De Ru

PR in Russia: How does it differ from Germany?

19 June 2018

To understand how much PR in Russia differs from Germany, a look at the most popular information channels is helpful. Here, the local social networks VKontakte and Odnoklassniki, as well as the search engine Yandex, are the leading sources of information. The Internet has long since outstripped television in terms of advertising budgets - not to mention traditional newspapers and magazines.

In contrast to Germany, the number of influential, regional specialized media (print and online) in Russia is by no means large. Due to high production and personnel costs as well as an unwillingness among customers to pay for content, such media are simply not able to survive. The editorial offices of the largest national publishing houses and television stations are concentrated in the two cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg. As a PR consultant, therefore, you have to prevail against all other market participants concerning the volume and placement of your content on the printed page (or the screen).

Of course, working with national media is not everything, and for an effective campaign, it is important to reach all regions, which cover a total of eleven time zones. Just like the German federal states, the subjects of the Russian Federation also have their own characteristics. Cities differ considerably in terms of salaries, traditions and even preferred social networks. Building effective communication should, therefore, vary from region to region. For example, in response to a press release, a particular medium might send you an offer to carry advertising for you. However,  a press conference organised jointly with the local administration and a local news agency would be much more effective. Sometimes it is also a good idea to sponsor a local national holiday or a campaign on VKontakte.

If your work does not have such a broad, geographical sweep, be prepared to build long-term relationships with journalists and do not try to fob them off with sparse press releases. Instead, help your contacts to immerse themselves in the topic, convince them of your point of view and provide access to the best experts. Otherwise, journalists will not be able to credibly convey the relevance of your topic or you risk them writing an inaccurate article.

However, personal friendships are often more important. Invitations to events and parties, congratulations and gifts at New Year and on International Women's Day on 8 March, as well as a casual chat over a beer in a pub on a Friday evening are part of the common relations between PR people and journalists in Russia. Although such relations do not guarantee or commit anyone to anything, your calls and emails are likely to be answered sooner and not be deleted unread. Furthermore, access to exclusive materials or a joint search for topics or useful comments and news may result from such a relationship. The downside of this, however, is that the private and professional spheres can become very intertwined.

At the same time, negative comments or ratings from customers, employees or journalists spread within seconds in the social networks and from there quickly find their way into the mass media. Russian users are used to companies and brands having to promptly respond to any request on their social networking sites and to the customer always being right. It is not uncommon for offended users to have a hugely negative impact a company's rating (for example through dislikes on Facebook) with the support of bloggers and other opinion leaders who have a large number of subscribers (for example, journalists or business people). For this reason, many companies monitor social networks and new media around the clock and set up their own support services for this purpose.

Largely due to the popularity of social networks, the personal pages of a company's employees often work better than websites or mailings. Their posts spread, turn into relevant news and thus become the basis for articles in the traditional media. At the same time, an employee’s opinion in a post or commentary is regarded as the position of the company, which often causes legal disputes and even dismissals. Large companies, therefore, create their own policies that recommend the right behaviour in social networks to their employees.

Here are a few observations about the Russian market, which you will find useful, in case you decide to conduct a PR-campaign:

  1. What types of news “works” in Russia? Exclusive information, important figures, and research results, a personal brand (at a very high level), emotional stories (positive and negative).
  2. If you have sold a press release as an advertisement, you run the risk of always being seen as the advertiser. This means that a commercial media department can prevent you from naming your brand or your company unless you pay for this exposure.
  3. The speed of reaction to journalists' requests should be - in their opinion at any rate - extremely quick, no matter what the day or time of day. Calling your mobile late on Saturday night or on Sunday is completely normal for many.
  4. If you are releasing news under embargo, make sure the journalist has correctly understood the date and time and that he accurately read the embargo. This also applies even if – and especially if – the release is exclusive to him or her.
  5. The right timing has a great influence on your business. It does not make sense to do launches and announcements in the last two weeks of December and the first three weeks of January (the time of the New Year holidays), nor on the weekend between the first and ninth of May. Information that has piled up during public holidays is seen as outdated.

In addition to the above, essential aspects that also need to be taken into account when preparing a PR campaign are special features of legislation and the law-making process, government relations, the current socio-political situation, trends in the Internet and social networks, stakeholder opinions and much more.

Useful links:

- Media citation ratings: http://www.mlg.ru/ratings/

- Resource for journalists to request comments: https://pressfeed.ru

The original version of the article was published: https://www.pressesprecher.com/nachrichten/public-relations-auf-russisch-138369191