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To Win the Award "Best PR Professional in Europe”

Sources: Interview for the broadcast "Europe in the Morning" with host Neda Vasileva on Television Europe

 

Neda Vasileva:

9 minutes past 9 on Saturday, May 23, "Europe in the Morning" continues. My next guest is well known to all our viewers. He is a PR specialist with many years of experience. He is the author of one of the best books on PR at the moment - "The Global PR Revolution". The only Bulgarian inscribed in the wall of fame of the World PR organization. Chief Executive Officer of the leading PR company - M3 Communications Group, as well as President of the World Communication Forum in Davos, Switzerland. He has recently won another award for his work. He was named "Best PR Professional in Europe" by the American magazine PR Week. Maxim Behar is in the studio of "Europe in the Morning". I have the pleasure to meet him again. Hello and welcome!

 

Maxim Behar:

Good morning! I'm glad we're live in the studio again.

 

Neda Vasileva:

Again, congratulations on the award, Mr. Behar. Another high rating for your work. How is it different from all previous awards? What does it bring you?

 

Maxim Behar:

It is very difficult for me to rank the awards we have had over the years, both of the company and my personal ones. It seems to me, however, that this is one of the highest awards because I have never been in the field of view of PR Week, which is the best media for our business worldwide. There are many publications around the world. There are editions in China, in Japan, of course, Great Britain. That's why I'm a little surprised. Moreover, the jury is really precise and at a very high level. However, I know that this is a great success for my company, and for Bulgaria after all, to be in the spotlight, to be in this ranking, and for me too, of course. I have been in business for many years, I have been in business for 26 years. It is normal to have more and more experience every year.

 

Neda Vasileva:

In fact, what are the merits? How was this recognition won? You say an authoritative jury. I guess not all the people involved in the jury are known to us, but you can tell us.

 

Maxim Behar:

I don't know any of them, although I'm still quite recognizable in the world and I've travelled, maybe, to 60 countries, I know the PR associations, all the big world chains. Especially when I watched the jury members at this year's PR Week awards - I didn't know anyone. They are all marketing directors of large companies. The chairman of the jury is the Chief Marketing Officer of Allianz - the world's insurance company, a financial institution. People who are in business.

 

Neda Vasileva:

People who are in business and somehow you say you are in their field of vision. How did Bulgaria come into their field of vision?

 

Maxim Behar:

I think they select people who they think have done good things in the world that year and then discuss them. They specifically asked me for a little more information. Also, the things we did last year, both in the company and me. I was elected President of the World Communication Forum in Davos. We had a lot of projects. I sent them to the jury anyway.

 

Neda Vasileva:

Do we all need PR?

 

Maxim Behar:

We all need success like the one in Bulgaria because I think that everyone… about 7 million of us who are in Bulgaria and another 2 or 3 million abroad… everyone in their business is a good ambassador of Bulgaria. We need a better image, we need greater recognition of Bulgaria around the world. A taxi driver, a hairdresser somewhere in Paris, or a taxi driver in New York, or a financier in London, or a waiter somewhere in Brussels. We all have to represent Bulgaria so that people say - "Ah, Bulgaria, well done, well done. These are the Bulgarians.” Each of us is in some way an ambassador of Bulgaria. We all need PR in the sense that this is also part of this global PR revolution that I talk about in my book. Today I have seen again that it is in fourth place among the best-selling books in Bulgaria. We are all public figures now. We all have access to the media. Once we have access to the media, once we have an account on Facebook, on Instagram, and everywhere else, on LinkedIn, on Twitter. This means that somehow we have to be careful what we write, what we say, how we express ourselves. To arrange our sentences well, to have no aggression, to have a very good understanding. This, in fact, is part of what we call PR.

 

Neda Vasileva:

You say that your book for another week is one of the most bought in Bulgaria. Does this mean that people are trying to navigate the sea of information and communication? How to build their image in the best possible way? How to do PR to themselves?

