Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Don't forget that competing brands work together in consumer's hands

Takeaway: when promoting a consumer product or service, focus on it's collaborative features. After all, most of us are naturally multi-brand users. Below is a real life proof.

I digitized my old VHS home videos, recorded in the European PAL standard, about six years ago. Apart from one tape which was recorded in NTSC back in September 1991. A friend had lent me his new camera just brought from the U.S., and I did my first video recordings then.

Yesterday I had some spare time at home. So I decided to have a go at the NTSC tape. Toshiba VHS recorder was brought back to life by replacing a worn out belt with a rubber band. Too bad, a fragment of the tape got first chewed up because of the faulty belt.

Samsung hard disk recorder would only play but not record NTSC video. I was left with the option of using an outdated Pinnacle USB TV stick with a video input.

MacBook Pro would not recognize the TV stick, and I didn't want to pay for software to be used just once. Toshiba notebook's Windows 7, on the other hand, quickly found a proper driver. Google helped me to find VirtualDub, open source software for video capturing which supported the TV stick. It came in Windows version only.

In about half an hour I was already capturing the priceless archive. But the story didn't end here. The open source software would not support compression. The resulting video file amounted to over 50 GB disk space. Samsung external hard disk drive came to the rescue, allowing for some basic editing to be performed on the digitized recording.

Back at the Mac, I browsed through a list of dozens of video converting utilities. A free one was eventually used to bring down the video file to a manageable 380 MB.

Notice the digital data processing chain: Toshiba – Samsung – Mac. Three grand competitors made to work together on a common goal, but each on own merit. Will any marketing communications ever convince me it's either/or for consumer brand selection? Clearly not in those cases where more than one device with similar functionality is used by a household.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

District branding could help Moscow overcome its strategic gap

Like many millions of fellow Muscovites, I love and hate my town, the capital of Russia, in turns. Sometimes, the swings are too frequent to understand my current attitude.

At a roundtable today on Moscow's long-term strategy up to 2025 organized by Russian Managers Association and RIA Novosti, it suddenly became clear. The reason for the attitude swings is Moscow's strategic gap.

“Moscow is a city of disbalance. Where economic development doesn't translate into quality of life,” said Sergey Zuev, Dean, State Policy and Applied Arts Institute.

Zuev added that while Moscow ranks among top 20-30 cities when it comes to economic development, it is in the 60-70 range as per the quality of life.

There are 24-hour supermarkets, dentists and fitnesses clubs. However, if school education and general medical services aren't of high enough quality, "you will feel down no matter how high the income", according to Zuev.

What's worse is that those who earn much don't really want to improve things in the city.

“The rich see Moscow as a place of duty. You can earn your money here, but it's better to live somewhere else,” said Mikhail Blinkin, Director of Research, Moscow Institute of Transport and Road Management.

While there are surely some real issues to tackle, one can see there is also a strong demand for proper PR in Moscow. And this PR doesn't have to be a one voice for the city.

Marat Guelman, Director, Contemporary Art Gallery, said, “Moscow should decentralize and develop strategies at district level, like London or Berlin.” This ties in well with Zuev's description of Moscow's outskirts as “faceless” and “lacking brands”.

“Moscow is going through a geographic collapse,” said Efim Rachevsky, Director, Moscow High School #548. He explained that in the previous years the communities were quite strong to want to fight each other, even if located along the sides of a single road. “Decentralization will be a success when people start [re]uniting into communities.”

Let's just hope the changes for the better in Moscow will be seen much earlier than the strategy's horizon year of 2025.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Russian Managers Association's TOP-1000 — excellent PR project in its13th year

Russian Managers Association released yesterday in cooperation with the Kommersant publishing house the 13th annual TOP-1000 of managers in Russia. The rating comprises list with 200 CEOs and eight lists of 100 top functional managers each (CFO, CMO, CTO, CCO, etc.).

The 200 CEOs list this year includes 24 business leaders from blue chip companies, mostly monopolies with a large share of export revenues. A quick comparison with a global brands list shows that out of the nine Russian brands on the global list six are represented in the business leaders section of the TOP-1000.

