Letter from Lithuania
by Andrius Kasparavičius
Andrius Kasparavičius MCIPR is the managing director of UAB Komunikacija ir konsultantai, an independent PR consultancy in Lithuania.
Located in north-eastern Europe, Lithuania is a tiny state best known for its achievements in basketball and technology, its archaic language, strong resistance to the Soviet Union, and exceptional dishes (such as potato sausages Vėdarai or Samogitian sour cream butter Žemaitiškas kastinys).
Mutual socialising for Lithuanians is one of the fundamental and vital elements in their lives. This is why we have kept the most archaic language of all Indo-Europeans and maintained an immense amount of folk songs, fairy tales, legends, sagas and riddles – we need to talk, to tell, to discuss. Thus it is no wonder that PR is nothing new in Lithuania. One of the first PR projects in the world was a campaign carried out by Edward Bernays (and mentioned in his book "Propaganda") on behalf of Lithuanian emigrants in the United States, aimed at encouraging the US government to recognise the young Republic of Lithuania, which had become independent in 1918.
Challenges of the PR practice in Lithuania
Today, having experienced a number of historical events that overwhelmed the country and left deep traces in its ethnic consciousness, Lithuania can be seen as a bridge between East and West. Some local media still operate like in the old times - where family ties, useful contacts, and money under the table are still important. For a PR practitioner from Western Europe, unaccustomed to paying for media coverage, dealing with such media outlets may be challenging.
There are, however, many media that operate according to higher standards. Here, honesty, transparency, authenticity, collaboration and consensus are greatly valued. For foreign PR practitioners, this type of media is easy to deal with. However, a good communicator willing to stay away from intrigues and achieve their client's objectives has to maintain a balance between "black" and "white" PR practices in Lithuania and use both types of media.
Technology and PR
Internet and social networks are especially popular nowadays and they help to reduce "black" PR. Here a successful practitioner is the one who is able to communicate freely and who values the truth irrespective of their budget.
Today, five or six major news sites, each with about 800.00 to one million unique visitors (total population is three million), compete for the reader's attention. Also, there are a number of subject-specific, blogging, dating and advertising websites. Facebook alone is used by more than a million Lithuanians. In general, content in social media is a fusion of the entertaining and the serious.
With the appearance of the internet and later the social media, Lithuanian press, radio and television had to change. Traditional media has simply run out of interactivity, thus one way or the other it had to move over to the internet – by launching online programme archives, voting in social networks, on-screen review of newspapers, etc. The changes in the media landscape were welcomed by practitioners of both "white" and "black" PR. Still, we in Lithuania are glad that the prevailing influences from the East get weaker and weaker and are gradually being superseded by the influence of more ethical practices from the West.
You can find out more about public relations in Lithuania by contacting the following organisations:
Location: On the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea.
Area: 65,300 sq. km.
Source: Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania in the UK.