 

Maxim Behar:

This is happening more and more. When we first came across social media 15 years ago and let’s say started expressing ourselves. Some people who in no way had access to any publicity and suddenly it turned out that they could be read, understood, recognized by a lot of people around the world. Then, it seemed, there was not so much understanding that what we say, what we see, what we photograph can have a great meaning for ourselves. Because a person who is more and more recognizable tomorrow will go somewhere -  to Vitosha Boulevard, or somewhere else, or to some restaurant, and if he posts fake news or posts nonsense in general, then everyone will look at him as a man who is a fool who does not belong to their company. That is why each of us must pay more and more attention to what he says, what he writes, how he says it. You don't just have to write a few sentences to insult someone and make them feel bad, just to stand out on social media and be liked and read. In my opinion, every message must have its meaning. Every message, every sentence you write on social media must be understood by the people who read it and it must influence them in some way.

 

Neda Vasileva:

Isn’t this related to our growing desire for approval? And is it only typical for young people who are on social media networks?

 

Maxim Behar:

Young people, in my opinion, do not even seek so much approval. In general, by definition, young people are slightly rebellious, and the more disapproval they have, the more convinced they are that they are right and that they would like to be in that position. It is normal for all of us to seek approval, but we need to understand very well the people who read us. This is very, very rare and not only in Bulgaria but worldwide. I often tell my office colleagues that when you write something and look at the monitor, you should not look at the text, but look at your readers there. When writing a text, you need to know who will read it. You have to be careful about who you write to, who you write about, how you write it, whether it will be understood. These skills, more and more, are beginning to dominate the people who are on social media, and they are probably 90 percent of the world. This is a new business. This is truly a revolution. Everyone has media, everyone can be able to communicate immediately and in a flash. Let everyone be able to express their opinion and be able to influence. This is a great revolution. Only 15 years ago it was unthinkable.

 

Neda Vasileva:

It is not a coincidence that I am directing you there, because, on Monday, May 25, the first online college in our country in PR with entirely online training started. Is it just the coronavirus, this pandemic, that makes it online? And how will the training go?

 

Maxim Behar:

No, maybe for 6 months, at least, I wanted to bring M3 College online and this was a project that we started before the quarantine and before this whole circus that has been happening for the last 2, 3 months in the world. First, we are the only ones licensed by the Ministry of Education who have the right to issue diplomas and teach on the topic of marketing, PR, social media, all that. Secondly, I believe that the future of education is online. We had a wonderful hall in Sofia, with many seats, with many halls and all this is now online. Not only because it is cheaper and more pragmatic, but because students can navigate much easier, they will save time. They can have lectures, so if you're busy on Tuesday, you can read or see them on Wednesday, can take the exam not on Saturday, but next Thursday, for example. We have to look for pragmatism in all this and I think that M3 College will be a great success. This is a product that has been around for 15 years. At least I remember that at least 6,000 people graduated from M3 College, which is a huge number. I'm not sure that Sofia University has had so many graduates in these 15 years, but I don't want to compare at all, because these are incomparable things. We are a college. The university is a great institution. I remember that we rented the big hall of Sofia University at least 10 times so that we could do the classes or the lectures or the presentations there. That is, we had 400, 500 people and there was nowhere to collocate them. That means that there is a great need, there is a hunger for this education in Bulgaria. People, more and more, want, especially young people, to learn something interesting, to orient themselves mainly in practice because I have observations at many universities in Bulgaria where they teach PR and nowhere I am impressed by what is happening. This is all over the world, not only in Bulgaria. Mainly due to the fact that education is moving at 20 kilometers per hour and practice is moving at 100 kilometers per hour. In these movements, a widening gap is formed every day, between theory and practice. What we want to do at M3 College is just practice, practice, practice. Our business is changing every day.

 

Neda Vasileva:

Isn’t non-verbal communication also important? Isn't it part of the way you create an image? Even something important for your students.

