Colette Ballou, founder & CEO of Ballou PR (France)

In France, what are the trends in PR Communication? According to Colette Ballou, founder and CEO of Ballou PR, a PR agency in France, the answer can be summarized by five key messages: Influence; Think global but act local; Storytelling; Social Media and Networks.

“As the media changes, PR and agencies must change, too.  Some industry professionals are even claiming that advertising is dead and that PR is going through a “(r)evolution” in which social media is the prime driver – it is forcing agencies to evolve and adapt accordingly”, says.

Colette Ballou, CEO of Ballou PR

Read the following main topics of this interview:

PR Interview: How do PR agencies work in Paris? What services do they offer?

Colette Ballou: Public relations agencies in Paris are not much different than those in other cities and countries.  However, they differ in terms of target areas of focus (e.g. technology, lifestyle, fashion … ) as well as in the programs and services they offer. Some agencies offer one-size-fits-all PR, while others tailor their services to the needs of each client.  A number of specialized agencies are thinking a little more “out of the box” and offering programs that go beyond simple media relations—for example, ones that target speaking and awards opportunities.  Unfortunately, there are also some agencies that sell PR like carpets:  offering low price PR programs with an even lower level of service. Overall though, PR services are becoming more and more “packaged,” meaning that they encompass all types of media and must be ROI-oriented.

PR Interview:  In France, what are the trends in PR Communication?

Colette Ballou: There are a number of key messages that define current PR trends.  These key messages reflect themes that encourage PR professionals in France to think and work differently.  Some examples include:

  • Influence
  • Think global but act local
  • Storytelling
  • Social media
  • Networks

As the media changes, PR and agencies must change, too.  Some industry professionals are even claiming that advertising is dead and that PR is going through a “(r)evolution” in which social media is the prime driver – it is forcing agencies to evolve and adapt accordingly. Another positive trend is that companies and brand managers are beginning to appreciate PR more and more, as they become increasingly aware of the power of information and its influence on a brand. The affordable cost of PR is also a reason why this method of communication is a hot area right now.  However, the fruits of PR efforts don’t happen overnight, and clients expect results.  Agencies must constantly educate them on the value of PR, and demonstrate the ROI of any PR activity in order to be perceived as credibly as any other sector (e.g. marketing) that generates leads, spikes in web site traffic, or other positive business outcomes.

PR Interview: Are French companies prepared to work in social media?

Colette Ballou: France has always been one of the world’s biggest blogging communities and its technology community is enthusiastic about new tools and swiftly adopting them.  This applies to social media too. The extent to which a company uses social media depends on the industry, and also on determining what social media tools are best adapted for that specific company. Any hurdles to this adoption are a result of lack of know-how, as well as of having doubts, concerning how to optimize the use of social media; companies are aware that they can’t control it completely and must calculate the risk of getting involved.

PR Interview:  What social media case made in France would you like to comment?

Colette Ballou: Social media is forcing companies in France to re-think the way they communicate. One example is the brand Vitamin Water, which chose not to advertise when it launched inFrance but rather to use social media to support the launch. Such a successful campaign clearly shows the power of social media, and the fact that brands cannot ignore social media if they want to effectively reach consumers.

PR Interview: To finish, here in Brazil, we discuss a lot if the PR agencies’ employees should have profit sharing. What do you think about it?

Colette Ballou: France has a complicated system so what works in one country might not necessarily work in another. The structure of French PR agencies makes profit sharing difficult.  Each member of the organization doesn’t bring the same value to the company—this depends on a number of factors including seniority, role and function within an agency. However, if this model can be applied, it is an interesting concept in terms of employee incentive.  Profit sharing could be adopted by large agencies (and some do already have this in place), but inFrance, many agencies are small, which makes such an arrangement difficult to implement financially. In this case, it is preferable for these small agencies to ensure that their employees are paid accordingly, in line with their experience and qualifications, and justly rewarded when merited.

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Carol Terra, editor of the blog RPalavreando (Brazil)

Sobre Rodrigo Capella

Rodrigo Capella é diretor geral da Ação Estratégica – Comunicação e Marketing no Agronegócio. Com artigos e livros sobre agronegócio publicados no Brasil e no exterior, Capella é palestrante e influenciador digital do agronegócio. Também é editor do site Marketing no Agronegócio (
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