This probably means the TOP-1000 could serve as early warning of more Russian companies inhabiting the global brands list soon.

The TOP-1000 is formed by nine expert groups, composed of the association's members as well as invited managers. The nominates are first preselected then voted on. The winners in each list's 18 industry segments of five or more managers each qualify for the Aristos Awards. This year's ceremony will be held on 24 October.

Not that many media write about the whole TOP-1000. However, a lot more coverage is gained from the PR stories featuring the winners – no wonder. Yandex News yields over 70 stories just one day after the rating's publication. Including one by my employer RIA Novosti, boasting of the nine top managers, including the CEO, entering the TOP-1000. An excellent PR topic, indeed.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Social media make news media your friends

Traditional news media used to ignore the internet in mid 90s. And not just at the content distribution level. Marketing department of Reuters in Moscow then had just one standalone PC connected to the Web for a team of about ten. Completely isolated from the local network with just a floppy drive to facilitate file transfer. It took almost a decade to change the attitude across the board.

Today, many traditional media are quite comfortable with the social media. The new media, however, lead the pack. See the below quote from founder of, taken at the recent annual newspaper congress and editors forum by WAN-IFRA, a leading newspaper association.

Editor of Mail & Guardian Online is, however, more skeptical on this. See his comment to a known media consultant's quote.

Perhaps, the skeptical tone of the last tweet comes from the fact that social media don't deliver some of the expectations. Are these expectations – mainly of visible and timely revenues – false?

Social media form a level playing field. Mass media on this field do not immediately possess the same power and strength they enjoy in traditional broadcasting or publishing formats. The same goes for their ability to sell advertising and other promotional formats to their business clients.

However social media is no comfort zone for the end-user and corporations either. Hence, any social media experience could be useful provided the efforts are well managed and assessed. What, if any, are other benefits the social media could give to traditional media?

Why not consider Russia as an example. A country where the total number of social media accounts exceeds by far not only the number of monthly internet audience but also the population figure.

The flagship product of the RIA Novosti multimedia publishing house is the news website RIA.RU. It boasts a daily audience of over 500,000 users and a monthly audience of over 7,000,000 users – that's about ¼ of the total Internet-connected population of Russia. The website has prominently been in the top of news websites in the country.

Russian and Western social media platforms are getting bigger every day in Russia. One could expect them to start playing a larger role in leading audiences to the websites. And they already have. Look at the below distribution of referrals from search portals and social media (Chart1).

Two main observations here. First, social media account for just over 20 percent of the combined referrals. Visible, indeed. Second, referrals from Western social media and search portals amount to over 60 percent of the combined figure.

With the new children's protection law in force many Russian news websites have rated themselves 16+ or even 18+. RIA Novosti stands at 12+. Even though the website's segment of the 12-17 year old audience is less than 5 % of the total, RIA Novosti values this audience. Social media help it to narrow down the generation gap, as seen from the below platform-age-gender diagram (Chart2).

VK is Vkontakte, Russia's Facebook (FB) analog, targeted at younger generation.

Overall, the present approach at RIA Novosti is News as Friend as opposed to the earlier approach of News as Alert. Here are the main changes in the company's social media strategy over the last two years:

Two years ago (News as Alert)

Now (News as Friend)

Same content published

Content chosen according to user interests
All SM platforms embraced

SM platforms chosen on merits
SM accounts isolated

SM accounts cross-promoted
Content not adapted

Content adapted
Local events ignored or bundled

Local events targeted

Day to day work with social media platforms is done not just for the sake of the website. The main news agency editorial of RIA Novosti gains from eyewitness accounts delivering breaking news on the one side and the journalists communicating with readers on the other side.

You may think the social media team at RIA Novosti is quite large. It indeed is almost 7x larger than the compact five-strong strategic and tactical communications groups I oversee. KPIs permitting, of course.

