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.