«13TH INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC RELATIONS RESEARCH CONFERENCE “Ethical Issues for Public Relations Practice in a Multicultural World” Holiday Inn ...»
Structures of these services remained the same as they were in the middle of 1990s when press services were like “a fifth leg” e.g. “journalists came, go and look at them, and do not give out important information to them”. That is why they were powerless and did not make any image and did not fulfill any functions. Unfortunately they have the same status today.
According to practitioners, the budget allocated to public relations is lower compared to advertising and marketing because organizations do not see the results
of public relations. Communications managers of local companies stated:
The budget of our department is $30.000, while the budget of marketing department is $1 million. Local companies mostly prefer to hire marketing specialists in order to increase their profits.
Most executives do not want to spend money on PR, because the results of PR activities are not seen immediately. It takes certain period of time to feel the results of PR activities. As a rule the business wants immediate results. In terms of PR they are paying for the air for some time. As for the measuring PR activities, most practitioners in our country count published articles about the organization and say ‘look we have got 15 published materials for free, if you had paid for this, it would cost you this money’.
The difficulties in our work is a small budget, expectation of more free publications and it does not matter for them what quality and direction are these publications, and the lack of strategic planning.
Another practitioner from government organization indicated to the lack of empowerment by stating that the top management did not trust in the professionalism
of the practitioners. She stated this problem as following:
Our top management, who hire PR people think that they know everything themselves. They understand that they should not behave this way but they think that they are specialists. For example you are hired and you start working they say to you “No, you should do this way and not that way”. Then the question arises “Why you need me then if you know everything yourself?”. In other words they begin redoing everything themselves. They begin breaking the scheme. Normally they should accept the scheme of PR campaign. PR is a profession like the profession of a musician. And if all people start playing one piano together, you cannot play this way. PR specialist knows his/her profession more. The only problem of PR professionals in our country is that their heads start dictating them. Normally they should accept PR strategy, of 807 course they can add or change something, but they start redoing your plans. In this case PR people cannot get the responsibility for the results.
Press services of governmental ministries which fulfill the functions of PR practitioners also have small budgets and some of them even do not have budgets.
The head of the press service of the Ministry of Health stated the following:
The main difficulty is that, our press service is not being financed by the Ministry for two and a half months. We are not getting our salaries, we have to give back this office to the Ministry, and it has not given us another office. For seven years of our work USAID has been supporting us technically, materially, financially. The Ministry of Health did not give us anything. As a result now we are out boarded. Everybody in the Ministry knows that our work is important and that they need us, but they have been used to the fact that our department is financed by ‘some foreign uncles’. It is the tendency in all press services of state Ministries, of my colleagues. Because there is no resources to support them. Press service is an expensive department; they need transport, technical equipment, salary etc. Today an experienced PR specialist does not go to work to state organization where they are paid $100. They go to work at private and media sector where they are paid between $400-$500. And nobody will come to work to the Ministry of Health where the salary is about $150Press services in government organizations do not have any status, technical and material support. That is why they are supported by international organizations. Educational trainings is not a problem, because most institutions (international, nongovernemntal) that are for open society and free information organize educational trainings, seminars for the workers of press services.
Most press services do not have resources, technical and material support and some of them have such problems as the management does not understand that they need press services. If the head of governmental organization understands the necessity of press service, it exists. We also have been existed thanks to the political will of the deputy Minister. She created this service and gave this office room. She has been paying energy and heating expenses. Now she does not work in the Ministry and we are out boarded. Now we are working only because of our enthusiasm. Because we have built this bridge between the public and the Ministry and we do not want to lose it. Now the Ministry is searching for budget to support to us.
The government ministries in Kyrgyzstan did not know that it was their duty to inform publics about their activities and give the public true information. This was explained by the head of the Institute of Policy and Development who conducted trainings for the workers of press services of the government Ministries which was
sponsored by International Financial Corporation as following:
USAID we conducted mass trainings for the heads and workers of press services and other departments of local government organs, also with the representatives of communities on working with journalists and publics in order to explain them that they are not against each other as it was before, but they are counterparts and can work jointly in order to solve the local problems in their regions. Slowly we began observing progress in the cooperation of these two sides. Some local mayors implemented acquired knowledge in fundraising activities.
Respondents to this study also mentioned that the corruption in the country influences the practice of public relations. It was expressed by the following
practitioner this way:
In Kyrgyzstan PR will develop if the competition among companies develops.
Otherwise, business will decide its problems with the help of money.
Corruption in political system is also closely related to the problems of PR when people think ‘Why should I spend money on PR specialist if I can decide my problems (to get license, to be elected to the office) with bribery’. Here work other methods. With these tendencies, the PR in our country will work differently in the future. Excellence model may work in our country in the future, but it will be different from the West. Western PR methods work in our country for 50%. Everything should be adapted to local environment. All methods should be adapted even the methods of neighboring Kazakhstan. Even the format of press release like inverted pyramid must be adapted. Added value of every PR professional must be his/her own.
