Many would agree that Russia is a country which over centuries has continued to surprise its own nation and far beyond while playing a major part in international politics and the global economy. I actually think it’s one of the strategies used by many recent key political figures: having a few unexpected moves up their sleeves to surprise everyone at the most appropriate moment and to show that Russia is still a power not to be joked with.
I attended a terrace reception at the Houses of Parliament organised by Westminster Russia Forum earlier this month. A prominent venue was chosen for the event and an interesting speaker to suit, John Mann, a PR advisor to Roman Abramovich, who addressed over 200 guests.
The key message of his speech was Russia’s need to take its approach to media and PR one step further and Russian spokespeople should raise their game too. The fact that it’s mostly stories with a negative slant that get noticed by Western news agencies is a fault of both Russians getting things wrong and biased Western reporters picking on less positive things which can make good headlines.
Russian media advisers should follow a simple principle which works everywhere else: pick up the phone and tell Western media agencies the good stuff they are missing out: Russia is not all about doom and gloom and slowly but surely everyone may see a bigger picture. As with everything else, it’s all about educating your audience/client/public.
The forum, which was launched last year as the Conservative Friends of Russia Club, has shown me that it welcomes members from all walks of life and with various political views. In fact, I saw few politicians at the reception, but many professionals genuinely interested in Russia’s politics, economy, culture and general Russianness. I could also see that everyone, and I was no exception, thoroughly enjoyed themselves at this prime venue overlooking the Thames on a glorious warm evening.
The Chairman of the Forum said once Russia is coaxed out of its shell, improved relations and understanding will follow. No one can say Russia is faultless, but it’s important to recognise its faults and see how they can be possibly diminished through dialogue and cooperation. And that’s always a good start.
John Mann addresses the guests
Yelena McCafferty at the Terrace of the Houses of Parliament
The organisers have published the official event video which can be watched here.
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