Saturday, December 3, 2011

IABC/Russia survey spotlights leading Russian communicators

Russian Chapter of the International Business Communicators Association (IABC) has recently held a survey among its 48 members. Based on 23 responses, here are the findings.

  • The main expertise of Russian communicators, as 74% of the respondents have noted, is in Media Relations, Corporate Communications, B2B Marketing Communications. For 60% of the respondents it's B2C Marketing Communications, Crisis Communications. Internal Communications was mentioned by about half of the respondents, together with GR and Market Research. Web Marketing, Financial Communications, Advertising and Investor Relations were mentioned by fewer than 40% of the respondents.

  • International PR Strategies, Trends in PR of Financial Organizations, Globalization of Russian Companies, Information Wars, Crisis Communications, Territory Branding, Market Research, Improvement of State Procurement were mentioned as top priority topics for discussion within IABC/Russia.

  • PR websites the respondents visit at least once a week are (from top to bottom): Sovetnik.ru (stands for 'Advisor', online since 2000), Communicators.ru (website of IABC/Russia), Sostav.ru (website on Marketing, Advertising and PR, online since 1998), RASO.ru (website of the Russian PR Association), IABC.com.

  • Over two thirds of the respondents hold memberships in other PR associations, on average 1.7 each, mostly RASO (The Russian PR Association), AKOS (The Russian Communications Consultancies Association), Russian Managers Association, Russian Corporate Media Association.

  • Facebook is the respondents' preferred social media platform – all but one are there! LinkedIn features half as much participants, followed by Tweeter with just over a third of the respondents. A bit over half of the respondents can freely communicate in English.

A concluding point. IABC/Russia seems to be a chapter dominated by title-holders. Of the 48 members, 30 hold executive or public titles, being part of the Strategic Council and the Directors' Council. Which makes IABC in Russia an association of proactive doers. Wonder if there are any other chapters like that.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Corporate communications and media relations during election campaignin Russia

Mass media have maintained their important role in socio-political and economic life of Russia. During the elections campaign, media relations no doubt get more attention from all the sides involved. Businesses are advised not to conduct PR campaigns targeting negative publicity, since this could produce an adverse effect. Instead, they should watch and use any speaking opportunities for their in-house experts as the waves generated by the election candidates' spin doctors leave journalists craving for commentary and opinion.

There are legal requirements imposed on mass media in Russia during the elections campaign. Express trials mean the businesses should have all the proof at hand, as copyright infringement and business reputation protection cases start to prevail. PR materials are checked by legal departments of mass media, therefore it takes more time before they make it to the public. Ads are thoroughly checked for copyright clearances (illustrations, photos, sounds, etc.). Businesses are also advised against promoting any corporate social responsibility projects featuring candidates from political parties.

Speaking of election campaigns by political parties. Many make use of the local agenda. Regional conflict a national or international company may encounter during a campaign, could be deliberately articulated. Businesses that have entered into dialog with the public at the start of a major infrastructure or development project show better resilience in such conflicts.

The above is a summary resolution as published by Russian Managers Association's Committee on Mass Media and Information Policy on 25 November, 2011.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Heisenberg uncertainty principle in defense of news agency reporting

On both sides of the communications barricades news agency reporting is often compared to producing commodities. At RIA Novosti top editors often use the phrase 'sausage factory' to illustrate our way of making newswires. There are two strong points in favor of such approach – consistency of content and balance of its accuracy.

Heisenberg uncertainty principle states that you can accurately measure physical particle's position or its momentum (velocity, given the mass is known too), but not both at once.

With news agency reporting you're also most likely to start a news story by knowing accurately either time of an event or its causes. For example, if we know what caused a critical malfunction of a satellite, we may not know for sure when and where it would fall down. Reporting on a sudden crash of a satellite we won't know the exact reasons for that.

News agency reporters are strong in producing consistent accuracy-balanced content. IMHO, they just can't be beat for simultaneous reporting on developing stories and producing background and insight into them.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

How social media could facilitate global communication in alanguage-ridden world

True global communications, in a world divided by the diversity of spoken languages and lack of their knowledge, are not really happening today. What we get is intersecting clusters of people communicating in groups, with bi- and multilingual bloggers and media acting as bridges between them.

Machine translation tools will come to our rescue eventually. But today they can't and shouldn't really be used even for scan-reading of articles and comments – so inaccurate they are at this. My Facebook and Twitter feeds have carried some hilarious facts of mistranslations recently.

The role of human communication bridges therefore remains quite big. And we may not always understand when our help is needed in bridging the language and culture divide.

Social media platforms should introduce some plain simple functionality to remind us of our roles. Like, suggesting to translate into other languages and republish the more popular posts, updates or tweets. Now, wouldn't that be helpful?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Russian brands reach success abroad «against all odds»

How come Russian brands are rarely featured in global rankings? Take Interbrand's list, for example. Of the 100 top global brands even a vodka brand is not from Russia. Well, it used to be in the pre-Soviet times. On the other hand, vast majority of the top 100 brands are prominent in the world's largest country. Why such asymmetry?

Interbrand's other list for top 40 non-monopoly Russian brands shows an explanation. It seems that Russia is best at producing either monopolies or local brands. Just a few ones of those listed may be considered global: Baltika, Lukoil, KAMAZ.

But then there are Russian software companies Kaspersky and ABBYY, good examples of local brands that have gone global. But both are apparently too small to be in either list.

Alexandra Kulikova is the editor at RBCC Bulletin, a monthly magazine produced by the Russo-British Chamber of Commerce, a 95-year-old association with offices in London, Moscow and Saint Petersburg. She said the asymmetry she sees is in the prevailing exports from the UK to Russia.

Kulikova played down poor coverage of Russia in the UK media and said that Britons taking such coverage for granted “are rarely seen coming to Russia”.

Of Russian brands visible in the UK she mentioned Kaspersky, Beeline, Goltsblat BLP, VTB Capital and few others adding that “their success was sport-like – against all odds”.

Now, is that a genuine outside perception of Russian brands? After all, we Russians love seeing stuff done against the odds.

UPD: Here's a good sign. Three Russian PR agencies made it to the Holmes Report Top 250 Global Rankings. CROS and Pro-Vision Group entered the list at #55 and #174, respectively, while AGT Communications ranked #58. Hat tip to Sovetnik.ru.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Nominations for the Silver Archer 2011 Russian PR awards revised

Board of Trustees of the Silver Archer Russian PR awards defined the following nine nominations for 2011, the 15th season:

  • Best project in business communications

  • Best project in territory development and promotion

  • Best project in social communications and charity

  • Best project in scientific achievements and innovations

  • Communications in the global world

  • Best public relations development publication

  • Master (as proposed by the Expert Council)

  • Person of distinction (as proposed by the Board of Trustees)

  • Contribution to cultural development (as proposed by the Board of Trustees)

The Board of Trustees and the Jury additionally have the right to award the 10th, Special prize.

