I came back in 2008. From 2004 I was successful in developing Madison Consulting Agency which became one of the major players in the market, I was sure there was more than enough work for more than one agency. In this industry, experience and networking is extremely important; the experience I gained during the years working for Croatian Radio and TV as a main spokesperson and short period as a Prime Minister’s advisor gave me an advantage for success. I also love my job and I give clients more than they pay for, I think that is the secret of my success. If you know what you’re doing, if you work hard, the success comes naturally. Crisis communication and politics came naturally as a product of experience and hard work.

Media Marketing: What are the key moments in Manjgura’s two decades? A new client, a change of development strategy, a new service, political marketing – what is it that influenced the expansion and business success?

Krešimir Macan: After the success of the first year, the key was my return to Manjgura in 2008, we became experts in crisis communication and new social media due to my IT knowledge and experience. 2008 was the year of my first campaign outside Croatia. I did a campaign for Radmila Sekerinska and SDMS in Macedonia, I still use it as an example of a campaign for a female candidate in my lectures. All the important changes came as a result of people joining Manjgura and enabling further development. Katarina Leko joined us mid 2011, she is our Executive Director and longest serving staff member, she will soon take over the management of the agency. Gordan Turković joined us end of 2011, he was part of our campaign team and was instrumental in its development. We worked all over the region from Macedonia to Slovenia, and I don’t think there is a man, apart from you Ekrem, who went further afield in our former country who didn’t’ grow up in it. Later on, Nina Išek Međugorec and Katarina Leko, as executive directors, helped me to build the agency permanent structure and enable teams not led by me to be in charge. We also entered a new sectors such as pharma and tourism. Nina is a director of Corporate Communications for THT Croatia, this shows you the caliber of people leading our teams. Anamarija Hrvoić Đurić, experienced media operator, joined us last year in an advisory role dealing with big clients and demanding ad hoc projects requiring quick decision making. Our senior team has great experience in each sector. We decided not to expand in Croatia and the region but to collaborate with partners as needed, which was a good decision because local specialist know the local market best, We’ve been collaborating with Jerko Trogrlić from Split’s Vajt Agency for many years, it gives us a strong presence in Dalmacija.

Media Marketing: Your professional journey was very exciting. You worked with the president Dr Franja Tuđman, you were a member of the government, you worked closely with Ivica Račan, you were, for a short period, in Agrokor, you were there when Ivica Todoric signed the historic Lex Agrokor. You have witnessed many important events. What was your brightest or most exciting moment in past 20 years?

Krešimir Macan: I once said that I should write 20 PR stories for each year of Manjgura, I just don’t have time. The best ones I probably shouldn’t be writing at all. I am lucky to have lived in interesting times, but I’d like them to be less interesting now, haha. Most of the political advisors would agree that an election night win and some other moments are better than sex (just for that moment) and that’s what motivates you to keep on going. Maybe the episode with Youtube channel Bijesprvi is the story that will be repeated time and time again because it was accidental. My children still tell me that we were first Youtubers in the region who got 1 million views, and we achieved that in 2006. We managed to hide our identity for six years which was a big challenge. As if we starred in the film “Valter brani Sarajevo (Valter defends Sarajevo)”, I even used it for one of the videos.

Media Marketing: What do you wish never happened?

Krešimir Macan: Knowing what I know now, I would refuse to do certain campaigns or would pull out in time, because they were not following my advice. But then we wouldn’t have gained experience, when you lose you learn a lot. I would definitely play more and work less. I calculated that I work 15 months, than have 2 month break, but as the year’s go by I have started to feel it. And yeah, I should have accepted the position of Google’s regional director, but it was not meant to be. You have to look ahead, everything happens for a reason.

Media Marketing: Have you had a wish that didn’t come true, and you wish it did?

Krešimir Macan: I now understand that wishes come true only when you are ready, so far I am happy with the way things are. Maybe to expand beyond the region, even internationally, it might happen when we are ready.

Media Marketing: You are seen by the media as a political PR operator. News portal can deal with that we will stick to the profession. What can a Croatian or regional company expect to get from Manjgura in terms of PR support?

Krešimir Macan: Nowadays, we can do everything in terms of communications, we can start and finish a project, if need be do a whole integrated campaign. We have an experienced team, and clients want a one stop shop, everything done by one agency. We are most comfortable with strategic advising, either brands or foreign investors. We have a lot of experience, we have an original approach to challenges, that’s why people choose us to work for them. The other day, the girls were complimented by a client saying that we are the only agency that makes them work hard. Crisis communications is the very air we breathe, once the crisis is over we get new business. For a long time we’ve been successfully working with other agencies on big campaigns, as the trend of integrated marketing campaigns grows. If you want top PR for your creative output, and that it all works digitally, we fit in perfectly. It is our responsibility we owe to the client, to get the best possible service.

Media Marketing: What were the brands and companies you had best relationship with so far?

