Meet PIABO, Berlin

Piabo headshotAs part of the ION blog series where we talk to our PR partners overseas, Tilo Bonow, founder and CEO at PIABO Public Relations, sets the scene in Berlin, Germany.

Would you start by telling us a bit about your agency?

PIABO is the leading PR agency for the digital industry in Europe, headquartered in the historic centre of Berlin. PIABO was founded to provide tech entrepreneurs with the right strategies to bring their ideas to market. We support businesses of all sizes in actively recognising their potential, achieving growth targets, and ultimately help them own the market.

We can proudly claim that we accompanied the rise of the Berlin startup scene, which sets us apart from other agencies. And we work with tech clients from all over the world, such as WeWork, Tinder, Stripe, Asana, GitHub and the Silicon Valley Bank.

So why are you a part of ION? What are the advantages?

For our customers around the world, we need strong partners who know their local markets and are capable of adapting communications strategies that suit the local framework and conditions. In order to succeed, you need to know how local people think and behave. Consequently, you need to get familiar with their habits, only then you can form a meaningful strategy.

In Asian and American markets, we need to overcome time differences. Sometimes you need to react fast, in real time. In these scenarios, we can trust our local partners to handle the situation. Everyone benefits from mutual exchange, and can learn from each other – it’s a win-win situation.

In what circumstances should clients opt for an international network, rather than a wholly owned agency?

We fully believe in independent boutique agencies. The reason why we don’t place confidence in big network agencies is that every office delivers a very different kind of quality due to different levels of expertise and skill sets.

We have heard from frustrated clients, who eventually come to us> They say that they received less service at a higher cost, and found network agencies lacked specific market knowledge and focus. Often network agencies will take on any client – even if the industry or market is entirely foreign to their expertise.

What are some of the major trends in your region right now?

The field of communications has been disrupted by digital transformation. Already, we can see that the traditional press release is losing significance and that new methods are evolving.

In the face of big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence, significant progress will be made in the area of content creation. This will include more research possibilities and new ways of creating content. It could even mean that software will take over copywriting and news reporting.

And the challenges?

With more and more technologies entering the market, we deal a lot with trust issues. Especially in Germany, people are sceptical about new products and services. As such, PR has proven itself to be helpful in educating the market, in building relationships with the public, and in providing more transparency. We help our clients develop convincing stories that are human and socially responsible.

In the same vein, we see the importance of establishing a corporate purpose. The purpose must be authentic and permeate the entire organisation.

Finally, attention spans are in decline, so we need to compress messages into short formats to capture the attention of audiences. And there is an enormous amount of competition among different opinion producers, channels and applications.

And what mistakes might a foreign agency, with limited understanding of your region, make?

Compared to other countries like the US, the German media landscape is completely different. For example, the media outlets with the highest reach are spread all over Germany, and not concentrated in one city.

German editors are fierce gatekeepers. It is important to know who covers which topics – how, when and why – pitches are prepared specifically and individually. And they receive on average 700-800 pitches every day, so it is important to personally follow-up on any pitches, and to underpin them with well-researched and relevant angles matched to each and every publication. As in every country, there are cultural specifics not to be ignored: the “German” is always concerned with data security and privacy.

What sets good agencies apart in your region?

In my opinion, the most important thing is that every agency has a clear focus. You should concentrate on one industry; but in that one field, you have to be to the best. Make yourself stand out and become recognised as a key opinion leader. You need to know your niche by heart, the people that are important – the trends that arise, the events that take place – and build a network that is solid and strong. It is about establishing the right network so that people start pointing you out and recommending your service to others.

It is also very important to establish a team that shares the same interests and the motivation to move your company goals to the next level. At PIABO, we all are digital natives who have a passion for tech topics. Yet our team is composed of diverse people with different competences and skill sets. In the end, we collaborate with clients as partners. We don’t want to be seen as a mere service provider, we want to work with our clients at eye-level.

In summary, my advice is to focus on three things: the team, the network and the know-how.

Can you share some internal agency news with us? 

A lot is happening at PIABO right now. We were recently ranked as one of the ten fastest global movers (Holmes Report). However, market growth is not our main goal. Instead, we pursue a quality approach: We want to be an agency that’s big enough to matter but small enough to care.

Since April this year we are located at Berlin Gendarmenmarkt and have established a modern working environment. Our new space is designed to enable our colleagues to achieve their best results every day.

We are experiencing daily and directly how culture, work and design are interconnected, and that’s reflected in our business results. 

In this series, we hear from ION agencies based in different international locations to find out about local opportunities and challenges in PR, as well as news and trends. Octopus Group’s ION network is our international network of top-class PR and comms consultancies. We work together to provide our clients with local specialism in whichever region they’re targeting.