4 Apr 2015

"Local is totally dead" - says Bulgarian PR leader Maxim Behar in an inspiring interview

Here we are… back with another one the series of interviews with bright PR professionals from around the world for this blog, “global public relations”, in-cooperation with the World Communication Forum – #WCFDavos.

This time we had the chance to talk to a very inspiring, energetic and experienced senior PR professional from Bulgaria. I have the honour to introduce Maxim Behar.

Sofia, Bulgaria
Maxim Behar is a Bulgarian businessman, CEO and Chairman of the Board of  M3 Communications Group, Inc. – a leading Public Relations and Public Affairs company. He is one of the most well-known and influential persons in the PR business in Bulgaria and Europe. One of the founders of the World Communication Forum in Davos and person dedicated 24/7 to our profession. He is also lecturing in many countries, forums and universities all over the world on Social Media and Modern Communications’ topics. 

Maxim Behar
M3 Communications Group, Inc. has won numerous awards. In 2010, the company won the Stevie Awards PR Agency of the Year in Europe; the 2011 Eastern European Consultancy of the Year by The Holmes Report; and in 2011 Stevie Awards Agency of the Year in Europe. Since 2012, Mr. Behar is also Chairman of Hill+Knowlton Strategies, Czech Republic. In 2013 Maxim Behar has been elected Chairman of the World Communication Forum in Davos for one term and he is currently Vice President of ICCO, the largest PR community in the world. Mr. Behar is Honorary Consul of Republic of Seychelles in Bulgaria. M3 Communications is the exclusive partner-agency of the #WCFDavos in Bulgaria.

    1.     Dear Mr. Behar, you founded M3 Communications more than 20 years ago. How has the Bulgarian PR market changed since then?
    Mr. Behar: For 20 years Public Relations business changed tremendously not only in Bulgaria, but in fact all over the world. Bulgaria, as emerging market, logically is much more dynamic one than many others and also - changes are much more visible. Of course social media, the challenges they introduced, their management and presenting them to the clients are on the top of the innovations, which Bulgarian market faces nowadays.  

    2.     How would you evaluate the Global Public Relations activity in these last 20 years? In your opinion, which would be the highlights of change and development of the industry in this period?

    Mr. Behar: Changes globally have been amazing. Now, it is totally new business, new tools, new relations... Everything has changed in a way that coming back 20 years ago i am more than sure now we're in a totally different business. The truth is that Public Relations, public communications at all are on the secondary market and depend on two important things - business environment and communications tools. Both hands have changed - so our business changed twice! Although, the main difference was a result of the total change of the media landscape and communications which means, mainly, the fact that everyone owns media in the current times. 

     A short post on the Facebook or an opinion on Twitter wall might be much more powerful than a long article in the most influential printed newspaper. So... the ownership of media had changed entirely and then our responsibilities and tasks in the PR business have changed too. We put much more efforts these days to learn how to manage social media to make a client's project more attractive to the stakeholders than on how to approach media with client's project.  By the way - for all our World's Communications Forum editions, from the very first one - those changes always have been dominating our discussions and presentations. From that point of view I think the forum in Davos is an undoubted a leader of the global communications and PR experts gatherings.

    3.     What is the size of the Bulgarian PR market? How many agencies? How many and which associations represent PR & Communications professionals in Bulgaria today?
    Mr. Behar: Relatively small, but it is a very fast growing market on the account of the smaller circulation of the printed media and also on the account of the advertising expenses, of course. There are 10 to 15 enough large companies, about 30 medium sized and most probably 200 more "one man show", which called themselves "PR experts". Anything different from any other country of the post-socialist markets. Bulgarian Association of PR Agencies, which Chairman I was and now I am a Board Member, has 17 members and its BAPRA Bright Awards are the most influential annual PR rating in the country.  Almost all international companies are represented in the market - Hill+Knowlton Strategies, Fleishman-Hillard, Havas and Publicis are the strongest. The market is very, very creative as the competition is very strong there and it require extra efforts with lower budgets to satisfy the international clients.   

     4.     M3 Communications Group, Inc. is an international PR agency, could you tell us a bit about interesting cases you had nationally and abroad?
    Mr. Behar: For the past 20 years, we at M3 Communications Group, Inc. has developed more than 5,200 projects, all of them personally controlled by me, many of them developed with my participation. We have in our history amazing projects, unique ones, which all my teams are proud of. 

    M3 Communications Group, Inc. was the one to introduce to the local market international giants like Microsoft, Nokia, Cisco, Michelin, Danone and many others. Very recently we had a crisis management project, which for sure soon will be in the international PR books. One of our clients - the French wine and spirits corporation Belvedere Group suffered severe problems with the Bulgarian juridical system - the court dismissed the local management, appointed trustee and blocked CEO's access to the offices. Only the huge publicity of this act, including the French Ambassador's in Sofia appearance in a TV talk show, but also public and pro-active press events created huge scandal among the judges and politicians in Sofia, so in a couple of weeks the judge, who took this decision was dismissed and the winery and warehouses given back to Belvedere Group. On this case only, I could write probably a book, this is just a brief. There are much more similar, managed by M3 Communications Group, Inc. and all of them... successful.

     5.     M3 Communications Group, Inc. is specialized in PR advice, event management and social campaign. In these three distinct areas of communications, what are the most important points to consider when drafting a strategy be of PR, events or social? Do it vary a lot?
    Mr. Behar: Social Media are definitely prevailing, no doubt about this. The ideas and creative approaches are sometimes very different, but the tools are mostly similar - online social places of exchange news and knowledge. You can call them "social media" but for my judgement they are much. much more than media, I would call then "points of interactive knowledge".
     6.     You are a Committee Member of the World Communication Forum. Could you describe your activities within this organisation?
      Mr. Behar: I am with the Forum from the very first day of its establishment and it is one of my "children", which I love it very much. As a Committee member I have various responsibilities, but the most important one is to take care of the online publicity of the Forum and to help the office in their daily duties. We are not a typical Executive Committee as we are on the first place friends, committed to the idea of modern public communications, particularly Public Relations and Social Media and also we terribly love our job and assignments. But without being good friends and professionals the Forum would not be as successful and growing as it is nowadays.     
World Communication Forum - Davos Congress Centre
     7.     You are one truly global citizen, travelling and working in many different regions. How do would you rate the importance of networking for our industry? In that scope, how do networking events like the World Communication Forum impact our profession? 
    Mr. Behar: Networking gives me the energy and creativity to be better and better every single day. My job - public relations manager - is a transparent one, which must be implemented with a very high dose of ethics, integrity and professional commitment. The World Communications Forum in Davos, my friends, colleagues and partners there make me happy and make me believe that I am in the front rows of the best business one can have on Planet Earth.  

     8.     Last year, you gave a presentation in Davos, where you mentioned that PR is about "telling the truth so that people would like it", highlighting that truth is the most important... How would you define Public Relations?
    Mr. Behar: Every year or almost every year I have a new definition. Yes, there is a slight change this year too. My definition would be "PR is telling the truth in a way people understand it". Understanding is the most important category in the modern complicated and though to though to be understood world. 

      9.     What are your thoughts about the importance of intercultural communication in the practice of international public relations?
    Mr. Behar: All the communications now is intercultural. Cultures, habits, languages, experience have no borders anymore. Local is totally dead.

A huge thanks to Maxim Behar for sharing his time and enthusiasm about the PR profession with us.

Keep an eye here for future interviews with C-Level PR professionals from around the world and other topics on Communication, Culture and all in-between.

Follow me on Twitter @FlaviOliveiraBR – and keep on smiling J


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