Maxim Behar: We must quickly adapt to the changes
An Interview for the Morning Weekend Show of Neda Vasileva on Europe TV
How did communications changed since the beginning of the emergency state and what will change from now on with the Corona crisis? We will talk about that with Maxim Behar, a globally renown PR expert, founder and manager of one of the leading Bulgarian PR companies – M3 Communications Group, Inc. .
Neda Vaslieva: Good morning! Maxim Behar is on our Skype line.
Maxim Behar: Good morning! I'm sorry we're going to talk remotely for the first time. I salute the viewers of TV Europe. Everything has changed.
Neda Vasileva: Thank you very much for being online! Yes, everything has changed as well as now when we have to take all the security conditions so that to be safe.
Maxim Behar: Yes, of course. But the most important thing is that we all will have to manage to learn about communication in other ways. Already communication is mostly online and we have become more pragmatic, the information itself is even clearer and more accurate. Now we need to adapt very well to this new communication environment and to monitor what happens every day, rejecting panic, because the situation also provides its advantages. A few days ago we had a meeting at the forum of the business leaders of whose board I am part of. I am just imagining how that meeting was organized for half a day in the Zoom app and we discussed so many interesting things, everything recording on video. If this meeting had to be done in other conditions, we had to rent a hotel room, pay this hotel, provide catering, have coffee breaks and all the rest that is needed. Now, without all that preparations we did the work literally for an hour, an hour and a half coming up with extremely valuable proposals and opinions and commenting on all that the Government issues as economic measures. I mainly see the positive side, of course. But the truth is that we all change, not just communications – the business environment is also changing, and we need to be very careful about it, so that we can succeed. As a friend of mine says: "We'll see the situation clearly when we cross the road."
Neda Vasileva: Yes, we will probably make better statements only after the crisis has passed and hope this is as soon as possible. Yesterday was held an event for which you were a lecturer. The event was about the PR crisis, it was about the failures and successes of the communication business at the moment. What did you commented on? Was there a great interest about the event?
Maxim Behar: There was a lot of interest. Over a thousand people had signed up and the event was held by the unique, private university in Bulgaria – SoftUni. The questions were mainly aimed at raising the importance of Crisis PR to a new level and new type of communication. My thesis was that in today's conditions will not survive those who have the most money or who are the richest, nor those that are the greatest, but will survive those who quickly and painlessly can adapt to the new conditions, and start to manage their business even better, increasing their productivity. In my case, this is the communication business, but there are many different businesses that, regardless of the type, will have to be better. They will have to strive not only to survive, but also to develop. We all know about the crisis that happened 12 years ago (2008’s crisis). Then we were saying enthusiastically how the hieroglyph from Japanese meaning for crisis also means "opportunity." Then we said "Behold, the crisis is an opportunity!" but this one is different. It is different, among other things, in that it will change people and the way we communicate. This is why it is important for us to be able to adapt very quickly, using new tools and new means. We will have to communicate so that to succeed quickly.
Neda Vasileva: How will communications be changed? Haven't we communicated enough online so far? Are we going to enter even more into the digital world and is there a way that a large part of the business industry will be transferred to the Internet, for example?
Maxim Behar: Obviously we have not communicated enough online, given that there is still room for improvement. Of course, the online communications were mostly reduced to writing and sending emails. From time to time there is some video call or conversation with partners from abroad. We all traveled a lot, we preferred to sit on forums, discussing topics. Now, from this point of view, I have a feeling that it was, in a sense, a big waste of time. The other Friday I will be on a gathering at the World Communication Forum in Davos, which I have been president for a year. Can you imagine that just for a few four hours we will gather so many people from all over the world who will say their opinions and we will discuss without having to travel and without wasting time? Yes, we're not going to meet in person, we're not going to sit around a table and have dinner, exchanging business cards. But I think this kind of communication will become more and more dominant in our lives as well as in business and I see a very positive message in all of that. I see great progress because we will become more pragmatic. In my company and for many people these days I repeat that the key word now is pragmatic.
