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2023 Unwrapped: Growing Through the Challenges

As the sun sets on another eventful year at our PR agency, we reflect on the achievements and challenges that have shaped our journey. From crafting intricate communication strategies for our partners to embracing the dynamic shifts in our industry, our team’s resilience and creativity have been the cornerstones of our success.

Now, let’s turn the spotlight to the UP people. Each of them brings a unique perspective, sharing their personal triumphs, challenges, and invaluable insights gained over the past year.

What was your most challenging project or task this past year, and how did you navigate it successfully or learn from it?

Over the past year, we tackled various projects simultaneously, each with its unique challenges. One standout was early in the year when we had to craft annual communication strategies for 12 different brands at the same time. The key to conquering this task was solid planning and a united team spirit.

To navigate the complexity, we formed a “dream team” that brought together Insights and Creative team members to support the accounts. We divided the strategy creation into specific parts, assigning each team member a dedicated role and a tight deadline. This organized approach ensured that everyone knew their tasks and deadlines, making the process more manageable.

Looking back, the experience highlighted the importance of careful planning, teamwork, and effective task distribution in successfully handling intricate projects with multiple moving parts.
– Lilly Vassileva, Account Director

Can you share a professional accomplishment or milestone that you’re particularly proud of from the past year? What made it special?

There isn‘t just 1 accomplishment I‘m proud of the past year, as there are 12 months in the year and each month was filled with milestones. But I definitely feel proud of the campaigns we‘ve done with Pierre Fabre and their brands like Avene, Klorane, A-Derma, Ducray and Rene Furterer. Furthermore, with Tommy Hilfiger we‘ve accomplished several special projects, including our secret not-so secret anymore concert for their Spring 23 collection launch, as well as our social media x traditional media project with Grazia and a couple of our long-term influencer partners. For Calvin Klein we‘ve also went above and beyond to bring the effortless, minimalistic and rebellious philosophy to the local level. As for Fjällräven, which challenges us to see nature as our home, the best is yet to come with their 2nd store opening in Sofia. The year was eventful and 2024 looks promising as well.
– Diana Petrova, Senior Account Executive

Have you noticed any emerging trends or changes in our industry in the last year? How have they impacted your work?

From what I’ve seen this year (from the point of view of the research and insights teams in PR) using AI in PR is the big thing. It is really stood out how important it is to think about what and how we write prompts. It is like we’re all helping to train the AI, not just the tech experts. It is kind of like a hands-on task for us the users. The cool thing is, the answers we get really depend on the questions we ask. It reminds me a bit of what Socrates said about knowledge being all about asking the right questions. On a practical level, AI is super quick at sorting out a lot of our everyday stuff, cutting down on that feeling of being totally swamped with work. It feels like it gives us some control over our time.

On the other side, it is not just about being good at PR anymore. Now, we have got to dive deep into abstract thinking and really get the hang of these model-based strategies. It is like our work has grown another layer – we are not just PR pros, we are becoming experts in understanding all these complex social, economic, and cultural contexts. AI is pushing us to think bigger. It is crazy how much we need to know now. It is like mixing AI’s smart data skills with our own real-world know-how and cultural insights.
– Evgenia Vasileva, Head of Insights

Describe a time when you had to adapt to unexpected circumstances or changes in your professional role. What did you do to handle the situation?

2023 has been quite a challenging year with many ups and down in the economy, that has affected our customers and business. In my double role I am taking care of agency’s finance as well as several technological accounts. This year one of our great long-term clients has been aquired that led to a strategical shift in the corporate communications agenda transition from comms to global executives. Driving successful account requires agency bonding with the client in many levels: cultural, technical and human so that brand managers accept us as a strategic advisor and team’s extension. In challenges like that it’s important to see the bigger picture, maintain the customer trust and keep good personal relationships, since we are in the people-centric business.
– Victor Savkin, Head of Finance and Strategy

In your opinion, what’s the most significant lesson or piece of advice you’ve gained from your professional experiences in the past year?

In the past year, our team at United Partners has learned the invaluable lesson that adaptability and resilience are key in the dynamic landscape of communications. The ever-evolving nature of the industry, combined with external factors such as global events, has reinforced the importance of being agile in our strategies. We have discovered that embracing change, staying proactive, and swiftly adjusting our approaches allow us to better serve our clients and navigate challenges effectively. This experience has further solidified our commitment to continuous learning and innovation, ensuring that we not only meet but exceed the expectations of our clients in an ever-changing world.