The above was based on my presentation at SSMS 2012 Media Day.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Russian media start marking news content for children's sake

Even though I rarely contribute direct to my news agency's newswire, I do routinely check the general Russian wire for hundreds of news headlines and read at least couple dozen or so stories a day. Social media exchange notwithstanding, of course.

Quite often the general news contain dry reporting on violence and murders based on information the agency gathers from its sources in the Interior Ministry, Investigative Committee and other power bodies. The most disturbing news items are on sexual violence and pedophiles in particular.

At the end of 2010 Russia's then president Medvedev signed a law aimed at protecting children from information that may be harmful to their mental health and wellbeing. On September 1, 2012 the law went into force.

The law points out which content may be suitable for children of which age groups: 6+, 12+, 16+, 18+. It also gives instructions on marking the content on TV and the radio, in print and online.

The law doesn't say news agencies should be marking their content. On the contrary, during public consultations with the official media watchdog it was noted that news agencies should not waste precious time on marking. However since RIA Novosti also operates a number of top news websites in Russian and other languages, we had to define the marking for own content.

Preliminary discussions held with other online news media showed most felt they had to rate their websites 16+ or even 18+. Not because they inadvertently promote pornography or drugs but because of reporting sexual violence and violent murders.

I remember that the 16+ marking on movies in Soviet cinemas was the best signal to watch them. News websites marking their content 16+ and 18+ could get an increase in the readership among the 12-17 year olds – the youngest group as measured by TNS in Russia. By the way, RIA Novosti has fewer than 5 percent of such readers on its websites.

The flip side is more serious however, as news websites marking their content as unsuitable for children may be blocked from the public internet sites such as cafes, restaurants, shopping malls, etc.

RIA Novosti decided to mark its websites as 12+. Does that mean we will no longer report the disturbing news? No. But it means we will be doing our best to make sure the published news don't just shock and stupefy but inform and educate both the children and their parents.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Key performance indicator for in-house PR in matrix environment

My first experience of working in a complex matrix environment was way back in 1999. The job involved doing PR at the representative office of Motorola in Moscow. The representation, by the way, was of the company's German branch, Motorola GmbH.

Each business unit was represented in Moscow by a business development manager, reporting to her bosses, in Europe or in the U.S. and not to my boss, the office head. We two had a tough time trying to tie in the corporate interests with the individual businesses' ones. A worthy experience, indeed.

In my current function I oversee external tactical and strategic communications at RIA Novosti, a multimedia publishing house built around a news agency of the same name. The tactical side is handled by the Press-service, while the Center for external relations takes care of strategic partnerships. The Public Relations function is thus fully an in-house one.

The publishing house boasts one master brand and a host of other brands, in online and print media areas. The online brands feature a whole range of b2b and b2c products and projects. Also, a matrix of a kind.

Recently I have been asked by my colleagues from the Strategic planning to help them draft a set of key performance indicators, KPIs, for the two PR departments. There was little trouble compiling the initial list comprising the usual ratios for production of content and its impact, both tactical short-term and strategic long-term. However something was clearly missing.

That's when I remembered the days at Motorola's office in Moscow. Success of corporate events like press briefings, participation at expos and conferences directly depended, through synergy, on how many business units were supporting them. A separate thanks here to the then PR agency of record, Mikhailov & Partners. But it was the corporate department first selling then doing a service to the business units, not vice versa.

Bingo! What seems to be the missing KPI: the number of brands/projects embraced in a given period of time by PR activities as percentage of the total number of brands/projects relevant in the same period. IMHO, a proper in-house PR service should be motivated to strategically contribute to as many corporate brands or projects as possible.

Friday, July 27, 2012

International PR agencies ranking prompts development of a Russian one

Four Russian PR agencies have made it to the Holmes Report Global Ranking 2012. AGT Communications climbed 8 notches to #50. CROS went down 10 to #55. Mihailov & Partners debuted at #75. And, Pro-Vision Group, a recent Gold Quill winner, rose 16 to #158.

