An Interview with IPA Slovenia Member Anita Kovačič Čelofiga about the Development of Public Relations

28 Aug 2020

First-time Mum, PhD student, employee of the Slovenian Police and president of the Public Relations Society of Slovenia – this time we talked with Anita Kovačič Čelofiga. We predominantly discussed the Public Relations Society of Slovenia, PRSS, who have been dedicated to the professional development of experts in communication for the past three decades. This year’s anniversary will also be marked by issuing the first comprehensive textbook about public relations (PR) in Slovenian.


slov130 years pass quickly; without a doubt these years influenced society, and consequently the way of working with the public significantly.

The story of the development of our organisation is a story about public relations, searching for a place, and consolidating our position. Numerous historical milestones in public relations in Slovenia are related to PRSS and vice versa, of course.

I remember the words of my colleague in one of the many publications, issued at our anniversary. He said that 30 years ago they did not know how wide and complex public relations are, and that back then they were still learning about the subject and were professionally evolving. Public relations was something new that has been practiced far away in the West. Slovenian colleagues learned about this field from their experiences abroad and translated them into local practice, as good as each of them knew and was able to.

PR initially developed from an idea that united a few enthusiasts and went all the way to become a serious profession, and consequently also resulted in a Slovenian public relations school, which today includes more than a hundred professionals and has a reputation both at home and abroad. Our organisation played a crucial part in this. Whereas three decades ago they used to say that altogether there were only enough communication experts to fill one large bus, today basically every company and organisation has its own department for public relations or at least one employee qualified in this field.

We can also say that due to the work of our society, public relations is considered a serious and respectful profession in Slovenia. Nowadays, public relations experts in Slovenia and everywhere in the world are more educated, better paid, and recognised as necessary personnel in organisations.


What are the tasks of PR professionals today, what skills are required?

It is definitely a very popular profession; the number of communicators is constantly increasing, and at the same time everyone has heard about public relations or PR as we address it in everyday language.

Real public relations is not just ‘clipping’, sharing likeable stories with the media, as some might still think today. The central task of PR is the coordination of a successful dialogue between an organisation and their target audience – in this manner, it is more than just a communication technique or a specialised programme for public relations, as for example relations with the media are, because PR encompasses comprehensive planning, performance and assessment of communication.

As Ana Tkalac Verčič wrote in our newest textbook, the function of public relations includes various activities, such as writing, relations with the media, events planning, advice regarding work with administration offices, research, creating publicity, marketing communication, digital communication, and relations with the local community, consumers, employees, government, investors, and others.

Our tasks vary a lot amongst different companies and organisations. The most common types of communication practices are relations with the media, internal relations, with consumers, local communities, online communication, and also assisting in a crisis situation. In a crisis, such as the one we are witnessing at the moment, our role again turned out to be essential. In our organisation, we have been publishing responses from our colleagues about their work during the epidemic for some time now.

Let me summarise some answers about our daily activities, what we have been dealing with these days, so that it is easier to imagine the modern everyday life of a communicator – they have always been and still are an important factor of crisis headquarters in larger organisations for providing safety and controlling the impact of Covid-19. Numerous organisations reinforced online activities or even shifted a part of their business online (therefore, they offered communication support to new sales channels), strengthened communication with employees and consumers, took care of their awareness, understanding of the situation and consequences of the epidemic, dealt with informing about adjustments of business, preparing or adjusting crisis plans, to name but a few.


Will the anniversary be marked by the release of the first comprehensive textbook?

I think we could not find a better way to wrap the celebration of our thirtieth anniversary. By publishing the book, with joint forces, we once again very vividly managed to highlight the publishing activities of PRSS and filled a gap with regards to fundamental works in public relations in the Slovenian market.

In June, the first complete textbook in public relations in Slovenian will be issued. It is not only a translation but also a localisation of the monography of Prof. Dr. Ana Tkalac Verčič. In the Slovenian edition we also present our practices with local examples, placed in the Slovenian environment. The book also includes conversations with acknowledged Slovenian experts.

The book was a huge effort for us. Mag. Nada Serajnik Sraka and Pedja Ašanin Gole were responsible for the translation, modifying the text and adding examples from Slovenian practice, a peer review was carried out by Prof. Dr. Dejan Verčič. All were highly involved in the function of our organisation in previous years. In addition, the vice presidents of the society, Tina Copot and Alenka Vidic dedicated a lot of their time to the project. It was an extraordinary organisational as well as financial challenge, therefore we are grateful to everyone who supported the project.

In the past, the Public Relations Society of Slovenia has always been very active in publishing. It is interesting to note that the PRSS also assisted in issuing the first Slovenian version of the book ‘Public Relations Techniques’, which is known as one of the fundamental publications in this field. 25 years later PRSS is again successful with publishing the first comprehensive textbook, adapted for the Slovenian market.


The organisation significantly contributed to the development of this profession: you established your own PR school, and prepared different trends, as well as documents …what else?

The history of our organisation is outstanding. In all these years, many professional meetings, lectures, workshops, and other activities took place, all directed towards the development and upgrade of technical and professional standards. In addition to many activities of our sections, let me also mention the very vivid international activity through membership in various organisations abroad and with their awards. A step towards local recognition of best practice was achieved by integrating our own award, which is very important to Slovenian's practitioners: a prism that is awarded for excellence in executed communication programmes.

All these awards are proof that we have many excellent communicators in Slovenia, who are also recognised internationally. This year we will again issue the ‘Primus’ award for communication excellence of managers, which is the only Slovenian award that acknowledges and rewards the communication abilities of workers in leading positions. Together with the Institute for the Development of Social Responsibility we also issue an award called ‘Horus’. Through all these years we have also kept the tradition of organising a Slovenian Conference on Public Relations, which is the most important event of the year for communicators and brings together both local and foreign experts. This year it will take place for the 23rd time.


How important is leading the PRSS for you personally – since you are employed in the public relations sector in the police?

By presiding the PRSS I stepped into big shoes. In previous decades, the society was led by exceptional experts, also pioneers in public relations, acknowledged academics, excellent practitioners. It is a great honour to be president of such an important and prominent organisation, also recognised internationally. I personally have great respect for the society because I am aware of how important its role was on this evolvement path, and how precious it is for us communicators. However, I am not leading it alone; with me are also my colleagues and outstanding experts Tina Cipot and Alenka Vidic, plus we have the support of students, and inside the society we also have different sections. These are led by experts in their disciplines, from internal and business communicators, to public sector and individual regions. Very active in our organisation are also students, who make their first acquaintances and experiences in the PRSS. Many find their first employment this way.


What are the future challenges of the Public Relations Society of Slovenia?

It is always very vivid. At the moment, we are preparing this year’s first volume of the magazine ‘Piar na kvadrat’ (PR squared). We have also our most important event of the year ahead of us – the Slovenian Conference on Public Relations, we film podcasts, prepare various professional events, and take care of exchanging experiences among communicators during the epidemic.

In the long run, we are planning numerous projects and activities as we are aware that at all times, we must take care of the development of standards, education, and networking of practitioners. A lot of work in publication is awaiting us. Sooner or later we will need to deal with the question of certification, because we are keen for colleagues who can lead public relations professionally. As in any discipline, we encounter individuals that do not fulfil educational, professional, or ethical standards. I think that this is key to a higher reputation of our work.

Interview extract with Anita Kovačič Čelofiga for Radio Maribor of 29 May 2020