UPD: In an opinion piece in the Sovetnik (Advisor) magazine, Nadezhda Yavdolyuk, Silver Archer's prominent Executive Director wrote: "Projects of great ideas and tight budgets were featured in the awards of 2008-2010 because or notwithstanding the crisis. A new trend [is the arrival] of large scale multilevel highly integrated projects."

Yavdolyuk wrote the new Communications in the global world nomination was created for these kind of projects. "Authors, executives and experts should beware of the multilayered information noise in which main goals and objectives can get lost," she warned.

Entries will be received from 15 November to 31 December 2011. Presentations and awards ceremony will be held on 14-15 February, 2012.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Innovating communications for communicating Russia's innovations

A roundtable on new communication techniques for innovation projects was held in Moscow by INVEL, a non-commercial partnership that unites power engineering companies, and Russian PR Association's Committee on communications in the Oil & Energy sector.

Eugeny Kuznetsov, Director of Development and Communications Department, Russian Venture Company, went back into history to see the roots of miscommunication between Russian science and its stakeholders.

“The scientific sector requires delivery orders and problem staging. In the USSR this was well understood and implemented. The market economy of today has failed to become the main customer for the sector. Therefore, the key communication has been lost,” Kuznetsov said.

He said that “in globally-integrated Russia of today, the science has fallen out of global context.”

“Websites of scientific organizations feature news republished from the media. [Authors] can't write articles for international journals up to their standards,” Kuznetsov said.

Low qualification of employees could be a reason. “Twenty years ago your wife or girlfriend would be [the choice for] a PR manager. Today, a similar process is taking place within innovative companies,” Kuznetsov said.*

He concluded that communication should become a key skill for R&D managers of innovation companies, while communicators should focus on particular innovation projects and not the topic in general.

__________

UPD. * Svetlana Kolosova, President at PR Consultancy "Staraya Ploshchad",  presented this kind of cronyism as Russian version of the 4P's of Marketing: [Pure] devotion,  [Pure] devotion, [Pure] devotion, Professionalism.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Challenges and opportunities of regional branding in Russia

Russian chapter of IABC held a roundtable at the press center of RIA Novosti devoted to the theme of branding Russia's regions. Here are the highlights of the discussion that lasted for over two hours.

In the Russian Federation there are 83 federal subjects, including 21 republics complete with own heads of state and heraldry. Plus, of course, the federal heraldry.

Demand for regional branding comes mainly from the authorities. Igor Mintusov, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Nikkolo M group of companies, said: “Regional governors are interested in attracting tourists, investment, and making sure the population stays in the region.”

Since mid-90s, visual branding has increasingly been a tool for highlighting projects in Russia's regions and cities. But, according to Andrey Lapshov, President, IABC/Russia, branding a region represents a real challenge to marketers on par with global corporate marketing projects.

“Territorial branding has been practiced worldwide for over 20 years compared to 5-7 years in Russia,” Alexander Chumikov, Director, International Press Club, said. “There is not a single local agency able to handle such complex promotion projects.”

Lack of expertise leads to excessive caution which limits creativity. “[Regional] brands in Russia are created for a theme and not with a purpose,” Pavel Rodkin, branding expert at RIA Novosti, said. He also gave a brilliant example (see page 4 of the PDF document) of how Russia is viewed as a brandless desert.

To cope with the challenge, contractors are inviting international professionals as consultants. The result is much better when they are assigned particular tasks and no hidden agenda is involved. Here is a nice example of a promo video for the ancient city of Kazan, capital of the Republic of Tatarstan. Kazan will host the Universiade games of 2013. Hat tip to Oleg Manzha, Director General, Sportima.

There are easier and obviously cheaper ways to win attention from target audiences. “Any regional town in Russia can outshine Paris or Milan for a day,” Andrey Pourtov, Co-Founder and Director General, ArtGraphics.ru, said. “All the promotion budget should go to a single but unique project.”

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Names of political parties can make you feel unsure about your choice

Seven political parties of Russia will take part in the parliament's lower house elections on 4 December 2011. Let's have a closer look at their names as brands.

Two carry their names as acronyms of their full names: CPRF for the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, and LDPR for the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia.

The Russian United Democratic Party is widely known under the name of Yabloko (the Russian for 'apple'). In the name, the first letter of the surname of its founder Grigory Yavlinsky was joined with the Russian word for 'block' with additional letter 'o' at the end.

Now, here comes the similar-named batch: United Russia, A Just Russia, Patriots of Russia, Right Cause.

A voter's initial judgment of the parties by their names can prove quite difficult. Patriotic-minded people would all vote for Russia that is united, just and with a right (as in 'fair') cause. Right? How do you make up your choice then?

In my family we would sometimes split our voices between several parties, big and small - a truly democratic process involving heated debates at times. But can a two-word name of a party even broadly describe its unique goals and objectives, especially when the second word stands for the country? Doubt so.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Does PR still stand for propaganda in post-putsch Russia 20 years on?

On 19 August 1991 I woke up in London to a terrifying live TV reportage of tanks moving into Moscow — the failed coup had just begun. My wife and I were spending a short summer holiday with my parents and sister in the then quiet financial heart of the capitalist world. Our little son and mother-in-law stayed behind in the USSR, a socialist country on countdown to extinction.

Twenty years on, I'm writing this blog post from London, again on a summer holiday with my wife. We had made our choice back then to return to a new country in order to stay in the homeland. Some things rarely change while other things change like rare-show.

In his opinion piece in the latest issue of Sovetnik, Russian magazine on PR published by the owners of same-titled portal, Guy Khanov wrote that commonly used terms such as 'communication technologies', 'humanitarian technologies' and 'public relations' say nothing of the professional objectives of those who deal in them.

“The history of PR was falsified by PR practitioners themselves using PR technologies,” Khanov wrote. “I am confident in declaring that PR is all but merely the beginning of the word propaganda.”

In the Soviet days there was so much propaganda that even advertising was part of it. TV ads were shown in a separate program. Most of the advertised goods were not freely sold in shops. The whole point was to make the viewer proud of the country that produced them. That is, if she could get hold of a decent TV set to watch the ads in the first place.

