Feature

Can better PR improve our bad reputation?

The week's news at a glance.

Russia

Ekaterina GrigoryevaIzvestiya

Soviet-style propaganda may work on Russians, said Ekaterina Grigoryeva in Moscow’s Izvestiya. But to change world opinion, the Kremlin has turned to an American public relations firm. Several months ago, the Kremlin hired Ketchum, hoping to combat the “almost entirely negative” press Russia was getting in the run-up to the Group of Eight conference in St. Petersburg. At the time, Western editorialists were calling for a boycott of the summit on the grounds that Russia under President Vladimir Putin had become too authoritarian to count as an industrialized democracy. Once Ketchum stepped in, though, the results were impressive. The firm used its “numerous connections in journalism” to plant “objective and even favorable” articles about Russia in newspapers in the U.S. and Britain. Still, whether those articles had any substantial effect on policymakers is debatable. Russia expert Marshall Goldman of Harvard says the reason Russia wasn’t criticized at the summit was because everyone was distracted by the war in the Middle East. “As far as I know,” he said, “Ketchum had nothing to do with what was happening in Lebanon.” Either way, to achieve lasting results, Russia will have to keep up the PR campaign for some time to come.

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