How Ukrainian organisations can deal with foreign media

Findings from the EACD regional debate held in Kiev in November

This EACD regional event focused on how Ukrainian companies and organisations can get their stories published in western media. Ukraine is rapidly integrating into Europe and the western world, meaning an increasing number of Ukrainian companies are mulling over possible market entry to various western countries. Relations with foreign media presents a challenge and an exciting opportunity for communication professionals to enter uncharted waters.

Our ultimate goal was to provide Ukrainian public relations professionals with the basic set of recommendations and dos and don’ts on working with foreign media.

Here are some of the main recommendations in a nutshell:

  • Relevance: Anna Tsukanova from AFP advised us to “zoom out” when preparing an international media pitch. This means we should consider the bigger picture as a whole.
  • Be prepared: Victoria Butenko, a television producer who works with different international networks including CNN, advised us to always prepare for possible encounters with major foreign media channels. Companies shouldn't expect to be warned weeks in advance. Stories pop up and disappear increasingly fast, and to get your company story on a network like CNN sometimes means being ready to talk to the crew with only 30 minutes' notice.
  • English speakers are a must. If you do not have them, allow at least 1/3 of the total interview time for translation.

Victoria Butenko answered the key question that we wanted to address: can positive stories about Ukraine and Ukrainian companies beyond the traditional “Chernobyl/war/corruption” paradigm make it into CNN or other major western media networks? She presented two CNN stories about Ukrainian companies that were flexible enough to fit into the challenging CNN schedule, had English-speaking senior managers and a story to tell. This combination with a bit of luck resulted in the positive business success stories aired on the Richard Quest show.

Finally, some Ukrainian companies need to be reminded that certain practices still existent in Ukraine will not work with foreign journalists:

  1. You cannot expect to verify the text of the article or demand to change the story line – only direct quotes could be sent for your revision
  2. Usually journalists will provide you with the story topics they want to discuss, but not the exact preliminary list of questions. Even if they do, new questions might be included in the conversation.
  3. Do not expect foreign media to use your entire press release. In a best case scenario, journalists will use a relevant quote or a figure. In most cases press releases are filed for background info and can be used months later.

A version of this article originally appeared on the website of the European Association of Communication Directors.