September 30, 2016

Plexus Blog: What do you need to know if you are doing in PR in Russia?

In the past two decades, the Russian PR-industry has come a long way from simple activities, implemented via fax and telephone, to serious and large-scale multimedia and digital campaigns. 15 years ago, I felt like an alien when the lecturer at the London PR School told me about online communication, video releases and conference calls. Today, the difference in the forms and means of communication has almost disappeared, and PR in Russia comes much closer to international standards. Yet the Russian PR has its own exclusive features, which we will discuss here.

Common language of communication

What is important, of course, is a good knowledge of the Russian language. Both written and oral have to be fluent. This creates a high level of trust and understanding among all participants in the communication process.

The importance of informal relationships

Informal contacts, that always play a key role in communication and personal relationships, are especially important in Russia. That is why companies compete with each other to establish friendly contacts with media, from a pleasant gift on the journalists’ birthday or seasonal holiday, to the press tours that look like more travel packages than business trips. These could include visits to expensive restaurants and discos, as well as inspection of local attractions. Some of my friends-journalists’ schedules are filled with endless trips that they make by the invitation of companies-newsmakers. London, Geneva, and Sochi ... in such a competitive environment it is not easy for PR specialists to make their way to the minds and hearts of journalists. Yes, there are more elegant and highly professional ways to interact with the media, but do they always lead to informal contacts?

Local Flavor

Sometimes Russian journalists, bloggers, editors, and your customers could talk in very rude manner and might be not be very courteous. Often, they do not like excuses, might not respond emails or phone calls if they are not that important to them. Well, that is the local business etiquette and you cannot help it!

Facebook is a network for quick contact to journalists

While in many countries, Facebook is a network for personal relationships, in Russia it actively used for professional communication. Correspondents and columnists share their articles with friends and subscribers to generate active discussions and attract interest to their journalist’s work. Facebook is also a good place to look for speakers and establish contacts with PR people and media representatives. Some PR specialists use the FB’s chat to invite journalists to a press conference. As a result, the process of inviting media could takes less than 15 minutes.

Press feed — effective assistant to PR manager

Press feed is a very useful platform that connects journalists and companies’ representatives, who are responsible for communications. This is analogous to the English-language site Help Reporter Out (HARO). Media send requests via Press feed for expert commentary on particular topic, indicating the deadline and size of text they expect from the speaker. Companies could choose the topics in which they are the experts and send their comments via the platform. New speakers can quickly get into the pages of the media, and journalists can quickly find the experts when they have to cover the new topics. It’s fast way for new media just entering the market, or for regional publications that want to get a good expert from Moscow to comment.

TV vs. online media

A very limited number of media cover national-scale business news. Generally, Russian TV is politicized and strongly controlled by the state. Only the business TV channel, RBC, offers mostly paid formats. Local radio stations broadcast entertaining programs and music, as well as the main economic and political news. The number of national-level publications is constantly shrinking as they are constricted by online media, and the economic difficulties in the country led to further reduction of the number of advertisers. All prints are actively developing online formats. The number of news portals is constantly increasing, although in reality the number of high-professional news sites can be counted on fingers.

Journalists cook analytics

The peculiarity of the Russian media is that they are more likely than their Western counterparts to take ready-made research and analysis, publish the results of investigations. The more sensational results — the more publicity they will get. Foreign journalists may request information sources, additional data, and comments from study participants, so they prefer to dig around themselves. Russian journalists do not like to dig and analyze the information themselves, but are happy to use the prepared analytical documents. This approach of the Russian press, of course, makes life specialists in public relations easier in some ways.

Good deeds are done best in silence

It has become a tradition in Russia that good things are best done in silence; therefore it is very difficult to promote charitable projects in the media. Journalists who offer to cover the projects do not always refer approvingly.

Written by Elena Kuznetsova