Ukrainian Elections Aftermath: PR Needs Massive Cleaning

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Yesterday, the people of Ukraine cast their ballots in national elections for the third time in three years. In just a few days, Ukrainians will know who will run this country for the next four years or so. The race is extremely close, and what with all the speculation of falsification and such…

 While not everyone is optimistic about the results, most people have breathed a sigh of relief last Friday, when the election campaign officially closed. These were early elections, announced only 6 months ago as an attempt to resolve an ongoing political crisis. Hence, the campaign was rushed, the stakes were high and the methods, indiscriminate. The word “peeahr”, the local phonetic take on the abbreviation “PR”, was arguably most overused over the past few months. It came to mean something fake, a coverup, versus “real” actions. President Yushchenko puts out forest fires with his jacket? It’s PR. Prime Minister announces new social initiatives? PR. Or, worse, “black PR.” Investigative journalist publishes pictures of a political leader’s sumptuous mansion – surely, this has been paid for by the opposing party, people say. Party X fakes leaflets on behalf of party Z, which allegedly pays cash for those able to prove they voted for Z. Party Z doesn’t even bother to disprove the allegations. “Black PR” is their eternal alibi. Political analysts are bought by political parties, while their opponents disclose the shady dealings. The boundary between reality and “PR” is gone.

Now that the elections are over, so is the “PR” war. Regular people will go back to minding their business and watching criminal dramas on TV, but the acrid smoke will linger over the PR profession. Because all 48 million Ukrainians have had ample opportunity to learn that PR is something dirty that politicians use to discredit their opponents. It will be up to the professional community to fight this misconception, but we will never have the combined resource of major political parties, power-hungry billionnaires, the President and the Prime Minister. The task of cleaning up the image of public relations becomes a truly Sysiphean feat.

3 COMMENTS

  1. This is very sad, sounds like the Nixon-Watergate tapes which have had (and still have) such a profound negative impact on the perception of pr in the Usa. I believe that the annual general meeting of the Ukranian association is being held shortly. It would seem to me relevant that, should the association more or less agree to the situation you so describe, it insttute a task force to deal immediately with this situation to at least operate on the more superficial level of the misperception before it goes in too deep. There are crisis management cases which indicate that this is possible and the task force is certainly capable of discerning what is superficial from what is more grounded, particularly referring to specic priority publics. I am sure that the prconversation team (obviously its visitors) would be happy to discuss and suggest useful considerations, as I am sure that both CERP and the Global Alliance would also be more than willing to chip in.

  2. I’m certainly planning to touch on this in my opening speech for the European PR Congress, and UAPR will devote more resources to improving the reputation of PR in Ukraine. If any of PR Conversations readers and contributors has had any similar experience in their respective countries, your ideas will be welcome.

  3. This problem is commonplace in Lithuania also and already counts 4 years. After 2003 presidential elections PR was introduced by media to mass audience, that previously was absolutely ignorant about this practice. Political campaigns were covered at the angle of mystical PR technologies, rendered as fooling or manipulating. Now the most popular argument of criticised politicians is “an evident PR campaign against me”. Seems, that this spellphrase has a power of public rehabilitation. And there are no signs of local PR community attempts to solve the situation.

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