«All the running to keep in the same place»: the new realities of Russian PR industry

Russian economy is going through a tough period, which is mirrored by the state of PR industry. Many companies are forced to stop long-term reputation investments and focus all their efforts on obtaining fast marketing results. Meanwhile, the comms boom continues. Terms such as «visualization», «SMM», «influencer», «big data» not only settle in the PR vocabulary, but are also transforming the landscape of the industry. All in all, PR pros are facing an extremely difficult task — to defend their “place in the sun” even during the times of total optimization. Natalia Buchelnikova, CEO of Moscow based comms agency Buman Media, talks about the skills you have to achieve in order to keep up with the changes.

Many companies in Russia cut off the image costs and focus on short-term goal of stimulating sales.

It is important to prove that PR can bring tangible profits. In order to do this, you must clearly define your audience and search for the new formats of building communication with it. As an example, we did a column on how to sale your startup successfully in collaboration with the executive director of the Vestor.In Partners Fund, Pavel Cherkashin. The “hot” topic for the Russian market and practical business value allowed our material to get in Forbes, and this, in turn, provided Vestor.In with an instant flow of new investors.

Another example from our practice is working with EC — a global network of language schools. The strategic goal was to increase brand awareness in Russia, but to top that we were faced with the need of immediate courses promotion during the summer period. As a solution, we have implemented a special project with a top Russian blogger Sasha Spielberg who went to the London EC School and released a series of YouTube diaries about her time in EC. The majority of her subscribers are schoolchildren and students, so the results were immediate — the mere release of the first teaser led to a wave of calls from Russian fans who wanted to come and study. Daily traffic on the official EC site has updated the historical maximum.

It is difficult to imagine modern comms campaign without high quality visuals, whether it is a series of infographics, videos or a game app.

Some Russian clients have more traditional approach to comms, hence, you must consult them and show the importance of visual element in achieving success. Other clients, on the contrary, are perfectly aware of this, and list of their demands increases accordingly. With Crate and Barrel we provide PR and website support, as well as social media management. The latter usually require good visual skills, especially when it comes to an interior design company — a very visual brand indeed. In order to meet these requirements, we employ versatile professionals who can easily create a slideshow for Instagram, Vine or postcard for Facebook, and train our existing staff.

Over the past few years the media market has changed beyond recognition.

The number of offline media is in constant decline. In order to reach our target audience we need to work with the online influencers. Moreover, you can’t simply choose the “biggest” star being on a limited budget. It’s important to do your research carefully, analyze the key consumer interests and find the brand ambassador with a clearly targeted, active and loyal audience.

In order to promote the new Adobe Creative Cloud in Russia, we proposed a joint project with a popular blogger and artist, Duran, whose audience is mostly made up of young «visuals». Duran drew comics specifically for Adobe, which made it to the weekly top of Russian twitter, gathered thousands of likes in social networks and increased Creative Cloud website traffic by several times.

PR needs continue to grow and media often fail to handle the flow of corporate information that falls on them.

As a solution, many companies have resorted to brand journalism — creating your own corporate content platform. It is important to understand that this approach requires more time and creative resources: content should be truly useful and interesting for the audience and format — lively and involving, whether it is a corporate video blog, a series of Medium notes or an on-board airline magazine. It’s not a place for advertising tricks and trite call-to-action. Keep in mind that you are competing with the media for the audience. Modern PR people not only work with journalists — they are becoming journalists and data analysts, reducing the number of links in the communication chain.

Many Russian customers are planning to enter new markets.

China, Latin America, the US, Europe. We must prepare ourselves to provide qualified international support to them. Personally, we hire fluent English speakers and collaborate with international PR networks. Being a member allows us to exchange insights with agencies from other countries. Thus, in times of crisis we have to literally expand business borders and boundaries.

Resume: 

To sum it up, the crisis is often called a time of new opportunities. Despite the fact that budgets are shrinking and many customers are reviewing their scopes of work, PR specialists shouldn’t lose heart. Whether we are going to become an “extra”, or transform our expertise to be one of the most effective marketing tools, depends only on ourselves. We are clearly here for the second option!

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