To prove propaganda is not just a trait of Soviet/Russian PR, Khanov mentioned the recently publicized case of Facebook using Burson-Masteller in its 'war against Google'. He then went as far as 1622 in search of the origins of the word 'propaganda'.

The Soviet propaganda went into oblivion twenty years ago with the country that gave birth to it. PR as public service and not as propaganda should ideally outlive brands, products, services, companies and people behind it. I think PR practitioners in Russia and elsewhere should make up their mind and become political scientists or advertising experts if they prefer the ways of propaganda.

UPD: On 21 August, twenty years ago we drank with my late dad in London in his TASS-rented flat at Edgware road to mark the end of the putsch. The following afternoon I went to Madame Tusseauds with my wife Anna. She hugged Mikhail Gorbachev's wax figure and I took a photo of her. A security officer said we shouldn't do that. I told him we were Soviet and could not hide our feelings. He said they had tried to call up Soviets the whole morning. I replied there was no wonder none had turned up early...

Friday, August 12, 2011

Whistleblogging as public service to government agencies in Russia

Today's editorial in Russia's financial daily Vedomosti  is about well-known bloggers that basically serve as citizen beacons by focusing on particular areas where the respective government agencies have been slow to act. All these bloggers are first of all activists that have dealt with the public service's bureaucracy, incompetence, silence and blatant wrongdoing for many years.

The column mentions some of them together with functions of the respective federal agencies they tend to be performing on their own:

Yevgeny Roizman (@roizmangbn, 888 Twitter followers; 4,002 Facebook followers), head of “City Without Drugs”  fund in Yekaterinburg, has been exposing drug trade and providing rehab for its victims for 12 years. He helps and agitates, when needed, the Police, the Prosecutor's Office , the Federal Drug Control Service and others, not forgetting about mass media.

Alexey Navalny (@navalny, 62,807 Twitter followers; 9,733 Facebook followers), Internet whistleblower and minority shareholder of major Russian companies, publicly assesses budget spending, state property management and ensuring rights of shareholders – the functions of the Accounts Chamber, the Prosecutor's Office and the Federal Antimonopoly Service.

Yevgeniya Chirikova (@4irikova, 5,876 Twiter followers), Leader of the Khimki Forest Defenders, by fighting to make the air cleaner for the inhabitants of the town of Khimki, located just outside Moscow on the ever-busy highway to St. Petersburg, performs the functions of Russia's environmental and consumer rights watchdogs.

Olga Romanova (4,998 Facebook followers), journalist and blogger, writes of personal efforts to ensure fair judicial treatment and to free her husband Alexei Kozlov.

The column concludes that the aspiring leaders are incompatible with the ruling elite which means they are ready to become the leaders of the future.

Bloggers rely heavily on social media as means of interconnecting with their citizen audiences. Any attempts by a government to disrupt such communication may widen the gap of misunderstanding between the officials, the bloggers and the rest. Such attempts show how uninformed the governments may be of the constant self-regulatory public opinion shaping process within the social media. Which indicates there is an imminent communications task for PR practitioners and journalists to undertake.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Minor flaws in service miscommunicate the brand

To prove the headline and lead to a suggestion of more proactive involvement of PR execs in setting up services, I would like to present to you two recent cases involving me as a humble customer.

Case 1. An insurance company affiliated with a retail subsidiary of a major Russian commercial and investment bank. I have been a client for that company for a quite a few years. And yet, each year there are surprises when it comes to renewing insurance contracts for the car and property.

My main concern - they never call first to propose a renewal. I bring in altogether about $ 1,000 in cash every year - isn't that good enough for a call or two? So it's quite annoying to waste time on calling those hotline numbers when people take in your request and don't call back. Then they can't find some of your personal details so you have to spend even more time explaining and searching in your own archives.

The slogan of the company, as featured on the website, could be translated as “From acquaintance to perspectives”. Well, we’ve been acquainted for a good number of years – where are the perspectives if each time I’m treated like an anonymous first-time shopper?

Case 2. A Hyundai car dealership and service in the quiet Western outskirts of Moscow. I have been servicing my Tucson SUV there ever since it was first repaired some five years ago by the insurance company mentioned above. Nice and cozy, not too crowded, friendly advice and good quality service. One thing however spoils the whole experience – paying the bill.

It’s not a simple cash desk at the dealership – it’s a cash desk branch of some obscure bank. A bank which accepts only its own cards. To pay for a repair job you have to wait for the cashier to fill in applications for cash transfer between you and the legal entities representing the dealership. Yep, to make things even more slow, there are two legal entities – one for the repair service and the other for the spare parts and expendables, such as engine oil and other liquids.

There are two applications that need to be filled in, in two original copies, requiring my passport and signatures. Plus the inconvenience and even danger of carrying moderate amounts of cash. Now, why should I suffer because of this internal optimization of cash flow? Which may be good for the dealership and improves the balance sheet of the obscure bank. All, at the expense of my time, convenience and even safety.

The dealership’s website boasts the corporate slogan of “New Thinking – New Possibilities”. I would say with a settlement service like that, the dealership requires some fast rethinking to sync with Hyundai.

It's clear to me that such minor flaws in the service can easily undermine PR efforts my colleagues put into their respective brands. PR executives should therefore participate in sign-off of any service procedures just to make sure their efforts are not diminished.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Real likes - the power of TV in Russia

I have recently participated in a Russian version of the Oprah TV show called Let Them Speak. The objective was to deliver the official position of my employer on possibly the first ever case in Russia where a journalist had to leave over breach of ethics code caused by an extremist blog post.

The show, hosted by the talented Andrey Malakhov, was aired last Thursday at 8:00 p.m. Moscow time, not Tuesday as planned, due to a change in schedule because of the mourning day.

Friends, former colleagues and relatives called me during the many commercial breaks of the program. On Friday quite a few colleagues came to my glass silo one by one to congratulate on the occasion of participation in the show I have barely watched in its 10 years on the air.

Radio programs, interviews in magazines, occasional quotes in daily newspapers and more often so in online media could not compare with such once-off TV exposure. It's therefore reasonable to assume that appearance on major TV channel in Russia yields "real" likes as compared to the mostly virtual likes of publicity in other media.

While that's still the case, ad revenues in the "zombie box" media - as the TV is called by Russian bloggers - are surely to beat those in all the other traditional and new media.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

50 more years to break a nasty Soviet habit?

This year will be remembered in Russia as the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Soviet Union. First class pupils of 1991 will have turned 26-28 years come 1st September. I can consider these adults the youngest generation to have duly experienced life in the Soviet times.

