Russian PR straddles East and West: says Vinci Agency's Alexander Izryadnov

In our series of international PR snapshots sourced from tech focused PR network 'With Global Alliance', we bring you how PR in Russia differs from other countries.

India and Russia have had a long association with ties built specially around defence association and the export of tea as well as a common socialist approach to nation building; there is scope for improving economic ties between the two countries as trade levels remain low.

In this opinion piece Alexander Izryadnov, CEO and co-founder, Vinci Agency explains what PR in Russia is like for Indian companies who wish to access the Russian market.

Russian PR has developed a unique approach that straddles the divide between East and West

Russian PR has a “special way,” one that has grown out of its geographical position between the West and the East, and despite the steamrollering uniformity of globalization, one that places great emphasis on adapting to unique national characteristics while harnessing global trends in accelerated information flows.

Person-to-person approach

One of the key features of PR coming out of Russia is the focus on a person-to-person approach. The essence of this approach is that we are gradually moving away from B2B and B2C communications as categories, that is replacing abstract consumer and business audiences, with a person who often adopts different roles such as making a decision on a product, using it, and/or influence the opinion of others. This personalization also applies to the brands themselves. Consumers want to see real, living people behind the name of the company and the product not some glossy or bland message that tells you very little about a company. This is why material and content that lifts the lid and reveals how a company operates behind the scenes are very popular. People want to see the team, their office space, how key people operate, how they deal with crises and make decisions and how they build the company from the inside out.

Growing role of influencers

Another aspect of this person-to-person approach is the growing role of influencers and brand advocates. These aren’t people paid by a company to represent their interests; rather they are those who stand under a banner on their own initiative and speak to their audiences. These people can’t be attracted simply by sending out releases or publishing columns every six months, rather they stand up and voice their messages only through regular and consistent brand communication. Always on, consistent communication is another trend in Russian PR. A growing number of companies are approaching us with requests for organizing a permanent presence in the wide world of information flows. They don’t want pieces of content published in Forbes every now and then. They want to be seen and heard as much as possible. 

  New media and multi channels

The role of new media is growing all over the world and Russia is no exception. But we have our own reasons for being interested in this type of channel and this is due to the limited number of media outlets in Russia. For instance if there are more than 200 mass media channels covering technology topics in Brazil, then we have less than a dozen of them. This encourages Russian brands to turn to platforms such as Telegram, YouTube or Yandex.Zen in their communications, as they not only convey their messages to the audience, but also endow it with dynamic emotional vibes given that each of these channels has its own focus and unique formats.

Traditional Media still most important 

But despite the growing importance of new media, traditional media still has more significance in Russia than any other channel and accordingly they enjoy greater trust from audiences. As such it is premature to talk about the displacement of news outlets by social networks and messenger platforms. 

Harsh Russian PR

Another feature of Russian PR is the low degree of emotionality. This trend is consistent with the common stereotypes about our country; a harsh climate and people who never smile. For instance, there is no place for lyrical digressions in brand messages since we concentrate solely on the information that needs to be conveyed. And this applies not only to news but also to expert columns or stories about a team. As an example, case studies must carry some kind of practical benefit for the readers. In particular, this is one of the main requirements of the media. You will never come across the word “excited” in a press release. Instead, there will be several arguments as to why an event has value. Even when discussing future technology developments they are almost always accompanied by numbers and references to research materials making them closer to scientific publications. In general, our manner of communication is direct and less expressive. That said there is still room for emotions in messages as new media channels illustrate.

With these factors taken into consideration it’s our default setting to familiarize our clients with each market’s unique characteristics. When we help a company into a new territory we place great emphasis on adapting messages to reflect the realities and expectations of the country in question. This is not just about getting pitch, tone, content nuances and messaging angles right it’s also about volume. For example, in Russia, opinion pieces and thought leadership columns are usually much shorter and more concentrated than they are in the West. Therefore, if we need to publish material for a Russian company in the US, with its wider market, we deliberately deconstruct the message to amplify the number of touch points it will reach.

Similarities and differences

Naturally, Russian PR cannot be isolated from global trends and in many ways it is actually inching closer to them, for instance the speed of reaction to events and news hijacking in particular. We use large events too to remind readers of ourselves and we also promptly process any news feeds. Information becomes public much faster and it is impossible today to send out a press release under embargo a month before its publication. This is the information age so anything that happens at noon should be in print by four o'clock.

The rapid acceleration of information processing affects the internal communications of PR agencies as well. We no longer use emails to communicate with clients and journalists, to exchange documents and work with them. Chats in instant messengers have replaced emails. They allow us to reduce the time needed to resolve any issues because the speed of reaction in a chat is much higher. A message in Telegram is easier to notice and it is much easier to respond to during a journey on the subway or while standing in line in a store. Besides, a chat is much more convenient for communication among several people at once. This trend will eventually prevail around the world given that instant messaging platforms are developing fast and are becoming more convenient. This also reflects the increased pace of life around the globe and it’s the role of PR to harness these dynamics for the benefit of clients.

Alexander Izryadnov, CEO & Co-Founder at Vinci Agency,

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