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Articles / interview / PR-strategies in conditions of crisis
8 April 2009
PR-strategies in conditions of crisis

Main for each company in a crisis — not ”to hide a head in sand”, but correctly and confidently build communications with a clients. It is a condition of survival and success at the market. Valeriy Kureiko, founder and General Director of the Publicity Creating company, specialized on strategic communications and PR, tells about the secrets of PR-strategies in not simple terms.

What most meaningful changes were on a PR -market in connection with a crisis?

Absolutely, the quantitative changes of personnel happened, amount of employees was reduced. In some agencies — on 30-50, and even 70%. Now these people almost are on the street. The amount of PR-agencies, I would say, reduced not so strongly. We have counted 126 agencies during research in October of 2008 – today more than 100 from them work. Probably we can say that quality became worse, but the quantity remained. It’s on the first quarter of 2009. Ten of the best agencies will be remained by the end of 2009 also. Clients will try to find not only those agencies which survived but also those which give professional services. Therefore PR-specialists will improve quality of their services. A buyer today requires the main – marketing result from PR –activity and greater amount of services for less of money.

Companies cut down the budgets on advertising and PR-services. How it is perceptibly for you?

PR-budgets were reduced, but not cardinally — on the average, was happened a compression on 10-20%. But this tendency, probably, was already completed, because the conclusion of annual contracts made off already. In this case was a delay somewhere in a quarter, but in March confirmations finally came. At those, who confirmed a collaboration with our PR-agency, level of budgets already will not fall below.

Did the structure of clients change in connection with a crisis?

In October of 2008 we jointly with partners conducted research of PR-services market. Particularly, this research concerned to specialization of PR-operators on industries. As I talked already, 126 agencies were analyzed. In the structure of clients a financial sector appeared on the first place, on the second place - FMCG sector, on the third is a auto-moto market, next – retail. In October-November of this year we plan to conduct such research again and recognize the situation of 2009. But now I can say that hard times come to auto-moto and financial industries. Building and agrarian sector, with beginning a business-season, appeal to PR as the less expense that advertising type of communications actively.

What correlation of Ukrainian and foreign clients is in Publicity Creating?

In the half to half limits. Last five years keeps on near the such correlation. Sometimes there is 60 on 40 percents, but we aim to hold equally.

Did balance of PR-information mediums change in connection with a crisis?

Unconditional, PR works with printed mass-media. But now according to reduction of media-market (many editions closed, and amount of pages also got down) – so, a small outflow happened. The Internet broadened even so conditions. In addition, if information in editions depends on editors which skip it or not, Internet as a channel is allowed by almost every report to place on many resources, including outside Ukraine (for example, in the Russian-language area). The internet in this plan is more democratic. Year by year it’s role in PR increases. Recently PR-specialists notice that it is needed to attend social networks, blogs etc., where it is possible to talk, discuss… I consider that a meaning of PR 2.0 is exaggerated, and it is simple contribution to the fashion. In blogs, social networks rushed ad men which talk: «We will promote your goods!», not understanding that users negatively behave to advertising and oppose advertising influence. Often I hear criticism that many discussions are in the Internet are made to order. The big part of called «discussions, «independent opinions» and «consumer ratings» is directed. Many blogs unfortunately become like a «black holes», where every ethics is lost. With all of this the second important component — official face of the company — is often lost. If some crises are in company or it offers new products, new services — people forget about press-releases, about the articles, interview etc. In addition, last two years we suggest our clients not only use a text, but also video, audio, photo. Now serious attention is spared it, and the Internet allows it to do. But in our of communication programs for clients are present practically all mass medias.

Publicity Creating is the first Ukrainian PR-agency, Your at the market from 1998. When was it more difficult to work — in 1998 or now?

Certainly, then it was more difficult to work, because practically it was not a market. Then was present 2-3 network agencies and one Ukrainian, then entered yet pair or three... We hade to explain many people, what is promotion, supporting, and what is PR. When we sent a press-release, some leading now business editions ask a question «What is it?».

The last few years your agency are one of the most public at the market, very much heard about it. What is a secret of your strategy?

Really, we are the company, which promote not only clients, but also itself as a professional operator of PR-market. Now we work according to a three-year strategic plan. So it is that case, when a «cobbler wears the best shoes ».

Not so a long ago you said about intention to create the association of PR-operators...

Such association is already, and is named Ukrainian PR-alliance. We created this association together with the PR-bureau «Dieslovo» and «Bureau of Marketing Technologies». There are not formal moments, for example payments, staff, office etc. - only practical steps on development of industry. Now we just accept the work-plan on 2009, according to the program «Ukrainian PR». We offer to all interested, healthy forces of PR-industry to arrive, sit down for round table and, for example, say: «We need quantitative market research», or it is «needed to form reputation of the Ukrainian PR-agencies». Let it to do, getting a concrete result, and pay for it equally. Unfortunately, there are enough foreign pseudomissionaries and local amateurs at the market already. And they and engaged in mainly talks and squabbles…

Among services of your company is there, particularly, an actual «anti-crisis management». Where in it’s essence?

There is in the byword, that clients mass will order anti-crisis programs. But it’s lie. It is late to accept a vaccine, when illness began already. It’s need to do beforehand, like a crisis too. But elements of the anti-crisis programs, like preparation of personnel, certain messages must be included in the program of company promotion on a half-year or year.
We started anti-crisis work to for our clients as far as October, when it became clear that a crisis is in Ukraine. We held the proper meetings with all companies with which we have long-term relations — three years, sometimes eight years of co-working… And we said: if you are closed, you don’t need us, if you plan to work, you need us, because we really will support and help. Separately we might to be like «psychologists». PR-specialists in general must be ideologists, but not simply « executors», in fact from competent informative and PR-politicians depends a great deal.
The programs and informative models, which we offered were oriented to the key audiences – consumers, personnel, partners and investors. But the lion's share of PR-agencies before the crisis was practically busy only by press-mediation, and yet by show-events. Such agencies not needed now.
During the first quarter of the year we already held 3-4 conferences on different directions. In conditions of crisis the amount of requests on participating in such events was increased. Before from one hundred declared on participating could arrive on a conference from 50 to 70 percons. And now on all dealer’s events appearance is near hundred percent. People understand clearly, that they must arrive and get new information, hear producers, distributors, how those will work with dealers in new conditions. People arrive for receipt of knowledge. Value of new technologies and knowledge increased obviously. Today nobody needs to be convinced of necessity of similar events, because contacts today are very important. PR-specialists must inspire a confidence. If 70-80 percent of companies at the market are not sure of theairs strength, your client is selected in this row by it confidence. And it is positively influence on sales.
Now is a crisis of the banking system. What must a banker do? He must not hide from creditors and depositors. On the contrary, he must go to several branches and talk with depositors, he must do some steps towards to the clients. Only what disturb the clients, when it will be possible to get their money back. And a banker must answer on it as far as the receipt of information. It infuses with a confidence in an audience. In this case id doesn’t hurry for the money and doesn’t beat a bank’s windows.
Or, let’s consider public organizations or associations. Today they are required to defend interests of industry. And associations must appeal to the PR-professionals, but many of them are amateurs, tread on informative rakes again and again. But whether the crisis will teach operators of different markets and PR-specialists – we’ll see later.