On the one hand, this is a positive sign. Young adults of contemporary Russia will increasingly feature people who have never directly been involved in a very nasty hypocrisy of the old days. The kind of hypocrisy which made people think, say and act in three different ways. As well as read between the lines. All or most of which came in self-defense and could be justified ditto, looking back.

On the other hand, it will take another 50 years or so before the last Soviet life witnesses pass the baton to their kids and grandkids. And the old hypocrisy, now a side effect habit and hindrance to building a true democracy in Russia, will likely be still deeply rooted in our minds for years to come. Making my foreign colleagues do the guesswork.

This means, the true transition period for the country could be almost as long as the duration of the Soviet regime itself. Let's just hope the younger generation is accepting this and will steer clear of the older people's addiction from the past.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Taking the freedom of expression to extremes in Russia

One week ago experienced journalist and blogger Nikolay Troitsky wrote in his Russian language blog he dreamt of blowing up all the gay people with a special bomb. If you haven't heard of this, please refer to this post in my journalism-related blog.

Probably the most surprising was the polar feedback coming from Russian journalists, bloggers, officials and social activists. However most feedback dealt with the context of Troitsky's reasoning, not the extremist and obscene way in which he expressed it - in fact the main reason for the journalist's dismissal which led to contract termination by mutual consent.

Apparently warmed up by such hypocritical public reception Troitsky eventually put the blame of his job termination on a whistleblowing blogger  who filed a complaint with the journalist employer's press office. And again, quite a few fellow bloggers and journalists supported Troitsky's angst, fearing the return of the age of delators.

Since the worst days of the Soviet era, the delators of the good and the bad have been frowned upon in Russia. Quite often people turn a blind eye to what they witness and hear, pretending that's none of their business. We have a long way to go to learn of the difference between giving a social service heаds up and plain acting as a mole.

My American colleague wrote in a column he felt almost embarrassed to have known Troitsky. Well, I feel almost embarrassed I haven't come across his blog earlier.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Social Media Relations industry in Russia: Lacking own PR and dependingon PR budgets

Russian Managers Association held a meeting of its Committee on Mass Media and Information Policies last Thursday. Communications in the era of competition between the social and traditional media was the main topic. Here are some excerpts from the presentations and the discussion.

Speaking on the customers’ behalf, Olga Pestereva, PR Director of Skylink, a 3G mobile Internet provider, said that the question is not whether but rather how to deal with the social media. Skylink outsources social media monitoring and projects to Insiders while the social media strategy was devised by New Internet. Project outsourcing involves risks that may inspire social media trolls. “If you don’t close down your Internet project properly, it will get covered with snails, just as the bottom of a vessel,” Pestereva said. The one risk is that bits and pieces of information could become misinterpreted while the other is that the project’s social community could be reused by the PR agency for another client.

Skylink handles social media through a corporate avatar where 99 per cent of the communication is down-to-earth help, advice and support. Subscriber referral rate is the main KPI for the social media communications at the company.

Keeping the communication channels open is very important for success in the social media. “Disgruntled users are our main asset. You don’t exist if you’re not criticized. We reply to all – the critics and the readers,” Alezey Zakharov, President of Superjob.ru, a major recruitment portal in Russia, said. Superjob.ru would often post an official statement from an employer in reply to an angry letter from current or former employee and then close off the discussion. HR would be the main corporate contact for Superjob.ru.

Phillip Gurov, Senior Partner, Gurov & Partners Communication Group, thinks that the notion of setting social media against the traditional media is not a correct one. Because, convergence and interaction have shaped the behavior of modern mass media. “The value of readers’ comments to an article is on a par with the value of its contents,” Gurov said.

Another bridging similarity, according to Gurov, is the dominantly passive attitude towards content. Just as the journalists are asking for a press release instead of attending a client’s press conference, social media users require a lot of content to feed their emotions.

The set-off between traditional and social media in Russia resulted in the lack of integrated communications. PR is handled either in-house or by a PR agency while social media are taken care of by another agency. “At the same time in the US most well known PR agencies offer SEO to their clients,” Gurov said.

As a consequence, the social media relations market in Russia features huge discrepancy in prices and standards. It is low on professional ethics and measurement tools. While paying journalists for PR-initiated stories is frowned upon, sponsoring bloggers many consider not an adverse activity. There is also an issue with measurements – how would you compare a tweet, a blog post in LiveJournal and activity of a group in Facebook.

Ilya Balahnin, Director, Paper Planes, a social media relations agency, thinks the social and traditional media cannot be set against each other since “they are not even like apples and pears, more like water and apples”.

“Social media relations agencies are more into strategic management and culturology,” Balahnin said. Therefore there should be separate communications policies for such relations.

Balahnin added that the huge discrepancy in prices for similar services comes from the fact that social media relations services are subcontracted by PR agencies. The way to fight this would be to hand over such services to HR. “Troika Dialog uses Facebook to get 200-300 interns each year under their New Talent program,” Balahnin said.

This could make sense, especially since it seems that outside Russia Social Media and Public Relations are best handled by companies of different breeds. However it's best to proceed with caution as Konstantin Maksimiuk, Creative Director and Partner, New Internet, warns us that "social media is no magic wand if the underlying product is bad".

Another thing for sure - Social Media Relations agencies in Russia could definitively use more of self-PR to reduce their dependency on PR budgets.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

PR budgets of over 1/3 surveyed private companies in Russia to increasein 2011

PR survey results encompassing 600 private Russian companies in 8 key economy sectors were announced yesterday by its organizers in Moscow. The total 2010 PR budget of the participating companies was estimated at $1,66 billion. For 2011, 37% of the companies plan to increase their budget.

The survey was carried out in February-April 2011 by the IFORS consultancy in partnership with Russian Public Relations Association, Russian Association of Corporate Media and Communications Directors and Maximov Publications.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Role of PR in developing Russia’s civil society - close to zero?

The 6th PR in the Russian Press Awards ceremony (see my previous post) was followed by a roundtable on the role of PR in developing Russia’s civil society. Both traditional media and social media were considered as channels of communication and interaction with the audience. Here are some highlights of the discussion.

“Russian media offer too little opportunities and formats for covering society-related topics that are important for the business community,” Natalia Mandrova, President, Primum Mobile, said. She added that while information journalism is widely practiced, there is no such thing as social journalism. “As a result we’re under impression that the civil society is in conflict with the rest of the world since mass media cover conflicts only in their active phase.”

Social media are therefore considered a growing competition for the traditional media. However, Mandrova believes that one should concentrate mostly on the content side and not on the tools side. Because, thanks to the Internet, there are so many of them. “We find ourselves transforming into a specialized editorial,” summed up Mandrova.

