Inna Dubrovina is a Deputy Director of PR Department of Eurasian Bank JSC.
- Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed for Communications KZ, a professional portal about corporate communications. Let us start with a traditional question: what is your definition of PR?
- I shall answer as I was taught in KIMEP University, though it all was in English, but I'll try to answer in Russian language (I still remember it): PR is a management function that builds and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and its publics, which, someway or other, form its success or failure. The PR objective is to create a favorable image of an organization in the minds of TA (target audience).
- What is your vision of the role of corporate communications in the company?
- Company positioning in the market, creating and maintaining a favorable image of the company and its management, gaining customer loyalty, working with the mass media - all these activities are for the sake of the company.
However, we shall keep in mind the corporate culture, building relationships within an organization, as well as motivations of its employees being the primary conductors of the "perfect" company image that we would like to convey to our external audiences. And the creation of long-term reputation is absolutely essential for retaining leadership positions in a highly competitive market.
But it should also be noted that corporate communications must act in unison with the company's business strategy.
- Marketing and PR specialists quite often get into debates about the relations between PR and Marketing. Marketing specialists think that PR shall be a structural division of Marketing, but PR specialists firmly believe that PR shall be a separate division. So what is your opinion on that issue?
- Well, you know, every textbook raised the same questions, when I was studying this specialization. There is a discrepancy even in the western system. But I'm sure that everything is intertwined and serves for achieving a common goal of the company. Again, I repeat, PR works for reputation, forms a certain point of view about products and services, induces to change attitude towards them, influences certain TA for maintaining a favorable image of the company, and in the event of any crisis with products and services or in some other cases, protects the reputation. All of this paves the way for Marketing to maintain sales. This is a synergetic process. Therefore, there is no need to grab the biggest piece of pie. We shall make common cause for the benefit of the company and for the joy of our customers.
- Many companies often complain about the lack of competent PR specialists in Kazakhstan. Have you ever faced this problem? If have, what do you think is the actual root cause for the problem?
- Well, that cuts both ways. There are many reasons for such course of events. Firstly, such a concept as PR appeared fairly recently in the Kazakhstan market. Secondly, it's PR attitude itself. Most of executices are skeptical about the work of PR specialists; they seem to misunderstand the significance of this "science". Perhaps PR is not directly focused on profit earning as expected of it, but no customer will come to a company with a bad reputation. The first step is to show people who you truly are, what you stand for, prove yourself and gain confidence, and only then you can demonstrate what exactly and for what price you can sell.
Besides, where would the bunch of specialists come from? Who will teach them? I'm telling you, legions of people want to become financiers, bankers or managers, but not PR specialists for sure. Moreover, who do you think becomes a PR specialist now (though I don't mean it's something bad!!!)? Mostly journalists, due to the fact that they don't get paid very well. And those who have studied this discipline in Western countries, when returning home, build castles in the air, they have great ambitions and believe that they can change the world. It should be remembered that we have our own culture, own mentality, and market characteristics peculiar to us. And I'm so glad that there is a highly qualified management in our organization and no problem arises with respect to it.
- This may sound inappropriate, but where do you think PR Beginners can gain experience: whether in companies' PR departments, or in PR agencies? Can you describe the advantages and disadvantages of work both in companies and PR agencies?
- Good question to ask. But then again, each person shall decide for himself where to go to work. In my opinion, agencies provide vaster experience as they carry out projects with companies working in different fields of activities such as banking, insurance, construction, etc. And when you work as a PR specialist in one of these companies, you gain experience from a certain specialization. You are completely absorbed in your work and learn all the specifics, all the nuances of this business from the inside. Agencies have wider connections (the mass media, for example) and countrywide range of operation (meaning nationwide projects). But they are unable to fully comprehend the customer's problems as they do not see the internal activities of the company. Although it is believed that they are much more knowledgeable and able to take more innovative approach to solving a problem. There's a lot more to say but everyone makes his/her own decision anyway. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages.
- Do you collaborate with PR agencies? And under what principles?
- Yes, these are mainly strategic projects and large-scale events. All the rest we do independently.
- How often people complain about the lack of ethical principles in PR? What do you think are the main ethical norms and principles?
- PR specialists have their own Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct. In 2008 the National Public Relations Association (NPRA) adopted the PR Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct of the Republic of Kazakhstan. It was developed on the basis of the PR Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct of the Russian Federation by the Stockholm Charter of the International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO) and the Code of Athens of the International Public Relations Association (IPRA).
Generally, everything is based on the principles of honesty, both personal and professional: maintenance of honest relations with customers, the mass media, the public, colleagues, and employers; objectivity and independence, i.e. we shall give an objective judgement, advice to our employers, we are fully responsible for our actions; loyalty/commitment to our employers, and again, we must remember about the commonweal; adhere to accuracy, truthfulness in promoting the interests of our employers and in communication with the public; be just towards the customers, employees, competitors, colleagues, partners, the mass media and the public, respect their opinion; improve the profession by constantly training and developing. The Code is the constitution for PR specialists and we shall stick to it.
- Are there any fields you would prefer not to make public?
- Personally for me, charity is something that should not be spoken out loud. If the organizations that we provide assistance to, take the initiative to do something for us, we would be very grateful. And to publish in the newspapers or speak viva voce on TV that we have helped an orphanage or veterans...it's somehow blasphemous, you know.
- Could you mention any successful PR cases in the Kazakhstan market?
- Unfortunately, it's hard for me to answer this very question as I live in Kazakhstan only for 4 years. If we talk about this period, I've heard nothing about.
- What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of the Kazakhstan PR market? What is your assessment of PR services market in Kazakhstan?
- There again, let's start with the fact that there is a misconception of PR in the market, much revolves around the payment of materials on order. When people talk about a paid PR article, frankly, I don't quite understand what it means. There is no such concept as a "PR article". Total commercialization seems to be irreversible. If you pay - good on you, we'll write about you, if not - we won't. And, I repeat, there happens to be an underestimation of Public Relations and PR specialists as a whole on the part of many executives. Yet managers from Western countries better understand the significance of PR for building and maintaining the image of a company, the role of communications in crisis situations, and also they are very good at public speaking. Executives of our country are much more incommunicative and feel ill at ease when in public. But, on the other hand, every company has PR specialists because the management cares about the image of the company, and even government institutions are no exception. There is no doubt, we grow, we develop, and that's the reason to be happy.
- Who do you consider are the leading PR specialists in the Kazakhstan market?
- I have deep respect for Svetlana Krutskikh, Assel Karaulova, and Larissa Kokovinets. Of course, there are more young specialists who are successful in this field.
- Could you tell us about the most successful and the most unfortunate case in your personal practice?
- Thank goodness there are no unfortunate ones so far. Currently the most successful project for me is the creation of the Eurasian Bank Press Club. It was launched two years ago. The activities of the Press Club include holding of thematic meetings on relevant topics that interest its journalist members. We always combine discussions of topical banking issues with sport and entertainment events, in other words, we mix business with pleasure.
- What advice would you give to a PR Beginner?
- Learn, learn, and learn! Every single day brings something new. People invent new technologies, products and services, the whole world changes every day. You should read, learn, mix with people, make friends, attend trainings, etc. All of this will surely come in handy.
Useful connections are important, that is why you should meet people and maintain good relationships with them. Within the framework of Kazakhstan's WTO accession such direction as GR (Government Relations) will be developed. Many new foreign companies will enter the market and so the services of such specialists will be increasingly in demand. And last but not least, you shall respect and promote your profession.
- Thank you!