Bulgarian Expert Maxim Behar: PR at 5 to 12
This article has been published at the "Unfiltered" column of the Bulgarian news agency BGNES.
PR is a weird profession. First of all, it is super creative; second, it is very responsible; third, it is totally misunderstood.
In fact, PR is the most ethnical and honest profession possible. If you buy a kilo of rotten apples on the market, and you figure this out only at home, you will come back angry, you will toss them at the shop-keeper, you will shout at them, and that's it. You won't even think of involving terms such as "ethics" and "honesty" in the whole mess.
But if a PR expert decides to shut their eyes, and sell – figuratively speaking – the "rotten apples", and embellishes with a nice to read press announcement which reaches millions of people... then this entire scenario will go way beyond the local market row. That is why being sincere, ethical, and honest is the rule of the trade in this business.
On the other hand, however, Bulgaria is the only country in the world where the expression "making PR for yourself" has a connotation that is much more negative than professionally relevant.
The common opinion is that politicians make PR for themselves so that they would look smarter, the business also makes PR for itself in order to score better sales and seem more attractive... Even the showbusiness makes PR for itself by demonstrating its silicone achievements. And on top of that there are hundreds of strangely dressed people going around boutiques, entertainment venues, and clubs, handing out pretentious business cards with two sacred letters written under the name of the card holder – PR.
This is Bulgaria. The beautiful, intelligent, European, emotional Bulgaria. We Bulgarians like putting all kinds of definitions on anything new that emerges around us. That's why I won't even mention the absurd feeling that if something features PR, it will include lies and deceptions.
To the contrary. Public relations is one of the most precise, transparent, and honest kinds of business in the entire human history. The two words included in its name make precisely that clear – that it is totally public and transparent, based on some people's relations with other people, or with the other people's clients.
Deceitful, made-up, and fake news gets recognized immediately by the media, and no single PR company stands any chance of survival by relying on such an approach. All professionals understand this basic truth, and that is why our profession is becoming more and more prestigious.
Naturally, the most important reason for that is the "tsunami" of the social media, and this is not because they are fast, interactive, interesting, and comprehensive but simply because they bear the greatest guarantee for their independence – they can be bought neither in theory, nor in practice. They cannot be bought by anybody, at any price.
In fact, it is precisely the social media that create a great chance for the Public Relations business to cleanse itself from any sort of doubt that it can help some people or companies to deceive society.
If a business field is based on transparency, then this in itself means that it is honest.
When some ten years ago I wrote Bulgaria's first "Business Ethics Standard", which has by now been signed by thousands of firms all over the country, I went around Bulgaria to present it, and the most frequently asked question I got was, "What does business ethics actually mean?" Even ten years ago, it was a time when for many people this was a combination of two words that didn't seem to quite match one another. My answer was extremely simple and clear: making our profits transparently.
And indeed – anything that is transparent is honest, any transparent business step is moral, any transparent message reaches people much, much faster and more precisely than what is said beating about the bush. Of course, we are in business to make profit. But when this happens before everyone's eyes, there is no way this can be unethical.
That is why it is already 5 to 12 for Bulgaria to understand that the PR business is in fact the business that warrants that transparent and honest communication in a society is the guarantee that particular society will survive and thrive.
The interpretation of the expression "making PR for oneself" as something wrong and dishonest will soon be forgotten. However, if in these five minutes we realize how necessary this field is right now in order to create a better image for Bulgaria abroad, in order to make the other businesses around us honest, in order to tell in the social media how we should develop faster..., we will know all the more clearly and precisely what exactly PR stands for.
And among the thousands of definitions of this business, I have one of my own: telling the truth in a way that it will be liked. This definition contains only one key word that we can't do without. Truth.
Maxim Behar is a Bulgarian PR and media expert, founder and CEO of one of the leaders on the Bulgarian PR market, M3 Communications Group, Inc. As of January 2012, he is the Chairman of the Czech Republic Office of leading global corporation Hill+Knowlton Strategies. Behar is also the Treasurer and a Member of the Executive Board of the International Communication Consultancy Organization (ICCO), and a member of the Board of the global PR forum in Davos "Communication on Top".
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