FAS and Businesses Look to Bloggers for Publicity and Criticism

From RBK Daily 25.05.2011

Government officials are now ready to look through Internet not only for news and criticism, but also for ideas for propaganda. Yesterday, The Russian Communications Consultancies Association (AKOS) and Managers Association held a conference on the topic of Digital Communications for Managing Corporate Reputation. At the event Elena Nagaichuk, Deputy Chief of Management Control of FAS presented a case about a partnership between the Government and social media. On one hand, the FAS is looking to collaborate with bloggers, while also being ready to hold them accountable for their influence on mass-media.

“In 2010, FAS held a social advertising contest on the topic of competition between bloggers”, says Elena Nagaichuk. “The winning prize was a 30 thousand rubles contract. As for us, we received finished models developed much cheaper for us than if we had contracted an outside agency.” According to the office of Igor Artem’ev, this contract demonstrates the FAS’s openness for partnership, which could, to be sure, take on various forms. “Does the FAS often initiate legal proceedings related to publications in social media?” asked Mrs. Nagaichuk. “We haven’t compiled any detailed statistics on the topic. Generally speaking, there have only been isolated cases, but we should not overlook the influence of social media on mass-media in general”.

Officials’ logic is straight-forward: the participants of social networks can take messages to be a guide to action or the gospel itself. The fact that social media have forged vital connections with consumers was shown at the same conference by representatives of the “Big Three”. Megafon said that PR managers view social networks as a routine aspect of their work, additionally recalling the sensational “Сase of Million”, that was discussed mostly in LiveJournal.

Its competitor Vimpelkom is also monitoring blogs – every 24 hours, 400 new posts about their company are published. Subscribers’ frank and angry complaining to their friends led to the operator’s decision to inform clients about their Voice Mail in Roaming service as well as to modify some tariffs. Furthermore, MTS chose to establish universal recommendations for employees working with social media that permit them solve work-related issues in a more operative fashion.

“Corporate communications will show the most active growth, especially in finances, as this sector was less developed until now, and the interactive tools that provide an interface for dialog will continue to be used more and more in spite of the fact that these tools require the company to make serious investments for”, predicts Elena Fadeeva, General Director of Fleishman-Hillard Vanguard and chairwoman of AKOS. “There will also be active growth of online companies dealing with both external and government relations. The steady rise in communication between the government and the population is a separate, yet significant, trend, and in this we are following European and American models.”

Among local authorities, only the FAS has indicated any interested in working with social media. That having been said, as a result of a significant volume of complaints in the blogging sphere –long queues, complex contracts, and unclear commission  policies – financial structures are seriously considering options for online communication. It is no wonder that VTB and Sberbank are already present in social nets, monitoring the comments as they influence their brand.

“Social media and blogs have been traditionally thought of as marketing and sales channels, but now the attitude toward them has changed and they are treated like a component of the company’s reputation”, considers Denis Terekhov, General Director of the agency Social Networks.  Michail Umarov, General Director of Comunica says that social media account for 30 per cent of all content on the Web, and four out of five bloggers write about their brands. “This market is only just forming in Russia, as those who have worked for more than a year are considered «old timers » here. It will grow more quickly than the marketing communications market, not in terms of sheer financial volume ,but in the dynamics of growth”, predicts Mr. Umarov.