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.