The data from the interviews showed that organizations have hierarchical and closed systems and they do not want to share information with publics. It may be the legacy of the institutionalization in the Soviet system where the government did not need press services and public relations departments in order to work with their publics.
RQ3: THE MODELS OF PUBLIC RELATIONS IN KYRGYZSTAN
Data revealed that public relations practice in Kyrgyzstan is largely defined by the press-agentry model. About 80% of the respondents indicated that the main purpose of public relations was to promote their organization. Many practitioners stated that they saw the role of public relations as building a favorable “image” of the organization through the dissemination of positive information to the media and other publics as evident in a remark by three practitioners that was typical of many
809 Purpose of PR is to deliver our corporate culture to the existing and potential clients.
The purpose of PR is to effectively promote the aims, missions and tasks of our organization.
PR is a strategic and tactical weapon because it gives the opportunity to manage the information and audience. The most important aim is to form public opinion about definite ideology in order to lead the auditory in the desired direction. In no case it is neither propaganda nor the manipulation, it is forming a public opinion.
In the interviews, most practitioners also mentioned that their public relations duties usually revolved around writing press releases, coordinating events, conducting media relations, handling customer complaints, and tasks that helped build a positive image of their organization. These public relations activities are oriented toward the press-agentry model. As stated earlier, most practitioners in Kyrgyzstan do not engage in formative and evaluative research, another indicator that the two-way models are not used in the country. The primary forms of evaluation were tracking the number of people who use a product or attend an event (M = 3.73, SD = 0.92) and maintaining press clippings (M = 3.50, SD = 0.92) both of which are indicative of the press-agentry model.
Note. N = 64. All items are measured on a 5-point scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree), 2 (disagree), 3 (neutral), 4 (agree), to 5 (strongly agree).
Furthermore, in the interviews, most practitioners disclosed that the most frequently used method of evaluating a public relations program was by measuring
the volume and quality of press coverage. One practitioner said the following:
The management demands the number of media coverage from us. May be they are right, but it should come with the word of caution. Quantity does not translate into quality easily.
The work of qualified PR specialist is first of all a psychology. Because public relations is a tactical tool. The evidence of the effectiveness of the cooperation of the client and public relations specialist is the media coverage of the activity of the client in a necessary angle.
The data indicated that the press agentry model was the most predominant model practiced in government ministries. As was mentioned earlier, the dominant coalitions in government ministries do not understand the importance and necessity of PR. It was expressed by the head of press service of one Ministry in the following
Our government machine is stuck in its own laws, norms and bylaws created by themselves against themselves. Government organizations are busy with their routine works and bureaucracy. Everything depends on the head of the organizations. If the head understands what is PR they use it. The managers of most organizations do not understand that PR service is important for the organization; they do not know the aim of PR department. They have narrow understanding of what a PR specialist do should. They think that PR specialists should promote not the organization but the heads of organizations (Ministers, directors etc.) and that is all.
Head of the Institute of Policy and Development in the country explained it
The difficulties of public relations practitioners on the level of organizations differ according to the dominant coalitions’ understanding of public relations.
In Kyrgyzstan there are three types of dominant coalitions in relation to public relations. The first type is the ones who do not understand what is public relations at all and try not to deal with it. The second type is the ones who understand very well what public relations is and have public relations departments where professional practitioners work. And the third type is the ones who think that ‘I am a public relations manager for myself’. The organizations of this type of dominant coalitions do not have an image. They make an image for themselves but not for the organization, because they do not have public relations departments.
Head of press service of City Hall (Meriya) stated their duties this way:
Practitioners used the personal influence model to a large extent when they conducted public relations.
The personal influence model is a quid pro quo relationship between the practitioner and key publics such as journalists, editors, government legislators, and tax officials (Sriramesh, 1992).
Most respondents for this study reported that they made it a point to have personal friendships with important publics such as analysts, economists, industry experts, and government officials, which in turn contributed highly to their success as strategic managers (M = 4.12, SD = 0.89). The use of personal influence model was most apparent in the area of media relations. Most interviewees articulated that good relations with representatives of the media are especially critical as practitioners could persuade these gatekeepers to generate publicity favorable to their organizations. According to practitioners, gift giving, media luncheons, cocktail receptions, and sponsored trips are some examples of building good relationships
with the media and other stakeholders. A practitioner from the nonprofit sector said:
In Kyrgyzstan personal contacts play important role in any type of communication with audiences. For example I have found out in my experience that it works better if you build friendships with journalists and ‘drink tea’ with them, than if you officially demand from them something on the level of organizations. I have learnt that without this, that it is not possible, after so many years. I know for sure that if a journalist has not seen me before, and we have not talked before or went somewhere with him/her, my press release will not be published. They will not publish the PR materials of the people whom they have never seen before and whom they do not know in person.
Interpersonal relations and communication plays a huge role in our country, because we are an Asian country. It is our mentality that we should encourage journalists with money, too.