Postcard from Ukraine

The conflict in the country has squeezed PR budgets but at the same time created opportunities for the industry to evolve.

The ongoing armed conflict in eastern Ukraine has led to a dec­line in the economy and a dec­rease in PR budgets due to falling consumption and consumer incomes. Nonetheless there are a number of industry trends that should look familiar to any PR professional.

Growing demand for crisis comms; active use of digital comms; the growing importance of internal comms and the recognition of employees as the face of the brand; increasing involvement of new influencers and third party advocates for comms such as opinion leaders and bloggers; and multichannel storytelling.

Although these trends remain relevant, the context has been changing over the past year. The transformational events in Ukraine, including the ‘Revolution of Dignity’ and the subsequent political and economic crises, brought about radical changes to the domestic and international business environment. Ukrainians defen­ded their choice to move closer to Europe, and are now working to define the rules of the game for a new Ukraine. As new trends take shape, so does Ukraine’s PR industry.

Political events have created an environment where exchange of ideas and experience within the classic government-business-civil society triangle is becoming commonplace. Anti-corruption efforts have also created demand for new faces in government offices – attracting business professionals and activists. PR experts in Ukraine today have intimate understanding of all three types of stakeholder groups.

Ukraine’s PR industry is also ready to invest its resources, time and expertise in support of state institutions on a voluntary basis. This ranges from consulting and training to full-time involvement as top-level communication advisers and press officers.

The signing of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement has become a catalyst for domestic economic activity. As the government implements its programme of economic ref­orm and continues to reinforce its commitment to Europe, it also restores the trust and interest of international investors.

Ukraine’s agricultural, energy and IT sectors remain attractive for foreign investors and demonstrate growth even during crisis. The anticipated launch of the third generation of mobile telecoms technology (3G) is expected to boost economic growth, infrastructure and resources. For the PR industry, this means additional demand for comms and public campaigns on issues ranging from energy efficiency to human rights.

Finally, thanks to the explosive growth of civil society in Ukraine, top-level business executives and government officials are beginning to learn the value and power of public opinion. This understanding rein­forces demand for reputation management services as well as the overall value of PR in the eyes of market participants. In addition, adv­ocacy campaigns are becoming an increasingly popular and effective PR tool.

While the past year has been tumultuous for Ukraine, the transformational events also gave birth to opportunities. The Ukrainians eagerly work towards re-establishing peace; meanwhile, Ukraine’s PR industry has just entered a new stage of evolution.

Oksana Monastyrska is managing director at PBN Hill+Knowlton Strategies

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