“In Russia and some other countries mass media seem to be underplaying their role. Social media therefore help to fill the gap,” Boris Eremin, President, Russian Chapter of the International Advertising Association (IAA), said. Another feature of Russian society, according to Eremin, is the fact that conflicts are mixed up with confrontation.

Seems there is a case of a vicious circle involving PR, media and the civil society in Russia. Can it be broken?

“PR is a paid-for activity. A customer is therefore needed for PR to work with the civil society. The best customer would be the state while the society itself would not be as good,” Andrey Lapshov, President, IABC/Russia, said. “How great is the role of PR in developing the civil society in Russia? It’s close to zero – there is no customer. And the function of PR could be a developing or a restraining one, depending on the customer.”

Igor Mintusov, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Nikkolo M group of companies, sees Christian analogies in media development: “We used to have ‘Hohe Politik’ Gods and the press as mediators between them and the audience. The social networks have marked the new epoch where the media’s role is strongly reduced or eliminated.”

Mintusov thinks that those PR practitioners who are real citizens don’t need any ‘orders’ or ‘customers’ to help develop the civil society.

Victor Gaft, Director General, Image-Contact Consulting Group, reminded the audience that the main topic of the roundtable was in fact the most controversial category of the “PR in the Russian Press Awards”. “We have often found ourselves short of representative stories to judge and eager to retrospectively change the category’s name,“ Gaft said. “To improve the quality of the articles in the future, we need to agree on the definitions of PR and civil society as well as on the rules of the judgment process,” Gaft added, giving quirky examples of reverse-engineered definitions of the terms from his perception of the shortlisted stories.

Opinions of the five experts gave a good PR overview of the subject. It was high time to listen to alternative standpoints.
“Civil society issues are researched mostly in science media. However only a few citizens ever read such media,” Vladislava Konstantinova, author of the award-winning article “President’s blog as communication tool between the authorities and the citizens”, said.

On the other hand, Konstantinova thinks that blogs and social networks cannot be considered as mass communication media, especially in the rural areas of Russia. “Blog posts of mayors of small settlements yield few comments compared to the thousands of the country president’s blog,” Konstantinova added. She concluded that in some regions like Perm local print media is quite good at covering civil society issues where in others, including Moscow, the situation is lot worse.

An interesting perspective was given by Denis Nezhdanov, political scientist, Founder & Director, National Strategy Foundation. Comparing Russia’s civil society to that of the USA, he outlined that lack of strategy hinders development of the civil society. “There must be a Russian dream,” Nezhdanov said, adding that the state should be responsible for setting the right trend.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

PR journalists from mainstream media awarded in Moscow

The sixth annual awards ceremony for PR journalists from mainstream print media was held in Moscow yesterday. Awards in four categories were given to journalists from the Commersant-Dengi (Merchant-Money), Kompaniya (Company),Vlast (Power) magazines. Readers’ prize was given to a journalist from the Argumenty I Fakty (Arguments & Facts) weekly newspaper for her article called “Fake fans and purchased likes: how brands conquer social networks”.

The PR in Russian Press Awards is organized by the Sovetnik (Advisor) magazine and portal with support from Russia’s main PR associations, including IABC/Russia.

Please note the links refer to Russian language stories translated by Google. A separate post will dwell on a roundtable held right after the ceremony. The full ceremony and roundtable video may be seen here (in Russian).

Thursday, March 31, 2011

PR Tips: Getting Corporate Social Responsibility Media Coverage inRussia

As you can see from my previous post in this blog, Russian media usually don't interfere into dealings between the businesses and the public, unless something goes terribly wrong there.

Wary stance of media on corporate social responsibility (CSR) is explained by Editorial guidelines, which prescribe to stay at arm's length from CSR of any given entity. Russian media are no exclusion and perhaps are even more rigid in complying to the rule. A kind of soft self-censorship.

However, there are at least three ways to get Russian media editorially interested in CSR. In Russian language at least. Because most English language media in Russia have higher demands for treating stories as valid news - from an international perspective.

So, one, is to embark on a trending topic. Take for instance the Earth Hour. Within this trending topic a story that three superstores supported the WWF initiative in St. Petersburg, Russia suddenly becomes valid news (in Russian, note the word “trend” in the link).

The second way is to create a valid news cause. By winning a prestigious PR prize, by getting honors from the government – whatever deems easier - or perhaps by creating a foundation named after a trademark. All these options are not quick. But the media coverage will also be longer-lasting.

The third way is to attract a newsmaker solid enough for the media to listen to and quote her. Even if it takes paying for a presser. Like in this case of IKEA and UNICEF (again, nothing spotted on the subject in English).

The above was part of my thesis for today's roundtable organized by the Moscow International Business Association.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Is this PR or is this reality? – A collision of business and public interests in Russia

For Russia, a country where you have a developed government sector, striving business sector just but a rudimentary public sector, the question is quite hot, according to Andrey Lapshov, President of IABC/Russia. That's why Nikolay Studenikin, IABC/Russia Vice-President on Crisis Communications, moderated last week a roundtable devoted to the issue at RIA Novosti's Press Center.

The participants of the roundtable shared some of their thoughts on the topic.

Igor Demin, Press-officer, Transneft (oil pipeline monopoly), said: “There are three types of collision and interaction: real issues during the construction and maintenance, business interests, political interests.”

Demin then gave example when PR is used to profit from the commodity markets: “The first oil makes it to the market through the eastwards pipeline. Suddenly, Yakutia's parliament starts speaking of oil spills. The price of futures in London falls down. If you know of such PR in advance, you can earn tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Lack of culture and Soviet heritage can explain such rude moves. Jacob Minevich of R.I.M. Porter Novelli explained: “In the West you have sustainable development. In Russia you have a kind of heritage when apartment blocks are built around factories.”

Minevich also said that the regional managers seconded by Russia's ruling party are alien to the region they've been assigned to. Local businesses find it convenient to work such authorities through public organizations.

There's been some progress even with the public hearings, according to Minevich: “Public hearings used to exist only on paper now at least they are formally for real.”

Vyacheslav Leontiev, Managing Partner, Leontiev & Partners, blamed Russia's slow judicial system for poor efficiency in handling cases involving officials. “If the legal system worked properly there would be no need for massive PR in the media,” said Leontiev.

This reflects with the opinion of Oleg Solodukhin, GR expert at the CROS company: “The Khimki forest issue was raised at first to sack the mayor. But the result has surpassed all the expectations.”