Moreover, our experiences have pointed out the significance of embracing digital transformation. The acceleration of digital trends has reshaped how information is consumed and disseminated. Recognizing the importance of digital channels and adopting innovative technologies has allowed us to stay ahead of the curve and connect with the target audiences in meaningful ways.

Lastly, the power of collaboration has been a standout lesson. The synergy created by bringing diverse talents and perspectives together has proven to be a catalyst for creativity and problem-solving. Strengthening partnerships, both internally and externally, has been instrumental in achieving mutual success and driving impactful results.

As we move forward, these lessons continue to guide us, shaping our approach to communications and reinforcing our commitment to the core values of positivity, reliability, innovation, learning, and passion. We believe that by infusing our strategies with a positive mindset, maintaining unwavering reliability, fostering continuous innovation, embracing a culture of learning, and approaching our work with genuine passion.
– Lyubina Panayotova, Account Manager

Reflecting on the past year, what skill or expertise have you developed or improved upon that has been beneficial to your work?

This year was all about flexibility and adaptability – skills that I had before but developed even further during these past months. It was a challenging period where innovation and inspiration were mixed with uncertainty and stress about global conflicts, changing economics etc. However, I believe this year brough me improved confidence in my ability to be flexible with regards to the clients’ needs and budgets, to be versatile in the approaches I tailored for different projects, to be open-minded for technological innovation, finding creative ways to implement it in my work. Finaly, it was a year that taught me to adapt even better to new situations, new teams, new working conditions and an ever changing global context.
– Bianka Ivanova, Account Manager

Can you highlight a collaborative project or initiative you were involved in that demonstrated the power of teamwork and creativity in our agency?

Thank you for your insightful question! Yes, indeed, that was the UPN Retreat / UP Kick Off 2023 event that I was a part of, a landmark gathering that proved both challenging and immensely inspiring for me. It was an extraordinary opportunity for team members to push their boundaries, revealing unexpected qualities and fostering an environment where seemingly impossible ideas could flourish and lead to great achievements. I was involved in meticulously coordinating this huge event from Bulgaria, despite it being held in the vibrant city of Barcelona, and it successfully brought together agency partners from various corners of the globe. My involvement in this event, with the convergence of diverse perspectives and expertise, not only enhanced my collaboration skills but also sparked innovative solutions in me, underscoring the power of unity and a shared vision in achieving exceptional results.
– Iva Nickolova, Office Generalista

What was the memorable SpiritUP activity you were involved in?

One of my absolute favourite traditions in United Partners is the Spirit UP. We have those every couple of months as a way to get together after work and have some fun.
To point out a single favourite one is a difficult task. From a game night to a barbeque, to a comedy night, to a treasure hunt in Barcelona. Each Spirit UP leaves lasting memories. However, probably my most favourite Spirit Ups are the ones on the office terrace where we grill some BBQ, mix some drinks and listen to good music. We usually do them in the early summer, so we stay up late and enjoy the first summer nights together.
– Dessislava Boyanova, Account Manager

Looking back on the past year, as the CEO of UP, could you provide an overview of the agency’s key achievements, challenges, and strategic initiatives that have shaped our growth and success?

What an exciting journey we had. A challenging year geopolitically, economic uncertainty, AI disruption of all levels of business and life… but our company culture is all about turning obstacles into opportunities. So we made our first and very successful AI experiment putting the best of our 26 years of work in a closed AI platform and figuring out how to provide better service faster. Another important milestone is being recognized as one of the best agencies to work for in Europe. We believe in the concept Happy People – Happy Clients and Happy Clients – Happy People. We had another very successful annual agency Retreat in Barcelona bringing together many of our 55 EMEA agency partners, clients and friends to learn, grow and celebrate together. And last but not least – we received regular feedback for the exceptional quality our teams deliver in all our national and international projects. Now we serve clients in more than 35 countries. And we keep growing.
– Maria Gergova-Bengtsson, CEO and Founder

As we bid farewell to a year marked by growth, challenges and lessons, our hearts brim with gratitude for the lessons learned and the bonds strengthened. Our journey through 2023 has been a testament to the power of unity, adaptability, and relentless pursuit of excellence. With eyes set on the horizon, we step into the new year, ready to embrace new challenges and create even more impactful stories. Here’s to a future filled with innovation, collaboration, and the unwavering spirit.

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