Neda Vasileva: Pragmatic you say, but will we be able to assess the personal contact after the end of the crisis?
Maxim Behar: Well, now we have a good video connection, and we say the things we need to say, right? Of course that meeting in person has its own fascination and meaning. But when it comes to business, I believe that online communication is going through a gigantic transformation. Not only business but even in the Bulgarian online education where for only 2-3 weeks happened an exceptional progress. Everyone said that there was no personal contact on those meetings or that teachers could not control their children and they may get distracted and would not learn. I have examples with tens of thousands of children who take their exams successfully, do not lose their hour-hour and a half a day to go to school and wait for sandwiches and everything else. Life has changed and I have been trying to see the good things that will change in this life, because I think there will be a lot, especially when it's over - you said the crisis, I say the pandemic.
Neda Vasileva: You have a pretty positive outlook on things, Mr. Behar. How does the Crisis PR management work in such situations? Is it good enough, both in our country and globally, because you are a world-famous PR expert and have a clear look at those issues?
Maxim Behar: In different countries, governments take different measures to deal with the crisis. It seems to me that one of the businesses that underwent gigantic development these weeks is the Crisis PR management. That is the feeling of being 24 hours, 7 days available and being ready to react in any moment. The basis in the crisis management is to have a good preparation and a good look of your mistakes. In order to be prepared we make simulations in our company almost every week, both for different clients and for ourselves. It seems to me that now this business occupies more than 80% of all the business in the world. This is great because we acquire knowledge - I see, again, the positive things that are happening in the business and I think that we have chances to position the PR business on a whole other, better level.
Neda Vasileva: Just before our meeting, we heard another press conference from the National Operational Headquarters. We understand that the cases of COVID-19 infected are now over 500 people. Is the information from the authorities properly served?
Maxim Behar: I believe it is. There may be a lot of different perspectives – some may say that the government speaks only about the Coronavirus or about a pandemic, a diseases fromday to night. Others may say that information is confusing or at least can be better served. There are over 7 million people in Bulgaria and probably there are 15 million different opinions on that topic. I as a professional believe that information is quite good, for sure it is a lot and everyone can take what interests him. I think general Mutafchiiski is calm and manages the situation properly. For years we haven’t seen in Bulgaria a person who can be so long on the TV screen, responding to all the questions from the journalists. Some of them good, others - absolutely absurd. Some colleagues go prepared, others do not know where does the sun rises from. But in the end, he manages to do a good job. I believe that Boyko Borissov also gives good messages. He is responding very quickly and takes a lot of questions, answering them as well. For this I think that enough information is provided and this are some good steps taken so that to help informing the people.
Neda Vasileva: This way of communicating – through the screen, does it encourage us to comply with the security measures that are recommended every day or rather scare us?
Maxim Behar: Well, one of them is related to the other. We must comply with security measures if we are frightened and so we are all because the virus is everywhere. It seems extremely irresponsible and frivolous for someone to go out and infect people on the streets because nobody knows if it has the virus or not. The fact that they tell us till night - stay home, protect the community, be careful not to infect someone - I think is positive and responsible. Each one of us should be careful not to infect others and that's a big responsibility. I'd prefer being a little more frightened rather than say it would pass and go away. By the way, I had such a similar case. You know that I work for a wonderful country called Seychelles. Two weeks ago, I got a call from a girl I didn't know and she said, "I'm going to Seychelles, what do you say?" and I said: "How are you going to go to Seychelles..." It's not the problem of being there on the beach, the problem is on the plane, at airports.
Neda Vasileva: Yes, that is reality. We need to be as much responsible as possible. I wish you to be healthy, responsible and remain at home, as well as that I wish you a lot of success. Surely we will meet again probably on Skype ans soon I hope - live in the studio. Thank you so much for having this interview with you, Mr. Behar!
Maxim Behar: Thank you as well!