Krešimir Macan: Varaždin Vindija was our client from the word go. We did a lot for them, crisis communication, promotions etc. We had a long term relationship with Kraš, Valamar and experienced a real sector. We work a lot with local self government, and we are very proud of what we did for Pula, Pula can be an example for other cities in the region. The last eight years we worked for Šibenik. As for foreign investors, we are collaborating with Four Seasons on their project in Hvar. We have a lot of clients who we did crisis communication for, for some we changed their business strategy, but we shouldn’t be talking publicly about it.

Media Marketing: You work a lot with foreign investors. What do they think about us? I suppose they have a lot of objections.What is it that draws them to Croatia and other countries in the region?

Krešimir Macan: The foreign investors are grateful for our cooperation, because we can offer accurate information about the project, due to our past experiences. They all see a lot of opportunities that we are not aware of, they are prepared to work patiently for years on some projects, although it’s becoming less and less. If the government attitudes on all levels don’t change they will leave. You know how things went in Montenegro. There were problems, but there were also top projects like Port Montenegro. Very often, the foreign investors will start projects in Croatia without the necessary preparations and experienced local project leaders to guide them through local rules and regs. Things then don’t go to plan and everything slows down. I hope this government will change things.

Media Marketing: Ana Tkalac Verčić was elected 10 days ago for the president of HUOJ. Have you got any advice for her? What should she focus on, in what direction should she take HUOJ?

Krešimir Macan: HUOJ gave enormous contribution to the development of the profession in Croatia and the region, mainly through its publishing activities which is the best information source for all the professionals. Ana’s contribution was her PR text book. I believe she’ll manage to repeal the ban on PR agencies engagement by the government bodies, all the EU projects and reforms in communication need that for their success. I also believe that she will find a way to engage HUOJ members to take an active part in the organisation. I am the president of the jury for this years HUOJ Grand Prix, which has become a real recognition for the professionals, we try to improve it every year.

Media Marketing: Public Relations or Publics Relations? Any business or political entity has many audiences they need to communicate with. Is it Public or Publics?

Krešimir Macan: I’d say Public relations. Both are correct, you can view public as a collective noun, but if you prefer it you can say publics. Because there isn’t one audience, in these digital times we can target audiences on the level of an individual street.

Media Marketing: Manjgura’s headquarters are in Edo Murtić street, named by famous Croatian painter. Culture and art are in crisis. The state has less and less money for them, sponsorship brings problems to both sides. Culture and art are not following the standards of contemporary sponsorship, and sponsors are not supporting them in a correct manner. What role can PR play to change things?

Krešimir Macan: Cultural institutions need to follow big changes in communication and those that do stand out. Dražen Siriščević of Vatroslav Lisinski does excellent work and they are always full, as concert halls should be. The concerts on the roof of our neighbour MSU are excellent. Things are moving forward, but slowly. I was thrilled to see the queues for the Nutcracker in HNK, which is regularly sold out by December. There are audiences but you need to attract them, and educate new generations. The cultural institutions in the region should adapt to the digital era and modern audiences. Some have been doing it for years, the rest should not expect visitors to adapt to their ways. PR agencies can do a lot for them. Of course, institutions need to follow the advice they’re given.

Media Marketing: Did you have any offers to work for cultural institutions, did you have any ideas you didn’t manage to bring to fruition?

Krešimir Macan: Whenever we can try something new we jump with both feet. I will always remember Xmas 2014 with fondness. We helped HNK and Teatar.hr portal to produce a real Xmas story. In return for buying a picture, members of the public gave a chance to a child in need to see the children’s opera “Hansel and Gretel”. For many of these children this was the first opportunity to see inside the national theater. The underground corridors oh the HNK were opened to the public for the first time which is were they could purchase the pictures. We are always glad to do projects like this, bearing in mind that it is difficult to sell culture in this country. I personally am active participant in the feast of St Blaise in Dubrovnik as a member of Dubrovnik Trombunjeri, thus passing on a thousand year tradition to a new generation.

Media Marketing: You give selflessly of your experiences at conferences, seminars and workshops. What is your favourite topic?

Krešimir Macan: Crisis communication, new social media and changes in the relationship with the media, and of course communication in politics and political campaigns. I love lecturing students and very often talk about my experiences and answer their questions. There is a new trend emerging, a so called leadership academy where leaders of today and the future get to learn all that is needed for success in this dynamic world. I often talk about working with people, because as an agency leader I’ve learned great many things – that is one of the most challenging aspects of a manager’s role. I’d like to make a one man show on the relationship between politics and the public, following all the rules of the profession. It would be great to perform if it comes off.

Media Marketing: Are you thinking of writing a book? Your story would be very interesting and educational.

Krešimir Macan: You need to write a page a day for a book, said prof. Žmegač, not more not less. There are ideas spinning around my head for years, whole concepts, but needs to gel and then the book will get written. Not by itself :-). It is important to remember the stories, record the details, because of the fast pace of life stories can fade, even the most beautiful ones.

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