Their range in fee incomes for 2011: $6.7 million - $23.8 million. Whereas the general range for the ranking is $2.2 million - $614.9 million. You may think there were no other independent Russian PR agencies in the ranking because of their too small size. However, that's not the case. The main reason is lack of transparency in the Russian PR market.

The good side is that three Russian organizations have just teamed up to create a transparent ranking of local PR firms. Two of them are associations: Russian Public Relations Association (RASO) and Association of Consultants in the field of public relations (AKOS). The third is an analytical center called “RIA-Analytics”, which is a part of the RIA Novosti multimedia group.

Stanislav Naumov, RASO President, said that having four Russian companies in the global ranking served as “first good signal” to start creation of a similar local ranking. Andrey Barannikov, AKOS Chairman doubling as RASO vice-president, confirmed his willingness to proceed with the discussion on the project. Both were quoted in today's RIA Novosti story.

Well, good signal indeed. The more transparent are the Russian PR agencies, the more efficient their international efforts and projects are likely to become. Let's hope the associations' enthusiasm will be matched by the market players.

The three parties plan a roundtable in the coming weeks, involving experts and the media to facilitate the discussion.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Public plus Investor Relations, a Formula for Synergy in Communications

In today's rough market times, corporate communicators from different subject areas assess opportunities of working together for synergy. Take PR and IR communicators in Russia, for example. At a recent roundtable organized* by three trade associations, a communications forum and a financial news agency, opinions and ideas flowed freely.

The exchange was facilitated by an engaging intro from Alexander Gerchik, international trader. Here are some takeaways from his presentation:

“A trader pays attention not to a fact but rather its interpretation.” Negative facts concerning a company can and should be counter-leveraged by constructive PR. Acknowledgment of a fact or issue is just a first step, it is the management's reaction to it that matters. Especially when a company is neither large nor regularly covered by the media. “Such PR-initiated news releases work best for second and third-tier companies.”

Second set of takeaways comes from Vladimir Zaluzhsky, Head of IR at Severstal:

“PR helps IR to manage bad news and create favorable context.” This reflects with what Gerchik said, but also, from an IR perspective, works the other way round. “IR communicator can explain to his PR colleague the meaning of plain [regulatory] news.”

What is interesting, is a difference in perception of time by PR communicators working at non-public companies. Nastasya Savina, VP, Corporate Communications, ABBYY, said: “At a non-public company, image strengthening work is done slowly, bit by bit.” She added that ABBYY is looking for IPO in 5-10 years.

More takeaways on IR came from Olga Rink, Executive Director at Russia's ARFI – Financial Communications and Investor Relations Association:

“Russian [traded] companies now hire PR executives with IR background.” The reasons are quite simple. For one, “IR communicator is also [fluent in] PR, Finance and Legal.” Most importantly, “IR can help liquidate the 5-10% corporate management discount.”

As for evaluating corporate PR and IR performance, the main KPI for a traded company is the share price, while for a non-public company it is the profit, according to Elena Dugina, head of i*consulting. Elena Sanarova, Director of Department for External Communications at RUSNANO, said she favors a reputational audit in those cases when it's the reputational capital and not the profit that counts.

*The roundtable was organized by:
Russian chapter of IABC,
ARFI – Financial Communications and Investor Relations Association,
Russian Managers Association (website in Russian),
Communication on Top Forum,
PRIME news agency.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Never mind 'stabilnost', Russia seen as growth area by European businesses

A recent poll has revealed that member companies of the Association of European Businesses (AEB) see opportunities for further growth in Russia in the next 6-10 years. The poll was conducted by GfK Rus in April-May 2012,
There were about 100 respondents, one-sixth of the total AEB member base.

The respondents also made it clear Russia has been performing largely according to or exceeding expectations. For 2012, most see their turnover, investments and profits going up. Almost two-thirds believe the market's attractiveness will not change because of the elections results, a sign of political stability indeed.

“European companies in Russia have good perception of growth perspective. And that may be different for those looking from outside,” said Stuart Lawson, Chairman of the Investment and Finance Committee, AEB, during presentation of the poll's results in Moscow.

