SOURCE: OligarchWatch

April 17, 2009 15:10 ET

OligarchWatch: Russia Is Getting Ready for the New Wave of PR Wars

MOSCOW--(Marketwire - April 17, 2009) - Amid the economic crisis, Russia is getting ready for the new wave of political and corporate PR wars, according to Russian politicians and public relations experts. At a press conference, which was held in Moscow earlier this week, Valery Khomyakov, chairman of the board of the Committee for National Strategy, and Dmitry Orlov, president of the Political and Economic Information Agency, stated that PR wars, which were common in the 1990s, during the brief period of "wild capitalism," are coming back. Now, they are mostly used to stir major corporate conflicts and undermine the image of the government and, most importantly, public attitudes towards specific firms and business leaders.

According to Khomyakov, a new wave of PR wars is inevitable. The country has developed over the last 15 years and cannot go back to mafia wars. PR is one of the few remaining methods of "corporate persuasion." And it is being used on national and regional level to gain access to resources, to conduct M&A activity and to better position the firms to be eligible for government financing. Elections, such as the one going on in Sochi, a resort town which will host the 2014 Winter Olympics, are a great example of the 21st century Russian PR wars, where methods used range from depositing illegal donations to a candidate's bank account to stealing another candidate's promotion banners.

Khomyakov presented the report on the top PR wars of 2008, ranging from the most effective to the most unsuccessful: In the most effective PR wars the experts included the campaign against Mikhail Evdokimov, the Murmansk region governor. Evdokimov was later removed from his post. PR wars around Aeroflot, Russia's largest airline, which led to the change of owners, were also considered effective. Among major PR efforts, which had been covered by the media yet failed to yield results, the experts named the Mechel campaign, protests against tariffs on imported cars and the campaign against Senator Sergey Pugachev.

"PR wars can be quite dirty at times," says Khomyakov, who received a folder with the documents, accusing Senator Pugachev of falsifying his Ph.D. diploma and his police record. "The copies we were provided were of poor quality and looked quite suspicious. We have contacted the authorities and determined that all Pugachev's papers were in order, his Ph.D. degree is authentic and he does not have a criminal record. We cannot determine who financed the campaign against Senator Pugachev right now, but this is a typical example of a PR effort aimed to discredit the government," says Khomyakov.

"Amid the financial crisis, which affected Russia to the great extent, PR wars against members of the government can be very effective in undermining political and social stability in some regions and using it for corporate benefit," says Dmitry Orlov.

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