There may be a less dramatic explanation to sudden outbursts of PR activity. Konstantin Mikhailov of Archnadzor (NGO working to protect Moscow's diminishing cultural heritage, translated as “architectural watchdog”) said: “Accusations are heard when our opponents haven't got anything else to say.”

Mikhail Dvorkovich, CEO, Press Hall communcation group, said: “A rare occasion when an NGO is created not as an instrument in somebody's hands.” He urged everybody to go through a list of Russian NGOs (in Russian) and marvel at their origin and founders.

Dvorkovich recently created an association of entrepreneurs which he called a new type of NGO. “The members are bound to two things: not paying bribes to officials and courts, paying all the taxes. We put their voluntary contributions to good cause,” Dvorkovich said.

Studenikin summed up the two hour discussion: “The public sector in Russia should become a strong instrument of affecting both the business and the government sectors. At the same time PR has become a part of the reality and cannot be taken out of the context of the important public issues and business processes.”

Please refer to the video recording of the roundtable (in Russian) for more details.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Bloggers vs. News Agencies: A PR Perspective

In my EJC's Community blog post called Bloggers vs. News Agencies: Lessons Learned I wrote about some of the risks for the traditional media, namely news agencies. First of all, the risk to lag behind the social media with the breaking news. Which at this point is often a tug of war - sometimes the bloggers lead but most of the times it's the media who are first. Then, there's the risk of perception by the audience as being a media often lagging behind the bloggers.

This risk of perception requires some PR on media's behalf. For a news agency this job is even more difficult than for the end-user media since there are simply more sides to communicate to. Directly, to news makers, media and non-media clients. Indirectly, to the end-users. Media clients are more easy to persuade since they can judge a news agency's worthiness by its news wire. Non-media clients - corporates, banks, cellular operators etc. - are more affected by the public opinion. The latter is shaped by news makers and the end-users. Luckily, both the news-makers and end-users have one important thing in common. They can be bloggers worth listening to and worth communicating with as such.

That's why Blogger Relations could be exactly the kind of PR that the news media would require to improve their image. The AP has understood that back in 2010 launching editorial guidelines for credit and attribution, with many other news organizations following suit since then.

However, this is only one part of the Blogger Relations. The other should be involved more with letting bloggers better understand the role of the news agencies in reporting the breaking news. One straightforward way would be to offer to the bloggers a news alert service over SMS, Twitter or any other suitable media. That could help with the non-media PR, too. A more complex option would require competitions, training and internships of bloggers at news agencies.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Interview with Paul Holmes on PR versus Marketing


RIA Novosti interview with Paul Holmes, Founder and CEO at The Holmes Report and the SABRE awards. The original English version was taken just before the plenary debate on 17 February at the Communication on Top Forum in Davos. Russian version can be seen here.


Q: So Paul, since you’ve been invited here to attend the plenary debate, the subject of which is basically PR versus marketing, what is the essence of the competition between PR and marketing as you see it?

Paul: It’s an interesting question. It probably helps to start with definitions, and one of the problems you run into right away is that there are almost as many definitions for public relations as there are public relations people. My definition of public relations is fairly simple, and it derives from the meaning of the words public and relations. So I believe public relations is the discipline of managing the relationship between an organization and all of the publics: so employees, share holders, consumers, government, media.

Marketing, it seems to me, is the management of the relationship between an organization and its consumers. Therefore, in a logical world, if public relations is doing its job properly and marketing is doing its job properly, marketing would be a part of public relations. There are two obvious reasons why that doesn’t happen. The reason is that in most major corporations, particularly Western multinationals, marketing has become the focus of all communication. So companies will spend… if companies have a budget of $100 million for all communications, they will spend $95 million of that on consumers, on marketing to consumers. That’s because the way you reach most consumers is the most expensive thing, advertising, but it’s also a reflection of the fact that most Western multinationals in particular, have made customer focus a central part of their business.

At the same time the public relations function rarely operates in the way that I just described. That’s a little unfair, but far too many public relations people have allowed themselves to be defined not as the person who manages all of those relationships but as the person who deals with the media. I would say that to a certain extent, media relations, which is how many people define public relations, is a part of marketing. So what we’ve allowed ourselves as an industry to do is go from being up here at the sort of seed level of the organization, managing all communications, to down here under marketing, managing one aspect of marketing.

So that’s my answer to that question.

What I think is happening right now is that organizations are coming to realize that marketing, as an isolated discipline with about 100% focus on consumers, is much more difficult in a social media environment, because there are an awful lot of people who can have a tremendous impact on the decision of consumers.

There are a couple of things going on. There is much more information on organizations out there, and there are people who have access to large audiences who can disseminate that information and in some cases can disseminate misinformation. And so there are activists, there are NGOs, there are ordinary consumers, all of whom have a point of view about the company not necessarily about its products or services but about the way it does business, how it exploits people in developing countries or whatever, who are having a huge influence on consumers. That sort of environment of influences is where public relations is traditionally strong. And so public relations people are being brought into a slightly different role as a result of social media.

Q: That was actually my next question about the expansion of the social media and how it changes the rules of the competition between PR and marketing. But you’ve answered this.

Paul: Let me give you another quick thought. I think that the big change is that five years ago it was probably possible for marketers to believe that the brand was all the things they told people. So the brand was the advertising and the logo and the sponsorship and the press release; the brand was everything they told people. Today, I think marketers have to recognize that the brand is all the things that people are saying about it. Suddenly you don’t own the brand anymore. The public owns the brand, and that creates a very different dynamic. Communication is not about sending out controlled messages. It’s about influencing a much broader environment and again, that’s where public relations comes in.

Q: Do you think this competition between PR and marketing, is it going on still with the advent of social media? Is it really a win-win situation for the company, for the consumer, for society?

Paul: I’m not sure that I necessarily think that in every company there’s marketing guy and a PR guy and they’re battling for control. It’s not quite that black and white. What I actually think is happening is that in smart companies and the leaders in this are probably consumer products companies, because that’s where the marketing department has always been the strongest. Smart companies are beginning to realize that it really doesn’t make sense to have one department over here that is responsible for corporate reputation and another department over there that is responsible for products. Because the two are interconnected in a way they never have been in the past. Your corporate reputation has a huge impact on brand decisions. Take an area such as corporate social responsibility. Obviously that’s about the reputation of the company, but one of the reasons you want a reputation for being responsible is so that people buy more of your product. Is that a marketing discipline or is that corporate reputation discipline? I would say it is both.

