International PR actors in the emergency situations – Case of Georgia in 2008

This post was published on PROpenMic as my graduate project for Online PR class. Please read it and feel free to express yourself, ask questions or share experience.

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We live in the globalized world. It means that societies from different parts of the earth closely interrelate with each other. They share information, viewpoints. They establish political, economic or cultural relations. They also consume goods that are produced in various countries such as: Turkey, China, United States, Ukraine, Russia, Indonesia, etc. Role of transnational companies has increased and the world became interdependent on the high level. It means that now we have stronger economic, political, social, even cultural connections than ever. That’s why public relations professionals have gained even more opportunities and challenges. Now a prominent PR specialist has to be a mediator between different parties on opposite ends of the world. He or she should have advanced intercultural skills to work out clear messages for the people with various backgrounds. A key element of international PR has become international communications. It is widely accepted that PR specialists and PR agencies are able to meet demands of the stakeholders. They offer various services to governments, private sector, non-governmental organizations or individuals. Here are some PR companies that work on an international level:

Though, emergency situations are those where theories and accepted practices may not work. These are exceptional cases, when international communication goes beyond professional and organizational boundaries. In these cases many non-professionals take responsibility of public relations. A good example is a case from the republic of Georgia in 2008.

On August 2008 Russia invaded territory of sovereign state of Georgia. PR campaign and spread of information became as important as military actions. The aim of the campaigners and citizens journalists became to inform international audience about ongoing affairs in the conflict zone, share real stories to the citizens of the other states, international information agencies, think tanks, bloggers and so on.

Thus different actors ascribed themselves PR and journalism roles:

Ordinary citizens, who had Internet access,obtained materials and posted every day, sometimes even more frequently. They also increased participation on international discussion forums, which provided information about ongoing affairs as well as the historical incentives of the war.

PR professionals used their own expertise to spread information and establish a certain image of Georgia: as a victim of aggression and positive impressions of its policies.

Additionally, groups of volunteers were formed. Their actions organized character. They created various content, translated articles or reports in different languages about the war issues, human rights violations, explosions, war crimes and other atrocities. Then, these groups contacted and distributed information to various target audiences: international information agencies, newspapers, online resources and so on.

PR strategies of the above-mentioned actors:

– These volunteers collected all kinds of materials: photos, videos, articles, reports, about conditions of military and civil prisoners, and facts about robberies and other war crimes and deaths and explosions and so on. Possible sources of information were personal stories of the army reservists, internally displaced persons; sometimes foreign journalists and photographers, newspapers, printed and online editions, TV or radio programs.

– They created databases and blogs, placing collected data there and developed YouTube channels

 

They registered blogs, wrote posts, built links. Here are some samples:
Blogging: Know the Facts: This blog was launched in August 2008 and still publishes news on the affairs in the conflict region

– They participated in the online discussion forums, providing historical and political incentives for Russian invasion. One of such thread was on the JapanToday forum in August 9 – September 11, 2008 period.

 

Skypecasts discussions were generated to exchange information with Russian citizens. Any skype user could call and enter dialogue on the topics of Russian colonial politics or war issues. (Skype administration suspended Skypecast service on SEPT. 1, 2008).

– They used Facebook pages, Twitter and other social networks to reach a wider audience.

Some Facebook Pages:

* Stop Russian aggression and bombs towards Georgia. SOS
* Stop Russian Aggression Against Georgia
* Russian Army Out of Georgia!!!
* RUSSIAN TROOPS IN GEORGIA SHOULD BE CHARGED WITH WAR CRIMES (closed group – only members can see content)
* Dedicated to Georgian Heroes Who Fell During the War Against Fascist Russia
* Stop fighting in Georgia

In those days, the role of online PR was huge. People could not access information through official sources. Instead, they used blogs and other social networks to obtain and distribute news. The virtual world became the only trustworthy and the quickest way of data exchange. These strategies worked both on local and international level.

As we can see, in the emergency situations different non-professional actors appear on the scene of international PR. Volunteer groups, PR agencies or individuals do a great job to distribute the most recent news and information about ongoing affairs. They use all available online resources to deliver messages to the international audience. Although it is a temporary role that ends up as soon as emergency situation settles down.

 

Do you know any other international PR actors which appear in the emergency situations? Can they provide unbiased information? How effectively can they achieve aims? What should be role of the government, should it influence actions of these individuals and groups?

 

 

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