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6 PR/Media advisors……and? Ukraine still failing the domestic communication challenge

November 19, 2015

Today your author met with Macon Phillips, Coordinator of the United States Department of State Bureau of International Information Programs, who reports to Rick Stengel, the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs – the topics of conversation were varied but inevitably turned to public relations, media, Kremlin active measures and how to mitigate their outcomes etc – as well as the dismal communication of both government and president with the Ukrainian constituency.

Dismal, despite there being 6, yes six, international PR entities engaged by the Ukrainian leadership, including those from the US and UK who are supposedly “slick”.

As an example of dismal, your author raised the issue of the presidential “2020 plan” – which hardly anybody knows anything about, and those few who do know have no idea what is expected/projected to be accomplished in 2016, or 2017 etc through to 2020.  This, almost 2 years after the President announced he had a “2020 plan” for Ukraine.

How the constituency is able to measure progress when there is no “what” and no time line (and thus no urgency or accountability) therefore equals dismal communication nearly 2 full years after the “2020 plan” announcement.

But it is not just the “grand plan” and the implementation timetable that society is clueless about (and that feeds frustration at lack of progress of course).  There are also little things that effect large proportions of society that are simply not communicated loudly enough or in a timely way.

As if from nowhere, within the past 12 hours, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov announced the immediate scrapping of a traffic police document known as the MREO on his Facebook page – and for whatever the Ukrainian authorities are paying the six PR/media entities, Facebook pages of the national and local political and institutional chiefs seems to be the most timely and far reaching method of communication for many of them.  (The Odessa Oblast Police Chief Giorgi Lortkipanidze accounts for his actions almost in real time each and every day on Facebook).

Perhaps these foreign PR/media gurus are intent on communicating with those outside of Ukraine rather than within?

GAI

The scrapping of the MREO effects any Ukrainian that wants to buy or sell a motor vehicle.  It was a bureaucratic nonsense forcing such transactions to be witnessed and recorded by the notoriously corrupt traffic police with a fee to the State for the certification, and either an “additional fee” directly to the corrupt traffic officer or via “intermediary services” (approved by the corrupt local traffic office) for a “timely service” at often 3 or 4 times the cost of the legitimate administrative fee.

This change is a very minor thing, but it is something that effects millions of Ukrainian constituents – most of which will not see Arsen Avakov’s Facebook page.

Nevertheless, with six international PR/media organisations managing the communications of the Ukrainian leadership, a constituency becoming increasingly impatient and demanding for tangible and visible change (no matter how small), the scrapping of this document with immediate effect should naturally be all over the television (which is still the main source of news for Ukrainians) – except it isn’t!

It’s now more than several hours since this announcement on Facebook.  Your author has watched the news cycles on two national and two local channels in their entirety – twice during the last four hours.  There has been no mention – zero – of a positive bureaucratic change that effects millions of Ukrainians with immediate effect.

Why not?

Is it not newsworthy?  Does it not remove an avenue for corruption?  Is it not slightly less bureaucracy?  Does it not effect enough Ukrainian voters to warrant 45 seconds within the television news cycle?  Is it not worthy of communicating beyond a Facebook post?  Is it not a tangible and visible change?

Perhaps it will make it to the news cycle later?

If the leadership of Ukraine cannot manage to communicate a bureaucratic change that effects millions with immediate effect, perhaps it’s no wonder that almost nobody knows what the presidential 2020 plan is, and what from that bag of tricks is programmed to be implemented in 2016.

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