Writing interviews is a complicated thing. Inspiration is always necessary and sometimes it’s hard to be interested in the interviewee till the end of the process. In preparation for the PR SUMMIT ARMENIA 2017, which will take place in Yerevan this May, we decided to make a skillerview with the father of Amassia, Varanda, Vayk and Yeprad and, of course, the Founder and Creative Director of Deem Communications – Raffi Niziblian. All I can say is that this interview is one of those where one can find new answers with every reading. By accomplishing several major marketing projects, Raffi has gained a wide range of experience in PR, Event Management and Advertising. With a background in film and communications studies, Raffi has more recently delved into the film production industry. He’s always looking for a good challenge for which he will surely conceive a creative solution.
If after all this you’re still not excited, then you’re not me
-Let’s start with the idea of creating a “full service agency”. Was it difficult to start such a business in Armenia ?
When I was employed by VivaCell as the Commercial Manager, the newly launched telecom, I needed to prepare ads, organize events, set up a website and training the sales and service teams, I realized that there was a huge lack of communication support in the market. When I left that position, I decided to start my own company. To be frank, it was difficult to educate the then immature market what a full service communications agency meant. Some thought we were a design firm, others thought we only managed events. Only international companies and agencies understood our approach and capacity. So the majority of our client base was formed by internationals and foreign companies until years later when we started working with local companies like Ashtarak Kat. Eventually, competition became an issue with unprofessional and artificial agencies springing from here and there to throw off the balance of equal opportunity for transparent and legal agencies such as DEEM. Other than that, legally and financially, it was not so complicated; it only means to understand the system and be flexible without losing basic values of honesty, integrity and not give in to exploitation and corruption.
-PR SUMMIT ARMENIA 2017 will be held in Yerevan on May 19-20. This is the 4th time that “DEEM Communications” gathers professionals of this field in Armenia and concentrates the attention of the public on the Public Relations sector for several days. What are your expectations from this event and how was the idea of the summit conceived in general?
The idea grew slowly when our PR Director, Tatevik Avetisyan introduced the concept of one day having a regional summit. We hosted PR Talks at various occasions with special guests from different parts of the world and soon realized that the sector is thirsty for knowledge sharing and networking with international experts. Finally, we decided to take the plunge and start organizing the first ever PR Summit in 2014. The reaction was pleasantly surprising, both from the international experts and local professionals. Ever since, we have tried to reach out to experts from Europe, USA, and the Middle East that would bring new information, trends and knowledge to the Armenian sphere. During the 3-day event, we cover topics ranging from creative concepts, campaigning, public affairs, measurement, CSR and so much more. The exciting thing is that professionals don’t need to travel to get the international flavor; we bring it to them. The venue, the program and content make for a fully satisfying event. We cater to the student body with a free of charge public lecture. We offer a more specialized day of workshops and panel discussions for the seasoned professionals and a more in depth elaborate day for the top management and c-level experts and academics. This year, we have a unique component where we will be talking about city branding and taking the event outside of Yerevan. As a final note, I want to mention that we are building this event to become a regional stronghold for the communication and PR industry of Georgia, Iran, Turkey and Russia. As such, we will make Armenia the connector of the East to West through the PR Summit Armenia initiative.
-What role does PR play in the Armenian market? How do you imagine its development in Armenia?
There has been an enormous evolution in the communications and PR sector over the past few years. We can see it in the level of quality in the client briefs, the experts and simply by the attending participants of the event. We still have a long way to go to understand that PR is not something that comes at the end of the line when decisions on products, services and campaigns have been made. The Public Relations expert should ideally be involved in the strategy building process of the company, the organization or the special event. For this to happen, CEOs and GMs must understand the benefit of their PR officer/manager. This requires that as a sector, we must all work hard in marking our place at that level in each company or organization. This is why we have made it a point to include that segment in the PR Summit Armenia.
-Recently I’ve read an advertisement of a Russian company. They needed a PR specialist who had the following requirements: ability to take the initiative, avid multitasker, deliver in tight deadlines, etc. What criteria should a PR specialist have in our market?
I think the description sounds about right. The PR Expert needs to be well balanced in decision-making process. They need to manage stress and respect deadlines. But what they need is to be well informed on the issue at hand and that requires them to know a lot. In our agency, our PR Team must have a strong handle on financial, banking, international affairs, pharmaceutical, energy, human rights, postal service, retail markets, culture, innovation, IT and so much more. A Public Relations specialist is always reading. Reading the news, latest articles, academic and opinion pieces locally and internationally. They must be ahead of the game on almost all fronts. It is quite the feat and takes a special kind of character to succeed and make a long lasting career in Public Relations.
– Many often confuse the profession of a journalist and a PR specialist, saying that the border between them is blurred. What is your opinion on this topic ?
A Journalist, or the media, must present impartial information about issue at hand. The PR expert, must inform the journalist of the matter and provide the necessary information for them to objectively present the content of a topic. There has been a misrepresentation of the relationship between PR and Media for decades. In my opinion, these 2 compliment each other and must inevitably work together to inform the public. In lots of cases, the PR manager is the gatekeeper and front line of communications for a company, a political figure or organization. As such, the media will need to establish clever and friendly relations with the PR person without compromising their values of honesty and objectivity. There is indeed a line, which should not be crossed as ethics is at the heart of this relationship and honestly will be the basis of any valuable piece of information. In many cases, especially in our market, I have seen dishonest information about telecom, mining or other industries where the media was paid to cover news and make it sound as if it was fact, not partial or bias. That is why I believe that the outlets mentioning that the news clip is sponsored or paid advertisement in their disclaimer are the ones that will win our trust.
-Our skill.am platform allows individual companies, as well as event agencies and training organizations, to engage in event marketing, using events to communicate with their customers and introduce themselves. I wonder whether this direction has prospects for development in our market in your opinion?
I think what you have created for the market is indeed unique and necessary. Skill.am will be one of the sought out resources for personal development and HR managers to refer to when they wish to designate courses to their teams. I think you are only at the tip of the iceberg. I trust that your site will become part of our market’s preferred assets. I wish to see you succeed and with that carry our professionals to new and higher grounds.