Interview with Tinatin Stambolishvili, head of marketing communication department of GPI Holding insurance company.
– Which media outlets do you follow every day?
– My profession dictates me to follow all leading media practically 24/7. Moreover
I also use media monitoring software to see if I have missed something. I have been accustomed to this practice and sometimes I feel discomfort if I do not hear information or I do not read. I have TV sets in all rooms at home, including kitchen – I watch almost all news programs and talk shows of all channels. Moreover, I also work at Facebook, as I can collect interesting information from this social network. Naturally, social network tendencies are very important. Nevertheless, television still dominate. Despite our attachment to social networks or Internet media, television is a leading mediain Georgia for the time being.
I think Public Relations is a profession about staying aware of ongoing developments around you, despite the sphere you work in, what the society makes focus on, what people talk about. You have to follow all the news including politics and especially politics, world trends, etc. Public moods change every day and you should be aware of everything, what goes viral, what does not. This allows you as a PR specialist to feel the media situation and plan accordingly.
– Talk about the difference between PR and advertising.
– I would advise a very interesting book on this issue – The Rise of PR and Fall of Advertising. This is the popular text about how persuasion theories have changed in the 21st century and what factors generate personal confidence, how and what inspires people. Naturally, I do not assert that advertising is useless and inefficient – on the contrary, it is unimaginable to ensure steady large-scale public relation campaign without advertising and other marketing means.
Basic difference between these two disciplines – public relations follow long-term tasks and this task is to create reputation, establish relations with various interest groups, while main task of advertisement is to deliver message to large audience in a short period and attain short-term tasks.
Another key difference consists in choosing the target segment – while in adverstisement you choose the target segment, depending on the product and your objectives at that particular time, in public relations target segments exist on its own way – we call it interest groups, or stakeholders and you have to identify them and nurture relationship with them. If you do not need them in this specific moment, you will need them necessarily in some moment and therefore, you should keep relationship with them.
I would compare this t family and friends – you choose friends yourself, but you cannot choose family members and you have to communicate with them in any case. In adverstisment you choose the target segment and in Public relations you cannot choose – you are forced if you want to build relationships.
The third most distinct difference is the media usage: in advertising you control the whole situation, because you pay money and buy media space yourself (including time on television or internet placement), while the key objective of public relations campaign is to draw attention of media and placement is not in your hands – this is in the hands of journalists or editors. This means you should generate reasons to raise the media interest, involve third parties, opinion leaders. Therefore, organization of public relations campaign implies an articulation of themes interesting for society (for your interest group). In creating the reputation, I also mean a wide communication of those values in the society that are created by your organization. Besides organization, this may be a person, naturally in case of political campaign or a musician, public leader and so on.
– Name your best project or period you take pride in.
– I would name a recent campaign: GPI Holding’s job fair campaign (it was held for the second time in 2017). As part of GPI JOB FAIR we have employed 500 persons without qualification and experience requirements and age restriction. In 2015 we held the first campaign and key challenge consisted in positioning of sales manager as a profession, because sales were not perceived as a profession and it was mainly related to vain and inefficient walking door to door.
Second – overcoming nihilism in the people you were seeking employement. The people that we searched as candidates lacked trust that somebody could offer them a job without any connections or previous experience. With the campaign we had to create this trust and encourage these people to respond with persuasive messages and trustful third parties.
In classical understanding, this was one of the first campaigns of thos scale in Georgia in terms of employer branding.
The campaign brought success and number of people who responded to the job opening was twice as much as we planned. Slogan of the first campaign was – 200 Job Places. As a result, we employed 220 persons. Next year – number of job seekers even doubled and we employed 365 persons on this position.
During the campaign we had more than 100 media placements and we spent about 15 hours in TV and radio. Media found the topic interesting, naturally, because employment is one o the most relevant in Georgia, after the issue of territorial integrity.
One of the prerequisites of the success of the campaign was the synergy with our HR department. When we talk about the profession of public relations, HR is your best friend in an organization, because employees are your first interest group, because the company reputation first of all depends on these people. Besides professional aspects and the results of the pr campaign, we are proud, because we gave hundreds of people an opportunity to learn, grow and build a carrier and be part of our group.
– How do you integrate social media with PR?
– Social media and PR do not need integration, because social media is a mechanism to establish relations with individuals without «mediators» and naturally this is one of the most important channels for us today.
At the same time, we should avoid overdose, because what happens in Facebook does not always signify that all the society thinks the same and frequently Facebook tendencies leads us to erroneous decisions. Sometimes we think if one or two persons say something, this is a public opinion. But this is incorrect in most cases.
– How would you describe the Thought Leadership?
– There are various interpretations for Thought leadership. This term denotes a person or organization that is perceived as an authority in this or that field, when their opinions are followed, shared and accepted. When we talk about reputation, I imply this aspect – you become Thought Leader when you do not follow only narrow commercial interests and take efforts to cover wider themes, talk based on values, cover public interests, are bold and unbiased.
This is long-term approach. The society is very sensitive when seeing narrow marketing interests only and respond poorly to such communication. On the other hand, public relations makes focus on assembling thought leaders and engage them in various campaigns and become themselves (as an organization) thought leaders, who are recalled first of all when discussing your sphere or industry.
– Talk about your experience in negative media attack that you have overcome.
– There were a lot of similar cases – nowadays this seems to be inseparable part of our profession. My main suggestion is not to fall in depression, because you are not alone. All PR professionals deal with negative word of mouth every day – sometimes fair and sometimes unfair.
If only two out of ten ones spread positive word of mouth, eight out of ten spread negative word of mouth. This means that people who want to comment in your Facebook page are predominantly unpleased or even angry with your company or product. This is natural, people want to epack up and want to hear their voice.
The situation may be improved only through dialogue. It may be said that negative comments are useful too, because they outline shortcomings in your organization and we pay serious attention to claims of any consumer, if these claims concern our services.
– Describe a time you trained or mentored a colleague. What personal features are required in similar situations?
– As I noted above, employees are key target group for public relation professionals – because these people are your key channel to introduce organization values to the society for what and who you exist, what value you create in general.
Thus, if you want we can name it mentoring and training, this is your everyday job to plan and implement communication within organization, establish relations with people at all levels so as they get information from first hand so as they feel well and understand everything very well.