Thursday, October 13, 2011

A KIT of a PR Venture

I refer to an eight-page insert in the New York Times today. It’s actually a newspaper called Russia, with the secondary name of Beyond the Headlines. It features color photos, a few ads all promoting Russian interests. It is labeled ADVERTISEMENT at the top of the pages, but it is actually a paper produced by Rossiyskaya Gazeta, an official organ of the Russian government created in November 1990 by the Supreme Soviet. The whole production is very sophisticated, interesting, indeed good reading. The paper is on the Internet (link) and also appears as a supplement to the Washington Post. Its main sections include:

Front page
Politics & Society
Special Report
Money & Markets

Within each of these sections we find further subdivisions. On the Politics & Society page, for instance, we learn that only 29 percent of Russians want Putin, 11 percent want Medvedev. But no other candidates are shown. Some 18 percent, Russia tells us, want both candidates, 27 percent want neither, and 15 percent don’t know. On the Opinion page another poll tells us how Russians see the next twelve month economically. Only 5 percent say Good. Probably Good gets 33, Probably Bad 30 percent. Etc.

My headline comes from the Money & Markets page from a story headlined “KIT Finance Returns from the Dead.” KIT Finance is a St. Petersburg investment bank. Helpfully Russia tells me in a box that KIT is the Russian word for whale. Too big to fail? It delights me that in Russia an investment bank would have the chutzpah to call itself a “whale.” My cultural education is getting a lift.

Now, needless to say, this paper is intended to influence us downtrodden Americans. The Russians—and this, by our count, is the second issue of Russia that we have seen—intend to make a good impression. How better to do that than to present a crisp, informative, and comprehensive picture of a place we imagine quite differently. It’s a whale of an effort. What amazes me is that they would bother. We must appear to them a much bigger—and perhaps much more dangerous—fish than we look like to ourselves.

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