Italy – Empowering Innovation with Food, Design, Fashion and Tech

March 18 2024

Faces and Markets of PRGN is a new series of blog posts in 2024 that puts PRGN member agencies and their markets in the spotlight.

Each week, expect to read about a market from an economic, business and communications point of view, brought to you by the very people living and working on the ground in that country, state or region.

The blog pieces illustrate the vast amount of in-depth knowledge of business, media, communications and marketing PRGN brings together having presence in more than 40 countries and 70 cities on six continents through its member agencies globally.

In this week’s blog post, Alessandra Malvermi, managing partner of Sound Public Relations in Milan, describes the business and communications environment in Italy and offers advice to businesses navigating her home market.

Business environment in Italy

Italy’s business landscape blends tradition with innovation, anchored by SMEs and complemented by multinational branches, notably in Milan and Rome. Spanning sectors from food to fashion, design and logistics, Italy is also becoming a tech and startup hub supported by government incentives. This environment offers vast opportunities for storytelling in PR and marketing, merging craftsmanship with modern tech.

Milan, Italy
Milan, Italy | Photo by vwalakte on Freepik

Communications, media and PR market in Italy

The Italian communications, media, and PR market is a vibrant and complex landscape, showcasing the country’s rich cultural heritage and its position as a European business center. The blend of Italy’s historical roots with its modern innovations creates a unique media environment.

Diverse and Regionally Nuanced Media Landscape: Italy boasts a diverse media landscape, with a wide array of local and international news outlets. The presence of numerous regional media outlets, alongside national ones, enables businesses to target their communications effectively across different parts of the country. It’s important to note that these local publications are particularly keen on news that has a direct impact on the local industrial, social, and cultural fabric.

Vertical Horizons: Sector-Specific Media Spectrum: In Italy’s media landscape, there’s a rich array of vertical sector publications catering to diverse interests, such as B2B technology, consumer tech, logistics and retail. Additionally, lifestyle outlets range from generalist to niche, covering health and beauty, fashion, and entertainment, among others. This variety allows for targeted communications across different sectors, providing opportunities for specialized engagement and outreach.

Digital Media and Social Media Engagement: Italy has seen a significant rise in Internet and smartphone usage, making digital and social media an integral part of communication strategies. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, X, TikTok, and LinkedIn are popular, with a growing emphasis on visual content shared through Instagram and YouTube. The digital landscape in Italy, enriched by both established and rising social media platforms, provides a broad canvas for businesses to deploy innovative strategies that resonate with a wide range of demographics.

Emphasis on Personal Relationships: Consistent with Italian business culture, personal relationships are paramount. Effective PR and communication strategies in Italy often hinge on building and maintaining strong connections with media representatives, influencers, and other key stakeholders, emphasizing trust and personal rapport.

Crisis Management and Brand Reputation: Given Italy’s diverse and sometimes polarized media landscape, businesses must be prepared for crisis management and stay proactive in maintaining a positive brand image. Understanding local sentiments and being responsive to public concerns are key to effective crisis communication.

The Importance of Public Affairs and Advocacy: In Italy, the strategic role of public affairs and advocacy becomes increasingly crucial as organizations navigate the complex tapestry of regulatory, political, and social landscapes. This facet of communication emphasizes a proactive approach to shaping and responding to the regulatory environment, enhancing a company’s ability to navigate the Italian market effectively.

Media Consumption

Television, spanning traditional to digital platforms, remains Italy’s favored medium, with 95% viewership. Radio, especially through smartphones, is experiencing increased internet-based listenership, marking a shift from traditional devices. Internet engagement is rising, with 89.1% of Italians online, closely matching smartphone usage. Conversely, the readership of printed newspapers has seen a sharp decline, dropping to 22% in 2023. The number of online newspaper readers has also decreased to 30.5% of Italians.

Social media sees 82% usage, with younger audiences favoring platforms like YouTube and Instagram. WhatsApp leads app usage at 93%, followed by YouTube (79,3%), Instagram (72,9%), and TikTok (56,5%) while Facebook and Spotify see slight declines among the under-30s.

The PR Landscape

The Italian landscape of Public Relations is undergoing a transformation characterized by a decrease in microenterprises and a concurrent shift in business volumes favoring medium-sized firms, according to the results of a recent survey conducted by UNA (Italian PR and communication trade association) in collaboration with the University of Pavia. Despite this restructuring, the overall number of employees in the sector has not decreased, highlighting significant resilience. Moreover, a persistent concentration of large companies around the Milanese hub remains evident, positioning Milan as the heart of Italy’s PR industry.

The sector as a whole has demonstrated impressive vitality, generating a total turnover of approximately 22 billion euros in 2022. This marks a substantial increase compared to the figures from 2020, signaling strong growth and the Italian PR companies’ ability to adapt to market challenges.

Moreover, although firms with more than 50 employees constitute less than 1% of the total, they generate almost 60% of the sector’s total turnover. On the other side, microenterprises, defined as those employing 3 to 5 professionals, comprise over 47% of the total companies surveyed, and even smaller enterprises, with fewer than 3 professionals, make up 39%. 

These figures reveal a sector characterized by a wide array of players, from established giants to small entrepreneurial firms, all striving to navigate the complexities of the communications market. Italy’s PR industry thus shows a dynamism and adaptability that promise to guide its future development, keeping the country at the forefront of global discussions in the field of public relations and corporate communication.

