No Prain, no gain: PR firm to market own products

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No Prain, no gain: PR firm to market own products


Yeo Jun-young

As one of the country’s leading public relations companies, Prain is pushing the envelope with a new business strategy that may horrify others in the industry but which, on paper at least, seems to make a lot of sense.

In a bid to make itself a one-stop shop, the company intends to acquire its own content and promote it using all of its skills and know-how.

As part of the plan, it is importing and distributing a Hollywood film called “50/50” with a plot line that suggests Yeo Jun-young, the founder and new CEO of Prain Global, is either a visionary or a gambler who loves to face stiff odds.

The movie, which stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, revolves around a cancer patient who has a 50 percent chance of survival.

PR companies these days are struggle with declining fees and an over-saturated market.

The answer, says Yeo, is to up the quality of your service.

Yeo, one of the best-known figures in the domestic PR industry, got started in 2000 with 20 million won ($17,900).

But PCG Group, which includes Prain as a subsidiary, grew to include 220 employees and 32.2 billion won in sales revenue last year.

Unlike the archetypical PR official, however, Yeo shies away from the limelight and is a self-confessed introvert. He even appeared in an EBS TV program about people who are exaggeratedly reserved, and said the most important quality for good leaders is not showy ostentation, but the ability to win people’s hearts.

Q. Could you explain your new business model?

A. As a leading PR company, we are trying to promote content. We created a talent management department. And we are going to import and market a Hollywood film.

It may seem unrelated to our business, but it is connected. We provide services for our customers, but this time we’re promoting what we (will) already have.

In foreign countries, there are many cases of investment banks that own clothing companies.

We specialize in marketing. So while clothing companies usually hire marketing companies to give them a boost, the reverse can also hold true.

First of all, we are importing a film, and we will handle all the promotional and marketing work.

The film’s storyline also fits our philosophy.

I’ve had my eye on this movie for the last year. I think I’ve found one that is good enough to show audiences regardless of whether it succeeds or not at the box office.

Our business certificate contains a list of our services, including public relations, restaurateur and shoe vendor. And the list is getting longer.

Now we’re going for content ... This is unprecedented on a global level.

There are so many great products and content that is, unfortunately, not well known.

With consulting fees shrinking, how can PR firms add value to remain competitive?

The price for marketing and public relations work goes up when demand outweighs supply.

But if the quality of service is similar across the board, the fees cannot go up. In the past, Korea’s film industry was struggling.

But then we had a few hits and more talented people were attracted to the industry and it grew from there. For public relations firms to grow, they need talent. But the best brains tend to work for legal or consulting firms, not PR. They can make money only if they are smarter than the clients who pay for their services.

For the market to grow, they need to create value equal to what they would be paid. In other words, they need to raise their quality of service.

How do you deal with you shyness given what you do for a living?

Whenever I am asked to give a public speech, my colleagues stand in for me.

The same thing applies to presentations at meetings: I’ll prepare the materials, but other executives do the talking.

But when I was working at Kolon (before founding Prain), I couldn’t avoid my responsibilities in this way. It took me a long time to reach the situation I’m now in, when I don’t have to do those jobs I don’t like.

The key is to find what you can do to make up for those things you cannot. You have to find a solution for your own weakness.

For example, studying and contemplating is something you can do when you are alone.

When extroverts give a lecture, introverts can write a book.

By Limb Jae-un []
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