public relations sector in Russia is relatively young and
significantly differs from PR in Europe and the US. It came into
existence in the turmoil of the early 1990s and had to develop
during a period of smear campaigns, when politicians and
corporations used PR instruments to discredit their rivals.
The people’s trust in public
relations was undermined in the very beginning by such
campaigns: “PR specialist” virtually became a swear word as well
as a synonym to “liar.” However, the relative stability that was
established in the early 2000s triggered further development of
the public relations sector in a more positive direction.
Universities opened PR departments
that trained highly qualified specialists, and public relations
management became a respectable profession. By that time, PR
agencies gained enough experience to develop a PR ethics code.
Now, the public relations sector in Russia has finally been
established, and a strong professional community has been
What is the current situation? In 2010, the volume of the PR
market in Russia reached almost $2.38 billion; fees of reputable
PR agencies totaled approximately $3-10 million, and every year
this amount is still increasing. In 2011, 37% of Russian
companies allocated larger budget shares to public relations
support than in the previous year.
The average annual growth of this
market segment is approximately 30%, mostly due to new PR
products that are being introduced to the market. Several years
ago, public relations in Russia mostly implied working with the
mass media, holding press conferences and corporate events,
while today it involves creation of well-thought communication
strategies, reputation research, social media marketing and
other up-to-date techniques.
However, there are some problems in Russian PR market. One of
them is that many companies confuse PR with advertising, and
their marketing department employees also perform the functions
of public relations managers. Moreover, such employees often
have to achieve marketing objectives set forth by company
management, and nobody cares whether such goals are what the
company actually needs.
In this situation, it is virtually
impossible to work out and consistently implement a good public
relations strategy. Consequently, such companies can lose
valuable market opportunities.
A good number of businesses still prefer to use the services of
specialized PR agencies, but the mentality of Russian customers
complicates cooperation: they expect an overnight miracle and
quickly become disappointed. Their motto is: “We want it to be
done yesterday, perfectly and inexpensively!”
However, any efficient strategy of
reputation building implies months of scrupulous and creative PR
work: apart from attraction of the target audience’s attention
to the brand, it involves building harmonious relations with
various social groups, organization of newsworthy events, image
management and many other tasks. It takes time, but results in
customers’ loyalty and commercial success. Is this not what
every company wants to achieve?
Our customers often want to have everything at once. Very few of
them understand that their goal cannot be achieved in a week.
Most people think that PR means publications in top
publications, high brand awareness and increased sales; in fact,
implementation of a public relations strategy is a slower
process and takes at least half a year.
If a company is developing
dynamically, and if it takes part in various field-specific
events, releases new products, tries to be closer to the target
audience and actively informs the public about it, such a
company is on the right track. With the help of a competent PR
specialist, it will achieve the desired results: a good
reputation, loyal customers, and higher profit.
Research results from Harvard University business school confirm
this explicitly. They show that over the last 11 years,
companies from all over the world, which concentrated on
building their reputation, increased their income by 682%,
profit by 756%, and the number of their staff grew by 282%.
In contrast, companies that ignored
reputation issues showed the following results: 166%, 1% and 36%
respectively. It is hard to escape the conclusion that PR
support is a very efficient way of increasing brand awareness
and, subsequently, company income.
Yet what can we say about prospects of foreign PR agencies in
Russia? According to research, Russian and foreign public
relation companies use different techniques and methods. The
“Western” approach is more formalized, as opposed to the Russian
one, which is based on intuition rather than on methodology. It
should be noted, though, that some Russian agencies try to work
in a more rational way and master “Western” techniques.
Obviously, Russian PR companies have some competitive
advantages: they know the peculiarities of their market segment,
as well as their customers’ mentality; therefore, they better
understand the needs of their target audience. Moreover, they
have certain contacts in the right places, and their services
cost significantly less.
Nevertheless, foreign PR companies are still able to meet the
competition in the Russian market, since they have more
expertise and use cutting-edge PR technologies. Moreover, they
treat their customers with more responsibility, and their work
process is usually well-arranged and very effective. Foreign
agencies can take advantage of the fact that the Russian PR
segment has not yet developed clear standards, and it entails
unreliability and bureaucracy.
As for the market breakdown, at
present, political consultation prevails in Russian public
relations, comprising about 60-70% of PR services. The other
30-40% is divided between social and business PR services.
To sum up, the public relations sector in Russia has significant
potential for further development. The analysis of its
peculiarities has shown that foreign PR companies can enter the
Russian market and successfully compete with Russian agencies,
if their high prices are justified by the rational approach,
reliability and efficiency.
Marina Maslovskaya is director of
SoftPressRelease in Russia.
You can email her at
or follow her on Twitter @SoftPR
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