The Ugly Side of Eastern European PR. I Wish it Were a Joke

Here is an ad that a Ukrainian firm mails to prospective clients. It’s self-explanatory, really.

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SmartManager company offers:
1. Placing PR-materials in the elite pool of publications that usually decline to publish paid-for materials without marking them as advertising.

2. Placing stories in Ukrainian media (television, Internet, press, radio) on the most attractive terms.

3. Producing high quality PR texts effectively forming the public opinion without being identified as paid-for. We write with a deep knowledge of the specifics of the Ukrainian market and the local mentality.

4. Securing comments from Ukraine’s leading economists and political experts in the format required by the client.

5. Possibility of purchasing comments from leading Ukrainian politicians

6. Mitigating the effect of negative PR stories. Intercepting negative stories.

 7. Monitoring the effectiveness of the impact the paid-for stories have on the position of the media.

N.B. We can publish a paid-for story without marking it as advertising in every single media outlet registered in Ukraine at very attractive prices.

Our partners include:

State government bodies

International organizations

Political parties of Ukraine

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No, I really must say that this generated a genuine outrage among Ukrainian PR practitioners. A lively discussion ensued in blogs and forums. I sincerely hope this is some sort of a hoax devised to disclose the unethical practices. Otherwise, I don’t really understand what is happening to the world if in 2007 people openly advertise these “services” and call them “public relations.”

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5 Replies to “The Ugly Side of Eastern European PR. I Wish it Were a Joke

  1. Toni,you ask whether “the global public relations community have enough clout today to tie up with the global journalistic community and ensure that such levels of vulgarity are at least discouraged”?

    I don’t believe that global public relations or journalistic communities exist. We have professional associations that are global, but they do not influence or control the entirety of all PRs and journalists.

    Unscrupulous PRs and “journalists” can operate in any country–and do so. The outrage we feel and express at this kind of blatantly unethical approach will influence the situation, but never eliminate it.

    That said, we need to influence it, and I thank all of you for shining the light onto this dark practice.

  2. What struck me most is pt. 5: “Possibility of purchasing comments from leading Ukrainian politicians”, not because I considered politicians (wherever) incorruptable – I’m not that naive -, but because I always thought the political uppercrust to have other, more lucrative sources of (extra) income.

    This Ukrainian example – if it isn’t a hoax – may be exceptionally blatant, but honestly, this seems to happen in many other countries of the “civilizes, industrialized, western” world, only more covertly. Austria is not exception; maybe those pr agencies which fall back on such methods only have more experience in covering their tracks.

    The media being under growing economical pressure and the pr agencies doomed to success we can’t expect things to get better by themselves. One way out is what Toni’s proposing: denouncing those practices as what they are: deeply unethical (and a potential danger for democracy, I might add).

  3. Every once in a while I see a list of countries rated by degree of corruption.

    Seems to me that Nigeria is at the top, or perhaps the bottom, of the list, depending on your perspective, but there are lots of other countries on the list.

    It would not surprise me that any former USSR countries would be on that list, too.

    IABC is trying to set up some sort of relationship with Chinese PR people. China is another country where I certainly have my doubts about communications integrity.

    I too would like to see all the couuntries of the world filled with honest journalists, but right now, journalists in the western world are worried about their colleagues at the Wall Street Journal being corrupted in a buy-out. The only question is just how are slanted stories placed.

    BAK

  4. Mr. Falconi, thanks for taking an issue with this ad. Ukrainian Association of Public Relations will obviously not leave this alone. Any support we may have for the international community would be highly appreciated. I will keep this community posted on the developments.

  5. I do hope you are correct, Irina.
    But I doubt it…
    If it is not a hoax.. it is a shame on us, as public relators, and a shame on the journalistic profession.. and we should in no way be passive.
    I suggest that every single visitor to this post send it to at least ten of her/his professional contacts, asking each of them to do the same; and to post it in as many blogs and websites as possible and to comment this abominable disrespect of the values of the press and of public relations.
    It strikes me, but it doesn’t surprise me except maybe for the boldness of the offer and the detectable security of running no risks and confidence in attracting clients.
    In 1981 in Italy there was an association of physisicians who wrote for daily and weekly newspapers on health issues and it would officially request payments from private interests and companies in order to write about their health products in the country’s major media. The more important the media, the higher the price, officially on paper. I was at the time writing a column in a monthly communication magazine and wrote an article about this. The article was then picked up by a major newsweekly and appeared in many dailies. The association sued me but we never got to trial because it folded in the meantime as most of its members resigned after the scandal. Good case story, if it weren’t for the fact that I have been recently told that another association has recently opened (after almost 30 years!) and is apparently offering a similar service!!!
    Old habits never die…they just fade away..and then return. Or not?
    Does the global public relations community have enough clout today to tie up with the global journalistic community and ensure that such levels of vulgarity are at least discouraged. Will the ukrainian association of journalists be swamped with messages by other journalist associations urging them to internationally expose the companies who accept that offer? Will the ukrainian association of public relations professionals be swamped by emails from the associations of other countries to publicly and internationally denounce the agencies and other subjects who are behind this scheme?
    This blog, as modest as it, will do all it can to make sure that this ‘hoax’ be extint as soon as possible…

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