PR events like flights with Siberian white cranes achieve nothing. Putin is already famous enough. His popularity is stable. And there is no point in promoting popularity among the people who already support him. To gain the approval of those who do not support Putin requires specific actions.
Everybody thinks PR is something that everyone writes about. In fact, PR is the promotion of a person’s name, and if tackled professionally you have to understand where you are going and what message you are sending. For example, if an overly aggressive image has been created, with the help of PR it can be softened up a bit. If someone’s image is too soft, PR can make it tougher, harder. In Vladimir Putin’s case his image is fairly hard and his position as president can be softened up through certain specific actions and commentaries. For example, regarding the situation with the Investigative Committee.
But PR events like flights with Siberian white cranes achieve nothing. He is already famous enough. His popularity is stable. And there is no point in promoting popularity among the people who already support him. To gain the approval of those who do not support Putin requires specific actions. To prove that the president cares about environmental issues, he could just observe an operation for the rescue of Siberian white cranes, but participating in it is not necessary at all. The white cranes will soon be forgotten, and the president will be an object of ridicule.
To create a “super image” you do not have to ride a three-wheeled motorcycle surrounded by bikers. You could just love motorbikes and ride one to the Kremlin every day surrounded by only a few security guards. This would be an event. But the people in charge will not allow it. So it would be better not to do it at all.
The image already exists: the image of Putin as a military and charismatic man. These PR events are the initiative of PR experts and are targeted at the people who participate in these events. For example, the submarine fleet hopes to get funding, those who are involved with the white cranes want to raise money for their reserves. Abroad, such promotional events go down better. There the domestic situation in the country is not analyzed. What matters is how the Russian president is demonstrating his individuality. In the West everyone is used to Russian politicians being stony-faced, even sacred figures. Someone taking extraordinary steps is welcomed.
The Gorbachev and Yeltsin administrations did not engage in public relations, their actions spoke for themselves. Gorbachev’s only publicity move was that, unlike his predecessors, he was the first head of state not to read from notes, something which came natural to him. Gorbachev brought down the Berlin Wall, Yeltsin left the plane in a relaxed manner and conducted an orchestra. These are real actions. Putin’s actions are engineered. They are all targeted at creating an image of an eternally young, sporty man, who can say something tough, and make a joke like the man in the street or a soldier.
I do not think these types of PR stunts will change anything. The image has been created and is fixed in the minds of 51% of the electorate. The rest cannot be attracted either with amphorae or Siberian white cranes. Only real actions have a PR effect. The recent flight with Siberian white cranes did not distract anyone from anything. Ordinary people did not get involved in the problems of the white cranes, did not forget about the traffic jams, high costs, or the rise in petrol prices. Your own compatriots demand a lot more from you than foreign observers, who love it when Russia “has fun.”
Read another opinion by Yevgeny Minchenko , Political Scientist, President of MINCHENKO CONSULTING Communication Group