Consumers, whose "middle-class consumerism", according to Lawson, is a “major driver”, were given the highest business culture mark by the respondents with just 1 per cent treating them negatively. Partners and subcontractors were quite behind but still fared well. On the other side, government officials, bodies and authorities were seen on average by 29% of the respondents as lacking business culture. Isn't this the area where corporate PR efforts need to go now?

UPD: Stabilnost' is Russian for stability, which Putin promised when running for President. The word has since been used in its negative meaning, similar to the word Zastoi (stagnation), used to describe the pre-Gorbachev USSR.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Machine-generated communications should get more human

SMS signal woke me up today from a vivid dream at about 6:30 a.m. Expecting a news alert of some kind and even fearing an emergency call-back request, I went to the check the phone. Reading the incoming message made me laugh with relief. After a quick dialog with my wife, we both went back to sleep.

Last Sunday I pre-ordered a vacuum cleaner for my mother-in-law at a top appliances store in Moscow, from its website. Almost immediately came in confirmations on SMS and over email. A few hours later we arrived at a nearby store to pick up the item, since I chose the new “self-delivery” option recently introduced there. I showed the confirmation message with the order number and about twenty minutes we left the store with brand new vac.

I can recall some confusion on sales manager's face when I had shown him the order number on my mobile phone. He didn't bother to write it down. “Must have a good memory for numbers,” I thought.

Today's eye-opening message said:
“Dear customer! Your order #... for self-delivery has been canceled since the item went out of stock. We are sorry for any inconvenience.”

By the way, the message was replicated by concurrent email in a shorter version, which lacked the reason for cancelation.

So the sales manager didn't complete my pre-order and wrote a new one instead. Who knows, maybe he'll get higher commission this way. Apart from the store's apparent internal communications problem, there is definitely an issue with its customer communications.

To sum up, good customer communications should be:

  1. Timely. But not necessarily delivered to bother (frighten) at day's dawn.

  2. Relevant and accurate. Re-check all information before communicating.

  3. Non-redundant. Why replicate messages on SMS and email? Use one medium as a priority one.
Machine-generated communications should thus get more human. But let's not forget that their elements are written and programed by us, humans.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Ailing members leaving their trade associations: sign of weak PR?

I don't want to generalize things, hence the question mark in the title of this short post. Is weak PR to blame for the fact that members of trade associations voluntarily leave in times of their crisis?

In my job I deal with various media and communications associations. Many international news agency associations are peculiar as they feature one corporate member representing a particular country. Statutes of European Alliance of News Agencies (EANA) impose such a limitation together with an exception: “Only the leading news agency from any internationally recognised European country can become a member of EANA. Exceptions can be made by the General Assembly so that EANA has more than one member from a country.”

These limitations surely give odds to country-representing members. And that's OK when a member is truly a leader in its country. They also eliminate possible counter-productive behavior of the competing members, most likely to come from the same country. But what if things start going different and a local competitor suddenly eats in to the leader's market share? What if a leader is overthrown by such a competitor?

Ethically speaking, associations should stand by their members. And they generally do, unless a member stops paying its annual fees. However crisis-hit members often leave at own initiative. I've seen this happening few times at different media associations, including Russian ones.

Being a successful news agency is difficult enough due to ownership and limitations of b2b business in media sector. Most news agencies can't just leapfrog over their traditional media founders doubling as clients into the thriving b2c sector. Please see my other post dedicated to the issue.

Trade associations such as MINDS International, which has been growing intensively, help news agencies benchmark themselves, buy and sell complementing expertise, work on common product standards. Top management, strategists, marketers, IT, and sales managers are usually involved in the dealings. PR experts are generally left behind. So could this really a reason ailing news agencies prefer to save on annual fees and quietly leave their associations instead of openly discussing their local market issues with the other members?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Building International Financial Center in Moscow: A Task Requiring BigTeamwork

Here is a summary of my tweets with additional comments from day one of a strategic session on building International Financial Center (IFC) in Moscow. I was invited to the session as a participant.

Plenary panels at the session featured some well known Russian businessmen and foreign experts.

