Mihaela Petrovan is General Manager at More than Pub. An altruist who believes in people. For 25 years he has been working in communication-marketing-advertising, the last 13 being in his own agency, and eight of them have been dedicated to the cultural project BookLand, addressed to young people.
C&B: How is the story of your evolution, in short?
Mihaela Petrovan: I come from a small Transylvanian city and since I was little, I had the dream to build something… to leave a legacy. Entrepreneurship was not a dream, all I have wanted was to make something to represent me, where I can leave my fingerprint. I don’t think I am a good businesswoman because I spent everything that I earned on this cultural project, in which I truly believe. “Advertising” is my job but my vocation is civic actions which relate to the personal development. The BookLand fair which took place, during 3 years, in malls, markets and parks, right in the midst of the economic crisis, caused me tremendous headaches and losses. And then it took a lot of resources to reinvent ourselves from the conceptual point of view and to focus on youngsters via conferences and summer camps…but now I think I can say, without a trace of emotion, that BookLand is where I wanted it to be. Of course, during all this time, More than Pub grew by offering clients creative, optimized and sales-oriented strategies.
C&B: How did you view yourself in childhood/ teenager years and now?
Mihaela Petrovan: I am the same simple, hard-working, perseverant and fair person. Although I’ve got “burnt” so many times, I still have a fair share of naivety, in absence of which I don’t think I could move forward. The discrepancy which I see between the potential of a person and the lack of action is still something which I cannot grasp and I have not learnt to accept yet. I exited my comfort zone long time ago – BookLand was my teacher, a very though one, I might add. Years and years in a row, I lived on 1 Euro per day (I live in the company’s building, I work there between 18-20 hours daily, I do not have holidays, I do not buy perfumes or clothing for myself) because I have an overwhelming sense of honor and a total lack of selfishness. I had lost so much with the bookfair that the only solution to pay all invoices was for me to work a lot. But do not think I did that without paying the price in terms of my health and my personal life. I have sacrificed a lot but, if I were to go back in time, I would choose the same: to carry on our contract duties no matter how hard it would be. Many asked us why I did not turn to insolvency/ bankruptcy – I told them that this is no match for me. I made a mistake, I will pay for it! Nobody is to be blamed because I have dreamed with my eyes open that ‘it can be done’. I still believe that if that bookfair had been launched now, things would be different. So many times, it happened to me to “see” things too early but to implement them at the wrong moment. Sometimes to be the first is not the best strategy. How much the perfect timing counts… a lesson I am still learning today.
C&B: Tell us a positive story/ experience and a negative one related to your activity!
Mihaela Petrovan: Good ones happen every day. But I would rather refer to some negative ones, which affected me by the injustice and humiliation brought to me and also to More than Pub. In the summer of 2017, a hire job announcement placed on our Facebook page had drawn, in a bizarre way (because the year before, the same ad did not bother anyone) the attention of some persons who started to throw mud at us, without knowing who we are. Some erroneous conclusions were then drawn about who I am and my relation with my peers. The truth is completely different: on “the plantation of slaves” people don’t work extra hours and they get on a yearly basis 3 additional weeks off (Christmas holiday) aside from the holiday mentioned by law. But “the slave” is rather me, sleeping only few hours per night and working continuously. Another injustice to prove just how misinformed we all are is the one related to Dr. Burnei, for whom we worked 2 weeks to organize his press conference and to write some press releases. After 9 months of utter silence from his part, he came out saying “I am innocent!”. And so he is – all claims turned out to be ungrounded (the prosecutor who built the case did not bring supporting evidence). As far as I know, all that is left to be clarified now is the bribery accusation – but this also might be proven wrong, because the physician had never conditioned his medical action upon receiving money (couple thousands of lei). I believed then and we believe even now in this man. We are sorry we couldn’t do more to help him out. It’s sad that the world is not ready to hear the truth. But when things come out to light, everyone who threw stones at him and “cut off” the hands of this great surgeon, by destroying his career and life, will feel sorry. It is a shame how controllable and easy to lie we are, because this man did not deserve the tragedy that he is going through. And recently, what more to say, it seems that me or More than Pub bothered someone, because there are too many eyes on us, from some persons hyper-active online, whose main focus is to destroy what others attempt to do. A post on our Facebook page belonging to a client – indeed with a controversial historical character, Adolf Hitler – caused quite a stir. Nobody quite analyzed what it was really about (actually it was a competition of general knowledge), they all started the most atrocious suppositions. So, from the agency that “washes corps” we ended up being called “Nazis”. It is obvious that we might have avoided that headache and choose another character, but my colleagues from Social Media Department, a lot younger, could not be so prude and hypocrites as others, they do not perceive history as our critics do. It is possible that our social media communication strategy – one which relies on content and not on the client’s budget – might bother our competititor that sell their services in a different way. Our results are excellent, managing to create huge organic impact and impressive interaction rates. As a matter of fact, we do nothing else but to comply with the consumer’s profile – and he, at his turn, wishes to be treated with respect, to be offered information, to be heard / consulted. That is why that column (General Knowledge) is so catchy; and by the way, after the “scandal”, the page RoStar increased even more, receiving more and more likes. And yes, as much as some wish for us to lose our clients, RoStar continues to work with us.
But not even one week later, we have made one (little) mistake: a colleague who joined us recently misunderstood a task, posted, without informing me, an ad to employ students from the Theatre Faculty, completely uninspired. The basic idea was this: in the photo-video content necessary for Facebook pages which we manage for our clients, we need people, reason why we set up to work with young actors, who wish to get in contact with brands and build on their experience-portfolio on communication / social media. It often happens in our industry that a good idea might be implemented badly… even in this case. I regret that some young actors felt offended but I hope they read my errata because there was no mention of ‘zero’ money for their time. But it was enough that those online presences to stir up the spirits within a couple of hours (while I was outside Bucharest, namely in Alba Iulia, with BookLand Conferences) and our good intention got demonized.
C&B: What advice do you have for those initially or undecided?
Mihaela Petrovan: Also at BookLand Conferences the speakers are asked by high school pupils and students attending it “What does it mean to be an entrepreneur?” Together with them, I say the same: In Romania, it’s difficult. We are the first generation of entrepreneurs, at the phase when we make many mistakes, being unprepared from the theoretical and practical point of view for the hardships in terms of HR/bureaucracy/ new business. Let alone this transition from offline to online which takes place exactly in front of our eyes and which changes us structurally, stirring up the entire society. The fake news era in which we live. But if this is your mission and you can feel it in all your pores, move forward. The results, without bruising your elbows and knees, do not exist. Follow your dream!
C&B: In your case, for what or with what does the Reasonable and the Emotional fight? Who wins and why?
Mihaela Petrovan: The Emotional has always won. Many of the choices made wrongfully (some consciously) were due to the fact that I have always chosen people over my personal interest. I cannot change myself. But I shall defend my point of view every time, I will go till the end and I will take responsibility for absolutely everything, good and bad. I am a person with fair principles and nothing can change that.
C&B: Give your own definition for company, business and careers in Romania!
Mihaela Petrovan: Why? Caragiale told her better than I … We just have to read it or read it again. His texts are always current, for our society.