I actually think that the dividing lines between marketing and communications are becoming blurred. I think it’s much more a case of the two disciplines being pulled into the same place by what the company needs them to do, than that they’re fighting for supremacy. So they are both being pulled towards the same place in the organization. Now my suspicion is that over the next couple of years, and to a certain extent you’ve seen this already in certain large American corporations, IBM, American Airlines, Cisco, there are a few, I believe Xerox is another, companies where there is now a chief marketing and communications officer who is responsible for both disciplines. So, where I think there is really a battle is for whether the person who will head that combined department is a marketing person or a PR person. I worry a little bit that the combined function will end up being what I would call public relations, as I described earlier. So it will be a public relations function.

Q: So you see it as kind of a more strategic function?

Paul: Yes. I think when you add up marketing and public relations, what you get is public relations. So I think in that sense, public relations will win. However, I would guess that in at least half of the companies that do this, the senior person will be the marketing person.

Q: The senior person responsible for PR and marketing?

Paul: Yes… will be a marketing person, not a public relations person.

Q: But he’ll be more involved in PR rather than in marketing.

Paul: Yes, but he’ll have to learn PR skills. But I think that in a lot of companies the senior marketing person is taken more seriously than the senior public relations person.

Q: Is it a matter of budget?

Paul: Partly. I think it is a question of…

Q: Is it a matter of sales?

Paul: I think that there are two things, three things. Budget, what I’ve been calling the second thing, balls; you might want to find a different way of expressing it for your readers… but courage. And the third thing is accountability. Marketing has a stronger metrics, CEOs like metrics. CEOs like things you can measure in dollar or rouble terms. So marketing, if you’re doing marketing well, you know because you’re selling more stuff, if you’re doing marketing badly you know because you’re selling less stuff. Corporate reputation, where public reputation people spend most of their time, is not like that. Corporate reputation is a more nebulous, amorphous kind of concept. Even if you feel like your reputation got better, how? Which you’d measure by asking people: Do you know our company? Do you know what it stands for? Do you like our company? Would you recommend our company to somebody else? Even if you see those things going up, you see that more people like the company, you don’t necessarily see how that impacts the bottom line. So measurement and accountability is a big part of this. And the courage part of it, I just like budget and balls because of the alliteration, but the courage part of it is that for a long time public relations people have added most value when they are defending the company. So public relations has tended to be a defensive, reactive, responsive discipline whereas marketing is proactive. So what you’ve seen, as social media has become more and more vital, is that marketers, this is an overly simple view of the world, so I’m generalizing; in general, marketers look at social media, they see opportunity and they’re first reaction is to do what they’ve always done, which is shout. So they go out into social media and they set up viral videos or they…

Q: Act nasty…

Paul: …not even nasty, but if you think of social media as a conversation, its sort like walking into a cocktail party where everybody is having a conversation and jumping up on the table and saying, “I’m the greatest, and here’s why.” And that’s what marketing people do. That has been the essence of marketing for a hundred years.

Public relations people look at social media; they see risk, potential damage to the company’s reputation, and so what they do is they walk into the cocktail party and they go around to every little conversation and they listen, but they don’t necessarily engage.

I, not surprisingly, think that the right response to the social media environment is somewhere in the middle of those two things.

Q: It’s to basically mix in with the crowd.

Paul: It’s to join the conversation, to participate in the conversation, but not to try to dominate the conversation. I think there are a lot of skills that public relations people have. I do think public relations people are better listeners, I think, because they’re always having a conversation. Public relations people are used to dialog. Public relations people acknowledge the need to be authentic, to have their conversation grounded in some sort of truth. Sometimes they try to create that truth, which I would say is a mistake, but at least they’re not about fantasy in a way marketing people are.

Q: Well they’re not acting on their own. Sometimes they try to make the best out of the worst situation.

Paul: Right. So I think actually the right response to social media is more engagement, more dialog, more conversation, a more respectful attitude, towards the audience whether its consumers or activists or media. I think there are a lot of skills public relations people bring to the table. I think that in a lot cases, CEOs are faced with a choice between do I want this job to go to my PR guy who has never really had a budget bigger than a couple of million dollars, who’s mostly there to answer questions, who isn’t particularly proactive - I think a lot of social media involves story telling - who doesn’t necessarily create stories - whereas advertising people have a lot of history creating stories - who isn’t used to developing content to put into social media, but who understands the broader environment. Or do I give it to my marketing guy and say learn all of this other stuff and become a much more well-rounded communicator. I think most CEOs will make the decision based not on the background of the person but on the current role of the person in the organization. In most organizations, the marketing guy is more senior than the PR guy. The marketing department, which is huge, is not necessarily going to be very comfortable with being told, hey you’ve always thought of public relations as something that you use when you couldn’t afford advertising; now it’s in charge of you. I think a lot of those people are going to be marketing people. And I think, by the way, smart marketing people can learn public relations. I don’t think public relations is deeply… it’s not rocket science, its not brain surgery, it’s not deeply mysterious.

Q: But as you said, it’s an attitude. It’s a special kind of attitude.

Paul: Right. And I do think that attitude is more difficult to learn than people think it is. So I think you’ll see a lot of marketers do public relations quite badly. I worry that our industry… I worry that we have to think quite differently as an industry, if we’re going to win. Again, I don’t really like thinking about this as a battle. It’s fun in a debate to approach it that way. But I think it’s more about earning the trust of the CEO. I’m not sure most PR people are ready to have that level of trust.

Q: Okay, thank you Paul. Can I ask you a kind of personal question, just for a change?

Paul: Of course, I think.

Q: Being such a PR profession with such a vast background of experience, how often do you use your techniques in your personal life with your family, friends, and does it work?

Paul: Well, if you ask my wife, she’ll tell you that I’m the worst public relations person that you’ve ever met. I actually think that a lot of public relations is what I’d call applied common sense. If you think about how companies get into trouble in the public relations realm, it’s by doing something profoundly stupid. After the fact, you can look at it and go, what were they thinking? I actually think that a lot of public relations is just giving very simple common sense advice. I think you can solve a lot of PR problems by saying to the CEO, what would your mother think if she read this on the front page of Pravda, that you did this? That’s a very simple idea, but I think we all know that common sense is not quite as common as the name implies, that actually everybody does stupid things occasionally. 

The truth is I do just as many stupid things. The big one for me, as I said earlier, one of the things we forget about communication generally, is that communication is not talking. Talking is half of it, listening is the other half.

Q: And maybe thinking?