Charles Wyplosz: Easier to build International Financial Center in Moscow than prevent financial crisis that might destroy it.

Evert Verhagen: Is it (Moscow IFC) a place or is it an idea? There should be both software and hardware... Moscow successful in attracting talent from Russia but not as much with the talent from abroad.

Ruben Vardanian: VTB's IPO, failure to timely introduce IFRS are Pandora's Box evils sending wrong signals about Moscow as IFC.

Hubertus Vaeth says Frankurt accounts for 85% of Germany's Internet traffic. Don't think such uneven distribution is good

Stability seems to be the word most repeated by international speakers at the Moscow IFC strategic session.

"The more practical and frank your suggestions, the more grateful we will be," Alexander Voloshin said in parting to 5 workgroups, at the end of the plenary sessions.

Now, tweets from Workgroup 1, dealing with Strategic Marketing (yours truly a simple visitor there). The idea was to draw a vivid picture of Moscow as a global IFC in 2032 and define steps to get there. Sounded easier than done.

Doris Naisbitt: We are discussing strategic marketing of a product [not yet defined] next door [by other workgroups]. Me, thinking to myself: Quite a strange way, indeed.

Gor Nakhapetyan (who moderated the workgroup discussion and was last to give his opinion): Moscow has a clear advantage [over other cities]. The higher is your intellect, the more interesting people you can befriend.

Overall, the discussion in my workgroup drowned in little details and vague predictions for the future. I wonder how day two will proceed.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Foreign business journalists to be distinguished by Russian award

PRESSZVANIE, a prominent business journalism award, will once again choose the best foreign journalist among those accredited in Russia in the special Topical Theme nomination.

UPDATE: Three journalists have been shortlisted for 2012:

- Florian Willershausen, WirtschaftsWoche Heute
- Gerald Hosp, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
- Ben Aris, Business New Europe.

The award's name comes from the words PRESS and ZVANIE (Russian for 'rank' or 'title'). When pronounced, it also resembles the Russian word for 'vocation'. For 2012, the 8th regular season, there will be nine industry-based nominations and five special nominations, including Topical Theme.

Each nomination has a backing partner to advise the award's Jury on shortlisted candidates. Topical Theme is backed by RIA Novosti, Russian multimedia holding. Previous winners in the nomination included:

2011 - André Ballin, Moscow bureau chief of WirtschaftsBlatt;
2010 – Zhao Jialing, Moscow economic correspondent of Xinhua;
2009 – Cristina Giuliano, Moscow correspondent, then Apcom;
2008 – Gisbert Mrozek, Director, RUFO;
2007 - Emmanuel Grynszpan, Moscow correspondent, La Tribune;
2006 – Peter Fischer, Moscow correspondent, Neue Zuricher Zeitung.

PRESSZVANIE is managed by the same team that runs Silver Archer, Russia's largest PR award. The business journalism award's ceremony will take place on 20 April in Moscow.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Press release still a main tool for business communicators in Russia

Here are some takeaways from master class for corporate communicators held at Russian Managers Association (RMA) HQ by Alla Nadezhkina, Press Secretary, RIA Novosti:

  • Press release should equal a quality news story. Rewrite it for different media.

  • Press release doesn't have to repeat a company news story and vice versa. Consider comment, statement, blog post, social media status update, and 'do nothing' as alternatives.

  • Companies often mistake corporate affairs for company news. No wonder such press releases often get mistreated by media.

  • Include photographers and artists in your distribution list. Captions to published photos and illustrations can be as good as a news story.

  • Tabloids long for your “no comment” answer. Give them a suitable alternative instead, even if it's just procrastination.

  • Press release should be sent out individually if the cause is worth it.

