We have consistently emphasised that we are a small, young country, so we move towards the West slowly and not always confidently. However, I am very happy with the situation I see today. The arena of Lithuanian public relations is constantly attacked by the proponents of Eastern ideology, who fuel the idea of propaganda and struggle to find supporters here in our country. Examples are right in front of us: Pervij Baltiskij kanal, Nord Stream, Gazprom and, finally, Rosatom. The last one must be singled out and discussed. Most recently, this particular company has sought to hire a public relations agency in Lithuania. To my great surprise and joy, the attempt was unsuccessful.
It is often said that “It’s not personal, it’s business” – if you want to earn money, you will do anything. I highly disagree with such an opinion. It is perverse. It also appears that I am not the only one who disagrees with it – the same applies to all other communication agencies that believe that reputation is far more important than money. Why was no one willing to work with Rosatom? The answer is simple – the company is subordinate to the Kremlin, a tool of the Russian government for influencing the Baltic states and other European countries.
But let’s get back to the roots of PR and Western values, the beginning of which dates back to the first part of the 20th century. These are the spread of truth, the pursuit of goodness, assurance of confidence and a great number of other concepts fully understandable to any Westerner. How should communication on behalf of Rosatom be carried out? How can the truth be told when the cornerstone of the project is lies and their dissemination?
After the failure to find an agency in Lithuania, the company has drawn on Moscow PR specialists. After all, the ordered project must still be carried out. No doubt, the agency acted in the same manner as would any other communication company that must cooperate with the media. The agency sent journalists on a trip to Astravyets. The only problem is that, according to the principles of public relations, the agency should allow the media to become familiar with the essence of the project as well as to receive answers to any possible questions. And what should be done if the project is secret and virtually no information can be disclosed? Even more revealing is that the journalist in this story is not allowed to get more information than our government officials, who also claim to have no answers to their questions. So what kind of communication occurs in such a case and what reaction can we expect? Of course, negative. We have all seen what happened after the journalists’ visit to the power plant. I failed to find a single positive article in the press as it is generally impossible to get a positive reaction. This project is totally negative, imbued with lies and built on a vague foundation.
As a matter of fact, the decision of Lithuanian agencies not to work with such a company is not only a matter of morals. Any specialist acting within the framework of the rules of Western PR will find it impossible to work on such a project. After all, communication is not a field which is capable of controlling the natural flow of information. This fact is particularly applicable to the current technological era when it is almost impossible to grasp the size of the daily flow of information. This should also be understood by some of our business people, who, when applying to PR agencies, hope that communication specialists will work as a kind of filter that transfers only the information desired. However, PR agencies are not the bearers of positive news. First and foremost, such agencies are spreaders of truth and this idea should finally be understood. They help to tell about things that exist rather than create something that does not exist.
So when talking about the differences of the East and West, or more precisely, Russia as the representative of the East and Lithuania as a Western country, we should take into consideration the historically formed mentality of the individual. There is one associate professor who has been analysing and teaching Russian literature at university for many years. The professor, who also has Russian blood and even a Russian surname, has been constantly following the political and economic situation of this neighbouring country. Once, speaking about the mentality of the Russian people, she explained that since the time of the Russian Empire, the country has had an unwritten principle, which, obviously, is widely used today and has been passed down from generation to generation. According to the associate professor, Russians live не по законам, а по понятиям, i. e. not according to the rules but according to perception. In other words, in a way they want and like – and in a way they understand. There are no rules for them. And after all, the civilized and especially Western world has dozens of rules – starting from a country’s constitution and ending with the principles of road safety. The same applies to the field of PR – first you prepare plans according to existing rules and only then take actions. The Rosatom project does the opposite: rules are considered only a formality which can be evaded. These rules are not the basis of the work but rather an obstacle that needs to be overcome.
Our mentality is wounded by years of Soviet occupation, so the desire to bend the rules and break them, to be “more clever” than all the others is still very common. However, it is obvious that 26 years of independence changed many things and rules are currently the basis of all fields. Besides, we are a country where a rule of law prevails. We have full opportunity to dislike the rules and claim that the bureaucratic mechanism leads to longer project implementation time. Maybe some of the rules seem annoying and excessive. But the fact that we are following them is a really great achievement. Therefore, we can rejoice that we are mature and are able to choose. Maybe even more mature and pro-Western than sometimes we find ourselves thinking.