Letter from Russia
by Inna Semenyuk
I live and work in one of the most exciting cities - in the capital of Russia: Moscow! Living my agency life through client and media meetings, emails, press releases, interviews, events, Twitter and Facebook I must say that Moscow is a really active business city with a dynamic business environment, and PR and new media is becoming an integrated area of many companies' business.
They often say that one of key features of Russia is its location: partly in Europe, and partly in Asia. It definitely influences the overall culture, lifestyle, politics and economics and, naturally, communications.
In PR, European Russia is in: global companies presence and productive communications with Russian media, international media brands operating in the market, and developing ethics in communications, both from the companies' and from journalists' side.
However, there are many more 'Asian' features you could find in PR business in Russia, such as: political background to major announcements and media stories (in national and business media), editorials coverage linked to consumer coverage (in consumer media), and unfortunately - even now many companies buy coverage acting in non-ethical way.
Working in PR in Russia means finding ways to overcome the challenges and by one's high quality work, expertise and ethical approach building the industry standards:
Educate the journalists about ethical communications companies conduct and explaining how journalists can benefit from working with PR agencies.
Developing interesting news-breaks and stories for media so that journalists would realise the difference between PR and advertising.
Educating clients on what would appeal to Russian media and how we should communicate that.
And the last but definitely not least - when you are in Russia, it's all about Russia. Journalists see a story only through a Russian angle - and that's a very important point to understand. Whether it's a case study, feature story, interview, major investment announcement - it should be strongly linked to Russia: what it means for the country/industry, what benefits it brings and what change it would make for Russia. Might sound egoistic - but that's what it is!
From Russia with...
P.S. Oh, and if you finally come and work in Russia, be prepared to demonstrate flexibility and work long hours – 'Moscow never sleeps!'...
Which good contact points/online networks/local organisations can you recommend to get more information on local PR?
Most valuable understanding of PR in Russia you would get by coming here and spending a few months 'in the fields', seriously! Before you come to Moscow, you might want to check our company's Thinkpieces on various aspects of communications, Public Affairs and GR in Russia. If you appear to speak/read Russian, check out the following online sources for PR people: www.sovetnik.ruand www.sostav.ru.
How well recognised is the need for PR in Russia?
Russian modern PR industry (let's disregard Soviet propaganda that is a totally different story but a very interesting one!) is quite young - it's around 15-20 years old, and it's still under development. While most of the international companies present in Russia have in-house PR reps or PR agencies representing their communications interests in Russia, traditional Russian companies have a long way to go and learn, understand, accept and start doing PR.
How important is use of the internet/social media in Russia?
The number of Internet users in Russia is more the the population of Sweden (no offence to Swedish people) but Internet penetration is high in big cities compared to smaller ones. And Social media are definitely trending in Russia nowadays! Russian people's top five choices are local Classmates web-site Odnoklassniki, Facebook's clone VKontakte, Facebook itself (localised in the Russian language), and blogs at Russian directory of LiveJournal, with Twitter coming up to become a trend in future. Social media wisely incorporated into overall communications programme of companies that have direct communications with consumers can make significant impact. We as a company realise that and that's why we have a dedicated team of social media professionals called Tiger Team - they seem know everything about Social media - globally and locally.
What do journalists respond to well (to include 'brown envelope payments' if applicable)?
Journalists respond well to having personal contact (we know who this journalist is, how long he or she has been working in this publication, we met him at various events, etc), PR people understanding the subject that journalist covers (approaching right people) and providing necessary localised information (going back to 'Russian angle').