  • Make sure your press releases travel faster than rumors, especially concerning company's regional or overseas branches.
About 40 communicators from Russia's leading companies and NGOs took part in the master class which was organized within the RMA Committee for Mass Media and Information Policies.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Silver Archer 2011 winners announced in Moscow

It took two full days, 14-15 February, packed with five lectures and 83 public presentations by shortlisted participants to determine winners of the 15th Silver Archer awards in Russia:

Nomination 1: Best Project in Business Communications
70th Anniversary of Joint Stock Company Sibelektromotor, Tomsk
JSC Sibelektromotor;

Nomination 2: Best Project in Social Communications and Charity
“I am grateful for my success to...”
Tomsk City

Nomination 3: Best Project in Scientific Achievements & Innovations
Promoting Tomsk Region as Innovation Center
Department of Information Policy & PR, Tomsk Region Administration;

Nomination 4: Best Project in Territory Development & Promotion
The Names of the Voronezh City
Gennady Shatalov, Voronezh;

Nomination 5: Communications in the Global World
Russia Beyond the Headlines, Moscow
Rossiyskaya Gazeta;

Nomination 6: Best PR Development Publication
Denis Vizgalov, author of the book City Branding;

Nomination 7: Master of PR (suggested by the Expert Council)
Sergey Zverev;

Nomination 8: Person of Distinction (suggested by the Board of Trustees)
Olga Romanova, journalist and activist;

Nomination 9: Contribution to Cultural Developmeny (suggested by the Board of Trustees)
The “Citizen Poet” project;

Special Prize of the Board of Trustees
The State Atomic Energy Corporation ROSATOM
For large-scale work on restoring confidence in the global nuclear industry after the Fukusima crisis.

Congratulations to all the winners!

UPD: Perhaps, a peculiar feature of the Russian PR market - you don't see any PR agencies openly involved in the winning projects, except for the Nomination 4.

UPD2: Photos from the ceremony can be previewed here.

Friday, February 17, 2012

PR Boutiques vs. Networks: Russian experts have their say

Andrey Lapshov moderated a talk show on PR Boutiques vs. Networks at the RIA Novosti press center in Moscow during the Silver Archer Awards Open Presentation Days on 15 February, 2012. Here are some of the quotes by Russian PR practitioners.

Igor Mintusov: «Networks are better in terms of margins. Their costs are less because of shared knowledge.»

Igor Pisarsky: «Adapting [network's] products to Russia is a tedious process.... Entering a network doesn't prevent fighting for network clients.»

Nastasya Savina: «[PR] Boutiques don't observe common standards. Each one flies their own UFO.»

Miсhael Maslov: “In the West the top-20 is all network agencies.... A [network managing] man from Pittsburg unlike the same from New York doesn't understand at all things could be different elsewhere.... The network brought 2% of business in 2011.”

Natalia Mandrova: “Network agencies have to fight for business all the same.... A decade ago private businesses accounted for over half of revenues. Now 80% comes from state-owned companies or state-funded projects.... Network agencies grow thanks to FMCG.”

Lev Koshlyakov: “Working with network agencies is an inevitable evil.... The rotating managers are likely to let you down in the end”.

Alexander Vikhrov: “We have a general [PR] line while the rest is treated like a side dish.... Dozens of agencies serve us, none are networks.”

Irina Kibina: “In my wardrobe I've got the whole range – from designer clothes to cheap t-shirts.... It all depends on what you need at any given time – the boutiques don't carry out of the box solutions.... On the other hand, there are creative people out there with loads of experience that will keep their word.”

Monday, February 13, 2012

Novelty media tools for communicators discussed in Davos

Novelty media tools for communicators were presented and discussed in Davos, Switzerland on 10 February during a panel on media communications at the Communications on Top forum. The three presentations on social media, semantic Web, and visualization were done by Jochen Spangenberg, media manager, Nikos Sarris, R&D project manager, and David Lee, startup manager, respectively.

Everybody nowadays seems to be a good expert on media and where the sector is going. In his book called The Dilbert Future the famous comic strip creator Scott Adams, a techie, was quite accurate in describing the present state of media some fifteen years ago, back in 1997.

Remember that golden blogs-free age of corporate email and the luxury of having a company GSM phone? His prediction #52 - and there were 65 of them in the book - went: "In the future , everyone will be a news reporter." That must have made many a reader laugh out loud back then. Adams's prediction #50 stated: "in the future, more people will actively ignore the news because it is irrelevant." Funny no more.

