KIEV—Many of the leading public relations industry leaders in Ukraine have joined together to create the Ukraine Crisis Media Center, which will attempt to “amplify Ukraine’s voice in the international media” as the country deals with the fallout from Russia’s attempts to annex the country’s Crimea region.
The Media Center is a pro-bono initiative which brings together senior executives from some of Ukraine’s leading public relations firms—including PRP, CFC Consulting, RAM Advertising, Plus One Digital and Atlantic Group—and non-governmental organizations including the Yalta European Strategy Conference, a public diplomacy group focused on Ukrainian issues.
According to Ivanna Klympush-Tsyntsadze, director of the Yalta European Strategy Conference, “As a group we felt that there was continuous and targeted misinterpretation of the facts and real situation by the Russian media. We felt obliged to respond to everyday cynical untruthful propaganda in Russian media—also broadcasting very aggressively in Ukraine—about the developments here.”
The effort was necessary, she says, because of the “non-existing information policy” of the fledgling Ukrainian government.
In contrast, the Russian government has a powerful public relations operation, even though Ketchum—which has come under fire for its work for the country—says its work “continues to focus on supporting economic development and investment in the country” and that it is not involved in foreign policy.
“Ukraine has only recently came to the radar of the international community,” says Nataliya Popovych, president of PRP Group and a leader of the initiative. “For many media and experts it continues to be terra incognita…. Ukraine has never had any systemic effort to raise its profile among the international community, while Russia, since Soviet times, has a pretty strong voice in the international media and among experts.”
She points to the difficulty that organizations such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have experienced gaining access for monitoring missions, reported beatings of Ukrainian reporters in Crimea, and hostile reactions to CNN film crews and says: “We feel that the platform of the Center, which brings together for regular briefings authorities, experts, international organizations, political, civic and public leaders… could help facilitate more profound understanding of the situation and therefore informed opinion and coverage.”
Popovych says the crisis has had a mixed impact on day-to-day public relations activities in Ukraine. While some companies are “putting on hold some corporate marketing activities which under circumstances would be irrelevant to the public,” others have required support with both internal and external communications “explaining their view of the events or [efforts] helping them to live through a period of major change.”