How has the PR industry changed in Kiev?
The media landscape, media use patterns, and thus communications have changed rapidly. With traditional print media losing its audience and closing down, we have witnessed the rise of online media.
Prior to the [November 2013] Maidan revolution, ex-President Viktor Yanukovych’s family was spending a lot of money acquiring independent media. The journalists who have left those publishing houses are now actively building the new media landscape, creating mostly online magazines, news portals, and information firms.
Ad budgets have shrunk because of the 2014 economic downturn, which has forced agencies and the media market to start measuring communications efficiency very carefully.
How has the conflict with Russia impacted business in the region?
The short-term effect has been devastating for many businesses relying on borrowed capital and exported goods, primarily because of currency exchange rates. The conflict in the two Eastern regions of Ukraine has also impacted the heavy industry, production plants, and agricultural companies with facilities in the areas.
However, the European Union association agreement has opened new markets in the EU and beyond for many businesses previously concentrated on the easy-to-go-to Russian market. We’re seeing huge interest from foreign investors – Ukraine has a population of more than 40 million and is rich in natural resources.
The new government is working to eliminate corruption and move Ukraine up the ratings on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index. [Ukraine was ranked 140 on the list in 2013.]
What role has communications had to play?
PR has been vital in the period of Maidan, as peer-to-peer communications have become the basis of the protests and volunteer movements. The new government is struggling to restructure its outdated communications systems – both internally and outside of Ukraine.
PR agencies and consultancies played a big role by creating a Crisis Media Center just after the revolution. Run by a dozen private communications firms and independent consultants, it became, and still is, one of the main vehicles for outreach outside of Ukraine to foreign media and communities.
Right now, many agencies run volunteer projects to help the government, army, and refugees. Conferences and events on building business and PR and communications have been very active recently.
How are citizens using social media?
Facebook, Twitter, and a Russian Facebook lookalike VKontakte and Odnoklassniki (Classmates) are the most popular in Ukraine, with more than 40 million accounts registered by August 2014.
Twitter has grown considerably with the number of accounts rising by 50% during the period of civil unrest.
Volunteer groups, activists, businesses, and politicians are using social media platforms to connect, promote, and influence decisions. A big breakthrough has been the fact that the president and many ministers and government officials are on Facebook and engaging in conversations with the community directly.
How easy is it to find PR talent?
The industry is quite young. Very few agencies date back more than 10 years and formal PR education has been in place for just more than five years.
As a result, the communications industry recruits staff from other sectors – from journalism and business analytics to engineering and social sciences. This creates a great mix. The economic downturn was beneficial for those hiring, but with future growth this will turn into an employee’s market.
What do PR pros need to understand about Kiev?
The media market changes rapidly, so it’s best to stay in contact with journalists. Social media is often the fastest way to pitch a story.
TV opportunities are rare and editorial policies often forbid mentioning a brand name.
Local businesses are yet to be educated on the value of PR and building a reputation.
American Chamber of Commerce
Horizon Park Business Center
12 Amosova Street, 15th Floor
Kiev 03680, Ukraine
European Business Association – PR unit
1st floor, 1A Andriyivsky
Uzviz, Kiev 04070, Ukraine
Crisis Media Center
Hotel Ukrayina, 3rd floor
4 Instytuts’ka Street