 

Maxim Behar:

We will have master classes at the end of each module. Besides, I'm a person so approachable and so easy to find, so I don't believe there is a student who wants to meet me in the office, meet my colleagues, asks questions, and be refused. This will never happen. It is important to meet, it is important to communicate as we are now with you in the studio, not in Skype or Zoom, or any other platform. However, it is far more important for the knowledge to arrive at the moment and to be super up-to-date, because some books or textbooks that were published 10 years ago in America, translated 5 years ago in Bulgaria, I don't know maybe well, maybe not, are no longer relevant at all. You can see for yourself, this applies to both the media and the television business, how things are changing, and how people's needs are becoming more and more different. They want what happened yesterday. Not to mention that what happened yesterday is old today.

 

Neda Vasileva:

Speaking of which, you just called what is happening worldwide a circus. Was the communication, if we have to talk about Bulgaria, between the media, the Government, and the society successful? Did we find out early enough what was going on? Was there fear?

 

Maxim Behar:

Of these 7 million Bulgarians, when I follow social media, I read that there are at least 20 million different opinions. There are a lot of big emotions. Everyone wants their opinion to be correct. One says we need restrictions and stay home. After 3 minutes you read that someone else says that this is complete nonsense, that there is no need, that this is not a virus, but a fictional thing, they just push us and so and so. However, I think that the communication of the Bulgarian government was good. There was a lot of information. There were different opinions. Everyone from left to right, from the most reassuring to the most frightening, had the opportunity to express their opinion. The question is that people who watch TV and listen to the radio, read newspapers and especially those who are on the Internet can form their own opinions. There is no way, of course, we experienced this in communism, there is no way to have a communication channel and to say something through it that everyone knows is true. Not so.

 

Neda Vasileva:

Did we learn to filter opinions then?

 

Maxim Behar:

We are getting better at it because it is something that is learned over the years and are habits that have been nurtured for generations. I think that what the media did in Bulgaria, including Television Europe, was that they managed to give the opportunity to each of the experts, great experts in big quotes, to express their opinion and readers, viewers, listeners could draw their conclusions. But there was information, which is super important, which is the most important thing. There was a lot of information. Sometimes it was even much more than we could take and dare to assimilate. Sometimes I think it was superfluous to make long briefings with the Prime Minister and people from the Government at night or when people watched their series to talk to them about the coronavirus and unemployment.

 

Neda Vasileva:

That’s why we asked you, did you observe unnecessary fear?

 

Maxim Behar:

No. Let in such a situation in which no one has lived before, the last one similar was 100 years ago, it is better to have a little more fear, in my opinion than neglect it and do what we want. The point is not that we are responsible for our health, but we are also responsible for the health of the people we communicate with, with whom we talk, with whom we are together. This is a gigantic responsibility. Given that all over the world, all health services, all specialists, experts, virologists, politicians, all said - "Strictly, strictly, strictly adhere to the restrictions." There was no way we could not have more fear and I really prefer such cases… "Fear guards the vineyard". There is even a Bulgarian proverb.

 

Neda Vasileva:

You brought me a book - "Small book for the big PR". Tell me at the end of the conversation - what is the key to successful PR?

 

Maxim Behar:

There is one keyword and that is the truth. With all this wave of fake news, with all this ocean of people who use the media and don't always use it with the best feelings, thoughts, and intentions, I think PR experts, the experts, have to tell the truth and tell it that way that others understand it. And this is my latest definition from 2020 of what PR is - "To tell the truth so that others can understand it." They may like it, they may not like it, but they need to understand it, because in this flow of information and I go back to the whole coronavirus story, you can't always figure out what exactly is true, what exactly is really said that to express any opinions or to be collected from many opinions. The truth must be told clearly and precisely and for me, this is the most important thing in the PR business.

 

Neda Vasileva:

Thank you for this participation. I wish you good luck! Certainly until new meetings.

 

Maxim Behar:

Thank you too!

 

Neda Vasileva:

Maxim Behar was a guest, we continue until 10, stay with us.

 

Watch the full video here.

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