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As the saying goes, any mentioning in the press, even a negative one, except for obituary notice of course, is advertisement. Nowadays, this expression has been modernized and reads: everything is PR except for obituary notice. On the eve of the Day of PR specialist - July 28 - ForUm has decided to get to the bottom of Public Relations a la Ukraine.
What is PR?
Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing the spread of information between an individual or an organization and the public. Public relations may include an organization or individual gaining exposure to their audiences using topics of public interest and news items that do not require direct payment. The aim of public relations by a company often is to persuade the public, investors, partners, employees, and other stakeholders to maintain a certain point of view about it, its leadership, products, or of political decisions. Common activities include speaking at conferences, winning industry awards, working with the press, and employee communication.
Public relations professionals present the public face of an organization or individual, usually to articulate its objectives and official views on issues of relevance, primarily to the media. Public relations contributes to the way an organization is perceived by influencing the media and maintaining relationships with stakeholders.
Some academics believe the origins of public relations date back to ancient civilizations, such as Rome, Greece and Egypt. In Rome military leaders documented their deeds to persuade the public to support their political candidacy and many of the principles of persuasion were established by Greek philosophers. Gospel writers practiced audience segmentation by creating alternate versions of their gospels and the term "propaganda" was founded by Pope Gregory XV in relation to his use of trained missionaries to spread Christianity. In Ancient Russia there were messengers-heralds, who spoke in markets and reported decrees of princes.
PR a la Ukraine
In modern Ukraine, Public Relations started developing relatively recently - after the collapse of USSR and following independence. It is considered high-prestige and profitable to work in the PR sphere. In Ukraine there are many educational institutions, trainings and courses teaching PR specialists.
President of PR-agency Bohush Communications Denis Bohush states that Ukraine has its own PR and PR specialists, who do not copy the actions of foreign aces, but are able to present high-quality product for intellectuals of domestic production. "In fact, Ukrainian PR specialists have take their rightful place and work hard. Moreover, they are numerous. During local elections, for example, there were about 100 thousand election campaign held simultaneously, and someone had to carry them out. There are more than two thousand political strategists and PR specialists in Ukraine," he says.
In turn, chairman of the management board of the Institute of Ukrainians politics Kost' Bondarenko assures that Ukraine does have decent domestic product to present, and there are serious structures producing it. What we call PR includes a little bit of everything - political technologies as well as publication of articles for money. "There are no clear frames. Everything about creating an image, myths, news hooks, etc. is called PR. During election campaigns we have political PR. If there is a business-interest it will be a corporative PR. The only thing we do not have is PR of Ukraine abroad. Nobody pays for the job, and PR specialists to do hurry to promote our country," he told ForUm.
Serhiy Gaidai, specialist on political advertisement, adds that it is impossible for Ukraine not to work with public opinion. The matter is, however, that Ukrainian PR is always critical.
"In stable societies there are rules and standards of work with public opinion. For example, if you make a press conference and have prepared properly the press release, mass media will report about you and information will be delivered. In Ukraine, though, nothing is guaranteed. We have a continuous crisis, and PR companies must be always ready for changes and adaptation. Thus, those who work in Ukraine under such conditions are better prepared and stronger than any foreign specialists, because working in comfortable conditions of a stable society is one thing, but working under critical conditions of transition in a county is completely different. It is wrong to think that PR campaigns are held only during elections. Time is the most important resource, as people do not absorb information in one second. Smart specialist works always regardless of who the client is: a political force, a public organization or a commercial structure. At the same time, in Ukraine it often happens that we start working at a pinch, when a client finally realizes certain public opinion must be formed, but it is already too late, and we have to act urgently, here and now," the political strategist explains.
Editions publishing job offers and vacancies usually report about from three to fifteen thousand hryvnias salary. However, leading specialists of the sphere do not look for a job through mass media publications and their salaries are way bigger. According to Bondarenko, top specialists earn 5-10 thousand dollars per months, and even more during election campaign. Bohush also confirms there is no fixed salary for a PR specialist. "The beginners agree to dump prices and work for pennies to make the name, while other companies charge hundreds of thousand dollars per month."
ForUm has also asked experts about records and the most expensive PR campaigns ever held in Ukraine. According to Gaidai, it is the improvement of image of Viktor Pinchuk and System Capital Management (SCM) company.
Bohush, in turn, says that record-breakers are those companies which wasted money. "The matter is not about the total sum, but about quality-to-efficiency ratio. I believe the biggest money has been paid to Russian political strategist for promoting the Team of Winter Generation (2002-2004). Back then, expenses were unreasonably high. More recent example concerns Natalia Korolevska: huge money was spend on her absolutely inefficiently during last parliamentary elections," he said.
Bondarenko believes that the most expensive camping is presidential campaign of 2004. "Both sides spend about 1.5-2 billion dollars. Then the crisis stroke and prices fell down. Presidential campaign of 2015 will be relatively money-saving, even cheaper than the campaign of 2010. The record of 2004 will hardly be beaten in the near future."
What PR specialists are in bigger demand?
As we can see, Ukraine has sufficient number of own PR specialists, both beginners and aces. Nevertheless, it is a well-known fact that our fellow citizens prefer import, including import of PR specialists. "Some people like to show off that they have French, American or Russian specialist. At the same time, the far it goes, the more Ukrainian specialists get engaged for the job. The PR market in Ukraine shrinks."
Bondrenko has his own opinion. "With every passing year less and less foreigners get engaged by Ukrainian clients. The fact is that foreign specialists, even the best ones, often cannot understand the specifics of our problems and offer failing schemes. "Last parliament election almost no foreign companies were engaged into PR political campaign. Everything was made by Ukrainian hands. Speaking about presidential elections, the Party of Regions campaign headquarters had American political strategist Paul Manafort , but only as a consultant and adviser, not head of the campaign. BYuT campaign headquarters used services of AKPD, founded by David Axelrod, but also only for consultations," he said.
Bondarenko added that the only presidential candidate promoted by foreigners was Arseniy Yatsenuyk. "And look what happened...". As a reminder, Russian PR company tried to change the image of Yatsenuyk from the intellectual in glasses to a "strong arm" and savior of the country, but failed. People simply did not understand and did not accept the idea. Mass media wrote that even Areniy Yatsenuyk himself was disappointed with the results of the campaign in "military" style.
Truth is stranger than fiction
No need to say that PR a la Ukraine exists regardless of what we think about it. Every PR specialist has his own mistakes, experience, clients, market and even professional holiday, on which ForUm congratulates them. Taking advantage of the opportunity, ForUm wants to remind both PR specialists and customers about a phrase once said by Mark Twain: "Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't."