What are the current trends then? Three of the seven trends (15 in all) mentioned at the forum by Rohit Bhagarva fit in very well into the media tools area: #2 Ethnomimicry – Real life inspires products & tools, #6 Co-curation – Curation ads value to the Web, #13 Tagging reality – Everyday images unlock digital content.

This future is here to stay, and we communicators need to understand how the media is reacting to the fact these two predictions have become true and what, if any, are the technological challenges and solutions in the pipeline.

Speaking of the social media usage by the media and individual journalists. The former increasingly use the social media for distribution while the latter – for data collection and feedback. Look at how often news organizations like AP and Reuters update their social media guidelines. This is a good indication of trial and error approach by the media.

Let's consider, the media try and try again, and eventually fail. Now imagine a Web - the World - without the media. Just the press releases, blogs, and user-generated content. What would you read for news? Would you search for the news by combination of keywords? Would you take the results of such search for granted and share them?

Taking your imagination to such extremes is useful if you need to be reminded that communications without the media are doomed.

Now, to the semantic Web. SYNC3 is a Pan-European project co-financed by the EC aimed at creating an sentiment analyzer for blog posts related to news stories. The project features a wide range of universally and well known brands, including Google. The big question here is whether the synergy is worth the co-financing. Let's hope, it is the case.

Text visualization could come in quite handy for us, PR folks. Just imagine, there is a multimedia repository on your corporate website with due keywords and tagging. A journalist writes a story on your company and the visualization tool – Bingo! - helps her to tie in all the proper illustrations, including photos, videos, infographics, and even cartoons to the story. The same tool could be used to illustrate PR releases, using third party multimedia.

Scot Adams's prediction #64 said: "The next 100 years will be a search for better perception instead of better vision." Some 15 years on, it seems we're well on our way there. For the novelties discussed will definitely make us better understand the communication ways and results, not just see them.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Silver Archer bridges PR projects in Russia and the USA

On 25 January, 2012 the first ever international Silver Archer awards ceremony was held in Washington, D.C. The ceremony at the Russian Embassy's exquisite Grand Hall gathered a largely bilingual audience of over 80 people, mostly participants in the 19 community and business PR projects, from the USA, Canada and Russia, that received diplomas and prizes for their entries.

Winners were named in each of the five categories of the newly introduced Communications in the Global World nomination:

Culture: Children's Festival of Russian Culture, The Russian American Cultural Heritage Center.

Goodwill: Siberian Heart Project, The Russian American Medical Association.

Media: Web Portal

Business: Communications Support of the Webinon Center, joint project by Target Labs, Inc., and BrandHouse (Russia).

Person of Distinction: Dr. Uli Zislin, Founder and Curator, Washington Museum of Russian Poetry and Music.

The ceremony also featured touching musical performances by Dr. Zislin and by the talented duo of Zlata Lund, director, Russian American Colony Singers, and her mother.

Fascinating Russian-style costumes for the three models involved in the ceremony were created by another diploma holder, Evgenia Luzhina-Salazar.

Nadezhda Yavdolyuk, Executive Director, Silver Archer, and Valery Levchenko, Head of the nomination's Expert Group, were the main hosts of the evening. Inna Preobrazhenskaya is Silver Archer's representative in the USA.

Silver Archer's main activities are scheduled for 14-15 February and will take place at RIA Novosti. Open presentations by managers of the 83 shortlisted projects will help define winners for the awards ceremony. The PR award, largest in Russia, is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year.

The Expert Group unanimously agreed at the shortlist meeting on 30 January to let the Washington's ceremony diploma holder Elena Suvorova-Philips, President, United Russian American Association, include her organization's project The Captain of The Earth in the main judging process. Eight other projects of international to global scale were shortlisted at the meeting.

The bridge between PR projects in Russia and the USA has thus been built. Stay tuned for more!

UPD: And here's a story on the main ceremony's winners.