Key expertise of Sound PR

Sound PR’s expertise in innovation and technology, combined with a solid background in lifestyle PR, makes it matchlessly positioned to highlight brands’ unique selling points. As a results-driven agency, Sound PR is committed to implementing large-scale, customer-centric strategies. Our proven ability to increase clients’ brand awareness and share of voice is a direct result of our innovative approach and dedication to success. 

Sound PR is modeled around four core business divisions:

  • PR & Digital PR
  • Social Media
  • Content Creation
  • Events

Top 3 advice for foreign companies navigating the communications environment in Italy 

Navigating the media and communications landscape in Italy requires understanding its unique dynamics. Here are three top tips we recommend above others for effectively engaging with this market:

1. Prioritize building strong relationships: In Italy, personal connections are crucial. Investing time in cultivating relationships with journalists and media outlets can lead to more favorable and effective coverage. Personal meetings, tailored pitches, and regular, respectful communication are key strategies. This approach extends beyond media interactions, enhancing overall business relations and facilitating a deeper understanding and collaboration within the Italian market.

2. Understand the importance of language: While many Italians speak English, communicating in Italian can significantly enhance your engagement with both the media and your audience. It shows respect for the local culture and can help avoid misunderstandings. For impactful communication, consider partnering with a local PR agency that possesses strong local connections and understands the Italian media landscape intimately.

3. Engage with digital and social media trends: While traditional media remains influential in Italy, digital platforms, including social media, are increasingly important, especially among younger demographics. Understand the digital landscape, including popular platforms and content trends, to effectively reach and engage your target audience. Utilizing influencer partnerships can also be a powerful strategy.

Most influential media for consumer communications in Italy

The influence of media should be considered in relation to their target audiences. It is challenging to state which media are more influential than others. Some outlets may be considered Tier 1 for reaching specific audiences, despite not having widespread circulation. With this in mind, it is however beneficial to be familiar with Italy’s best-selling periodicals:

  • SORRISI E CANZONI TV – circulation 2.584.000
  • SETTIMANALE DIPIÙ – circulation 1.484.000
  • DIPIÙ TV– circulation 1.436.000
  • CHI – circulation 1.356.000
  • OGGI – circulation 1.238.000
  • L’ESPRESSO – circulation 954.000
  • FAMIGLIA CRISTIANA – circulation 816.000
  • VANITY FAIR – circulation 718.000

Most influential media for corporate communications in Italy

  • IL SOLE 24 ORE

The most popular social media channels in Italy

  • YouTube: 36.4 million users 
  • Facebook: 35,6 million users
  • Instagram: 35 million users
  • LinkedIn: 18 million users
  • X: 18 million users
  • Telegram: 16 million users
  • Pinterest: 14.8 million users
  • TikTok: 12.6 million users
  • Snapchat: 2.2 million users

Italians are mainly on social networks to read news (47.6%), spend leisure time (46%) and stay in contact with friends and family (45.3%). Only further back among the reasons for being connected are finding inspiration for new things to do or buy, searching for content of interest such as videos or sharing moments of one’s life with friends and followers.

The most important international events in Italy in 2024

Milan Design Week (April 16-21)Salone del Mobile and Fuorisalone define the Milan Design Week, the most important event in the world for design. Currently, it is expanding into many related areas including automotive, technology, telecommunications, art, fashion and food, offering a key platform for brands to showcase their design and innovation footprint. An ideal setting for PR professionals to amplify their brands’ visibility through creative displays and strategic collaborations, making it a significant event for brand promotion.

Milan Fashion Week (Sep. 17-23) – Milan Fashion Week is a must-attend event perfectly positioned at the crossroads of haute couture and innovation. This week is vital for PR professionals seeking to elevate their brand’s profile in the competitive fashion industry. The economic impact expected from Milan Fashion Week is estimated at eighty million euros, marking a significant anticipated benefit for the city of Milan, which is gearing up to host 167 events.

Venice International Film Festival (Aug. 28 – Sep. 7) – The festival brings global cinema to the forefront, promoting films as art, entertainment, and industry. It’s an excellent platform for PR professionals to highlight their brands amidst the festival’s celebration of cinema’s history and innovation.

Italy in Numbers*

Population 59.11 million
Languages spoken Italian
Religions (% of population) Catholic (74.5%), atheist or agnostic (15.3%), Christian of other denominations (4.1%), Muslim (3.7%)
GDP per capita $35,657
(Real) GDP growth rate 0.7%
Inflation rate 5.7%
Unemployment rate 7.3%
Key sectors and industries (% of GDP) In 2021 the primary sector (agriculture, fishing, animal raising and forestry) was worth about 2% of GDP, the secondary sector 25% of GDP (construction and industry) and services 73%
Mobile penetration (per 100 people) 80%
Internet users (% of population) 78.5% (47 million active internet users)**
Corporate profit tax IRES: 24%
Rate of consumer tax or VAT 22%
Alessandra Malvermi
Managing Partner, Sound PR

A public relations and social media expert, Alessandra is strongly passionate about innovation and new trends and has a lively talent for international relations. Besides being founding member and vice president of the Italian chapter of Global Women in PR, she has been a jury member of the IMC European Awards and Chair of the PRGN Membership Committee. Among her interests: trekking, music, art, books and more.

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