While the world waits to see if an actual war will erupt between Russia and Ukraine, the communications battle continues. As one who owns a PR agency,
and is married to a Ukrainian born, Russian-speaking wife, I have unique insight in this arena.
Ukrainians watch Russian TV — which is very pro-Putin and it makes it much harder to win the hearts and minds of Russian-speakers anywhere in the world. While Pro-Russian forces have taken over more than a dozen government offices in 10 Ukraine cities, the story being told to the Russian people is different than that which we see in the West.
Russian media speaks of being "on the verge of a civil war," and shows images of so-called Ukrainian acts of aggression. Anti-American messages are heard and the word of Putin is regarded as gospel.
Putin is a public relations genius. His domestic popularity is through the roof — and the Russian premier pays considerable attention to the foreign media (more than to foreign government officials.)
As Putin said this week during a call with President Obama: "Russia retained the right to protect its interests and Russian speakers living in Ukraine if violence spread to eastern Ukrainian regions and the Crimea." He pointed to "real threats to life and health of Russian citizens and numerous compatriots living in that country." He knows to appear as a strong man to his audience.
A poll conducted by the Public Relations arm of the Euromaidan — together with the Agency for Social Research — of 4,200 people found that 56.8 percent of Russians "support the introduction of troops into Ukraine." Furthermore, 52 percent of Russians answered in the affirmative in response to the question, "Are you ready to be drafted into the army to carry out such a mission or send your child to war?"
The people support Putin — who carries on with his comments of 2005 that the collapse of the Soviet empire "was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century." Putin continues to enjoy ample support from his people — and for a powerful leader most concerned with domestic affairs, that matters.
Putin has shown himself to understand media — who can forget the September 2013 Op-Ed in The New York Times, which urged the American people to oppose a U.S. initiative for military strikes in Syria? Putin continues to march forward — He is not likely to give up on Ukraine so quickly.
Putin is winning the media war in Ukraine and Russian hands-down, and he is scoring points internationally. His mastery of the media is sure to make it that much harder for America and the European Union to oppose him. Meanwhile, America has a president who is scared of his own shadow.
Ronn Torossian is one of America’s foremost Public Relations executives as founder/CEO of 5WPR, a leading independent PR Agency. The firm was honored as PR Firm of the Year by The American Business Awards, and has been named to the Inc. 500 List. Torossian is author of the best-selling "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations." For more of Ronn Torossian's reports, Go Here Now.
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