Vladimir Putin’s Article Published by Ketchum, a PR Agency

September 16, 2013
Itar Tass - Reuters

Many people across the globe are debating Syria, and the content of Vladimir Putin’s editorial in the New York Times. However, in Snob.ru, a Russian online magazine with a somewhat more liberal slant, the debate is not just about the content of the editorial, but about the wisdom of reportedly paying a PR company to write editorials for the President.

Putin’s office says that the President wrote “basic content” of the op-ed. – Ed.

Vladimir Putin’s column about the Syrian conflict has been published in the New York Times by Ketchum, a PR agency. The newspaper press-secretary Eileen Murphy told the BuzzFeed publication. “It came through the PR- agency, and was subject to standard editing,” she said. It was noted that Ketchum has collaborated with the Kremlin for many years working to improve the image of Russia in the West.

Last week, ProPublica published an article entitled “From Russia with PR,” that gave examples of materials published in CNBC and Huffington Post. Presumably, those were columns by independent experts, but they were published on behalf of Russian politicians by the same Ketchum agency. According to some reports, over the period from 2006 to mid-2012 Ketchum received from Moscow over 23 million dollars.

An article published today in the New York Times on behalf of Vladimir Putin, is about the Syrian conflict. In the article Putin acknowledges that no one questions the fact that poison gas was used, but he thinks that the blame is on the rebels who are trying to provoke a military intervention.

In addition, Vladimir Putin urges the United States to think about the ineffectiveness of such methods of resolving conflicts. “We need to stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized political settlement,” says the Russian president, expressing hope that a military solution to the conflict can be avoided. Putin also reminds that strikes against Syria are opposed by a number of countries, prominent political and religious leaders, including the Pope. According to Vladimir Putin, recently his personal relationship with Barack Obama has improved and their mutual trust has become stronger.

Marat Gelman, a gallery owner:

It’s clear that the politicians do not write articles themselves. This solidarity is important: If Putin signed the article with his name, that means that he agrees with the thoughts that it sets out. On the other hand, being the president of the country, he must have a public relations service within his own administration. If the press office and the office of public affairs of the presidential administration do not perform their functions, and have to hire someone for that purpose, then what’s the point of having them at all? All these leaks do not help the image of the president. Imagine if everyone found out that this article was written, for example, by the press secretary: Putin laid out some ideas, and the press-secretary put them in some form. There would be no scandal.

It just goes to show that the presidential administration is doing in a bunch of things it should not do. For example, it gets involved in the election of the Moscow mayor, and so on. But those things, that it should do, it outsources somewhere.

When I read this story in the New York Times, for the first time in many years I liked the way the president of my country acted. If we look at this overall difficult situation around Syria, our Foreign Ministry did ​​the right thing. If the article was not accompanied by traditional Americanisms, it would be even better. This line looks successful to me because of its intrinsic logic, and also because just at the moment when the American public opinion is divided right in the middle with respect to possible actions, Putin’s article was very relevant.

I must say that after his Munich speech Putin hasn’t had any spectacular performances. But in that speech I heard too many grievances, and this article in the NYT is written by a responsible person who does not divide the world, but does just the opposite. It is written from the point of view of not necessarily the President, but a man of the world. I honestly think that this was probably the only really strong performance by Putin for many years.

Igor Pisarsky, a PR and advertising specialist:

Ketchum is not a political PR agency, but a large network agency. It has collaborated for a long time with the presidential administration. According to the numbers published by Propublica.org, in 2006-2012 they received $50 million for their work. In fact this number is close to reality, but closer to the top bound of the range rather than the bottom. It is also necessary to clarify what kind of money it is. Is this working capital to organize events, for publication and so on, or just the agency fees? If they paid only the agency, it is a bit too much, but if the money covered the other costs as well, the amount is quite reasonable.

I believe that these costs are justified considering that a number of countries work with PR professionals and experts in the area of shaping public opinion. Some work “in-house” and some outsource to other agencies. Nothing outrageous, corrupt or criminal about it. The state is spending significantly larger amounts on much more idiotic programs. I do not see a reason for some shocking discoveries.

It seems to me that this article is rather positive. In my opinion, it is appropriate and logical. However, it ends in such a passage that puts the U.S. in its place, and it seemed quite harsh for the president. But, nevertheless, I think he has that right: he voiced his opinion, and that’s what it was. Nowadays openness of society and the media make it quite simple to bring views directly to the reader. And Putin has taken advantage of this. Well done.

Each politician has his own methods. Yeltsin began to reach out to the people, and it was very unusual because it had never happened before. Gorbachev began to speak a normal, human, albeit sometimes not entirely coherent, language, and it too was a shock for Russians and foreigners. Therefore, I think that any attempt by a politician to break away from a pattern, provided they are appropriate and made not just to shock, are only to the politician’s advantage. I cannot say I’m a fan of the current government, I think it makes a lot of mistakes. But I do support this particular material in the NYT.