Russian comms market survey — Pandemic edition

In May 2020, Buman Media together with the largest Russian online recruitment platform hh.ru conducted a research on the Russian communications market. 100 directors and corporate communications specialists took part in the survey. Traditionally, the annual research summarizes results of the previous year, but this time the respondents were asked about their activities during the pandemic.

Competencies

70% of respondents named crisis communications skill as the most important today. An ability to get on the top of the agenda was pointed out by 60% of respondents, and SMM skills were mentioned by 55%. Information search and analysis, work with opinion leaders, as well as remote work were mentioned as priority skills as well.

During self-isolation period PR-specialists were actively engaged in education. 44% of respondents attended different courses, including 32% studying communications and 32% studying topics unrelated to PR or marketing. Another 15% plan to study in the near future.

Olga Mets, PR and Marketing Director hh.ru: “Certainly, the whole situation with the pandemic had a very serious impact on PR and marketing communications: most companies had to adjust their communications, key messages and projects in just a few days, taking into account the new reality. No surprise that this “stress test” and “online life” brought forth such skills as anti-crisis, situational and “digital” communications. Now we can already see the first results proving that PR and marketing were once again effective and confirmed their value for business development, especially in crisis situations. This spring we saw illustrious cases of how equally successful PR-communications can be in broadcasting the well-being of companies and entire industries as well as in creativity and implementation of initiatives to support those who suffered most from the pandemic.This is when openness to collaborate and partner played a key role in communications during the crisis. The market has probably never seen so many great joint projects in PR and marketing.

Still, the objective reality had a negative impact on the labor market in PR, marketing and advertising: the number of vacancies for April-May decreased by 41% compared to last year, and the growth of CVs of specialists was 15%. The industry was not able to avoid job cuts. But we also see that many people dedicated this time to improving their skills and “pumping” their skills to increase their relevance on the current labor market.”

Priorities

The majority of specialists indicated the most important priorities for PR and marketing in the following ranking: tools and channels selection (61%), creating clear and engaging content (52%), crisis communications management (47%) and the content itself — the choice of message tone and its updating in accordance with the current agenda (31%). One third of respondents indicated that they would focus on MarTech (30%).

Strategies and objectives

When asked whether the communication strategy has changed, 34% of the companies stated that their PR strategy is being revised now, 27% — that they have already revised it. A little over a quarter of companies said they had only had a momentary reaction to what was happening, but overall, nothing has changed. The most noticeable short-term reaction was observed in the hospitality and restaurant businesses.

Visualized by Graph Visual Communications

Irina Gushchina, KFC PR-director for Russia, CIS, Central and Eastern Europe: “It is remarkable that the coronavirus epidemic has changed PR strategy of just one third of companies. Obviously, this suggests that most of them focused on immediate short-term reaction in a crisis situation, but more fundamental changes require a greater and better understanding of the consequences of the pandemic, which is not yet available. No one knows how the situation will develop even in the next couple of months, let alone the end of the year and beyond. This is the first time we aare in the situation where long-term planning is not possible, and it inevitably affects our strategies. But it is not clear yet how to adapt them to the new reality. Therefore, another third of respondents are still looking for solutions. Transformation is inevitable, even if it is not yet clear to everyone.”

Communication tools and channels

When choosing the most effective communication channels, specialists gave the first two places to social media (76%) and online media (56%). Opinion leaders and bloggers (40%) close the top-3. A new tool that entered the top this year is webinar (including live broadcasts in social media) — 35% of respondents included them in the list of the most effective channels. Industry events (including online) are also on the top list.

Visualized by Graph Visual Communications

Natalia Buchelnikova, CEO of Buman Media: “Whatever the specifics are, this crisis is like any other. First of all if we think about the PR specialist’s goal it remains the same: to be able to adapt as quickly as possible. This is the only way to stay on top. It also applies to agencies that suffered the most, but were able to leave the comfort zone, launching new services and increasing the value of the existing ones. At the same time, we do not see any strategic changes — social media and online media are still the headliners. And it is still important for a PR to be able to evaluate their performance and keep updated. Only by constantly developing and upgrading his skills will they be able to cope with this crisis and and any other.”

Companies and agencies

As for the first changes within PR-departments of companies, more than half of them said that nothing has changed significantly, a third noted that the structure has been changed. At the same time small companies of up to 50 employees were the least stable.

In addition, 11% of companies working with PR-agencies have frozen their retainers, another 11% have reduced them. At the same time 34% of the surveyed PR-agencies reported about reduction of budgets by the companies, 37% noted the number of clients decrease. 16% had to cut their employees’ salaries and 5% — to dismiss some of their employees.

It is noteworthy that the agencies actively responded to the changes. Thus, 33% of them started developing new areas, and 25% added new services.

Expenses

Most money in PR budgets is spent today on online events now. Also on the top list are special projects in media, advertising and promotion in social media, media content production and expenses on PR agency or consultant.

About the research

The survey was conducted by Buman Media and hh.ru Research Service from April 30 to May 25, 2020. 100 PR and marketing directors of companies operating in Russia and representing such areas as FMCG, IT, retail, finance, industry and others took part in the survey. The Buman Media Communications Market Research has been conducted annually since 2014. This initiative was awarded with the IN2 SABRE Awards EMEA in the category “Thought Leadership” in 2019.

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