Paul: Yes, okay, yes of course. So it’s a blend of those three things. I’m great at talking. I love talking. I do it all the time. My wife will tell you I’m a terrible listener. I only hear what I want to hear and even then I don’t always interpret it the right way. So I think the short answer to your question is that I’m much better at telling other people how to use this than I am at putting it into action in my own life.

Having said that, I’d like to think that in terms of the way I run my business I have always tried to apply the sound principles of public relations. I have a very relationship driven approach to running my business. My business is actually… my business exits only because I have a reputation of a certain kind. If I had a reputation for being self-serving or for writing things only about people who advertised or rewarding people because they spent a lot of money with my company, then my business would disappear because it’s all built on trust and credibility and personal reputation. So in my business I think I’m quite good at it, but in my personal life… shi..

Q: A question about the forum we are attending right now. It’s an international forum, Communication on Top. You’ve mention some US based examples of how PR and marketing work there. What other major country-specific or region-specific trends or issues do you see in PR and marketing?

Paul: Let me start by saying that one of things that I think is great about this conference is that it brings together people from more developed public relations markets with people from public relations markets where we’re still growing the business, it’s still maturing, and it’s developing. The great thing about that from my perspective is that I think there is an opportunity for people in developing markets to learn from the mistakes that developed markets have made. So I talked earlier about the relative position of public relations and marketing in big Western multinationals. I think that’s happened over a period of 50 years because public relations has allow itself to be diminished. I think that in countries like Russia, for example, there isn’t a 50-year tradition of marketing and public relations. So I think that in a lot of ways the PR industry in Russia has a lot of ways to define itself, almost from the beginning, as being something different. Events like this help a great deal.
I’m not entirely sure where we’re going with the question.


I think there are different communication styles and emphases in different markets. I spent 20 years in the States focusing exclusively on the North American market. When I said I was going to Europe to do what I do in the United States in Europe, the first reaction of Americans was, great, you can teach Europeans how to do PR the right way. The reality is that public relations in Europe is different. One of the ways its different is, I mentioned corporate responsibility. The attitudes towards corporate responsibility in Europe are very different than the attitudes in America. In America there are a lot of people who believe that the only responsibility of business is to make money and create jobs. In Europe, I think people look beyond that to environmental impact, to social impact. They focus much more broadly on the way in which that money is made.

Q What do think is behind this different way of thinking?

Paul: That’s a very interesting question. I think to a large extent it’s a question of culture. I think that in Europe, Western Europe in particular, I’m not an expert on Eastern Europe. I actually think Easter Europe in some respects is closer to America than it is to Western Europe. But in America there is a focus on individualism. So people are expected to be selfish. Selfish is a very harsh term, but people, there’s this feeling that…

Q: …self motivating.

Paul: Yeah. Whereas in Europe there is much more of a community emphasis, so there is more focus on whether something is good for the community then whether it’s good for an individual businessman. I’m not sure how you explain that other than culture and history and heritage. But it means that social responsibility is very different. I think if you look at the developing markets in Eastern Europe, I think they sort of looked at the American system of capitalism and looked at the European system of capitalism and said to themselves, okay the Americans are richer, so that obviously works. So they are a little closer…

Q: So you see predominance in the American approach to running…

Paul: I think there is more of an emphasis on free market and a fairly harsh model of capitalism. Again, I think that over time all of those markets will evolve into something that is appropriate to that location. The other element of this, obviously, is that public relations works best in an environment of maximum freedom. …public relations is about giving people the information they need to make choices and persuading them rather than forcing them to make the choice that you want them to make. Obviously that works better in a system where people have more choices. There’s no point in doing public relations if you can’t choose where you work, or who you buy from, or who you vote for. Public relations really only matters when there are choices.

Also, public relations can only really work well in an environment in which information is trusted. So if the media is viewed as credible and impartial and not corrupt, public relations is more successful. If the media is viewed as being biased and corrupt then actually any message that you put into the media will be suspect. There are obviously markets where there are higher and lower degrees of trust in media. And public relations works best, and is most powerful in markets where there’s a high degree of trust. That obviously means that there are national differences as well.

Q: The conference is running for the second year now, and this year there seems to be a large delegation of Russian speaking participants. How do you see Russia from the point of view of marketing and PR? Has, in your opinion, Russia achieved a certain level of widely accepted approaches and practices to PR and marketing from what you’ve seen?

Paul: I have spoken three or four times at the Baltic PR conference in St Petersburg. The first time was probably seven years ago. The last time was in September or October of last year. Over that relatively short period of time, I have certainly seen the industry in Russia grow and mature and become more sophisticated, more strategic. So if you sit down with a PR practitioner in Russia, you probably end up talking about the same things you’d talk about with a PR practitioner in the States. The rise of social media is a big issue in Russia today just as it is in the US. PR people are trying to figure out how to deal with that.

Q: Not only PR, media as well.

Paul: Right. So in that respect it has, quite quickly, and probably more quickly than most of us imagined 20 years ago, has become a mainstream public relations industry. At the same time, I think, from a Western perspective, the Russian PR industry and the Russian business landscape in general remains quite opaque to Western eyes. Whether that’s a question of not understanding or whether it’s a question of the fact that Russian business is not yet as transparent and well regulated in the broad sense as American or British business, I don’t know. There is a feeling that you can still, with certain media in Russia, get quite a long way with, not necessarily suitcases of cash, but subtle ways of saying, if I buy an ad, you’ll run a story. If I pay a certain amount of money for you to come to my press conference, I’ll get good coverage. So I think that there are still elements of… I think that there is still a feeling that “black PR” can be quite effective in Russia. By the way, I think Americans are fooling themselves if they think there is no “black PR” in America. That we’re all practicing this noble truth telling craft. We tend to assume that we are better than we are and that Russia is worse than it is.

Q: What Russians call “white and fluffy.”

Paul: Yeah. But generally I think you’re seeing a move toward the same kind of standards in every market.

Q: Okay, thanks very much Paul. I think it was a very interesting conversation.

Paul: Thank you. I think journalists are going to have to, to a certain extent, think more like PR people, journalism is becoming much more about individual brands, again I talked about, you know, the need for there to be trust in media. Now in some cases that may be the trust that you get because of the title of the publication so people may trust you because you’re from the New York Times or they may trust you because you’re from Fox News, or they may, depending on what their belief is. Or they may trust you because you’re an individual whose work they’ve read um who has been accurate, who sounds like they know what they’re talking about. If you look at bloggers, they get their reputation because of individual trust and I think journalists are going to have to start thinking that way: “How much am I trusted as a journalist?” not “how much is my publication trusted?” So I think all journalists are going to have to be, to a certain extent, their own public relations people, their own brand managers.