Alina Morozova is chief account manager at ITCOMMS, an international PR agency.
The country of Georgia is well-known for its hospitality and friendly nature, but it’s important to recognize its distinct local features in the PR realm right from the start.
Georgia has become a top destination for business development and relocation. The country boasts a welcoming business environment. It’s possible to register a company in just one day, and there are four free economic zones to take advantage of. Special conditions for businesses include exemption from corporate tax, and there are no minimum capital or investment requirements. Additional benefits include virtual office services and the option to register from anywhere. In addition, you can stay in Georgia without a visa for a year, and it is enough to cross the border to start a new countdown of this period.
Since 2010, there has been significant advancement in the country’s economic development, as observed by the World Bank. According to estimates, Georgia’s GDP hit $24.6 billion in 2022, marking a 10.1% increase. However, this growth rate is expected to decline by the end of 2023.
Since 2022, more Russian and international companies like Playrix and EPAM have started doing business in Georgia. In 2021, revenue from high-tech exports totaled $153 million. The country boasts dynamic IT communities, such as GITA (Georgian Innovation and Technology Agency) and the Startup Community, along with programs in collaboration with the Business and Technology University.
Media consumption in Georgia
The World Bank reports that 79% of Georgia’s population has access to the internet. Most people in the country typically learn about the news from television broadcasts or via social media platforms. The Colab Medios Project’s 2021 report highlights that in Georgia, television is particularly popular with the over-35 age group, with a notable 78% of residents tuning in regularly. The results of a CRRC Georgia survey indicate that the three most popular TV channels are Imedi with 59%, Rustavi-2 with 53%, and Mtavari with 42% viewership.
Facebook, now under the umbrella of Meta which has been declared an extremist organization and banned in Russia, is widely used among social media platforms, with 67% of users logging in at least once a week. YouTube holds the second spot in popularity with 57%, while Instagram follows in third place at 25%. An additional 16% of users are on TikTok, while X has a 4% user base. Sixty-five percent of people regularly use messaging apps. Viber and WhatsApp lead in popularity with 35% and 30%, respectively, while Telegram holds the interest of only 4%.
In Georgia, there’s a noticeable shift from print to digital media. The country has a developed market for English-language media. When working with the media, it is important to keep in mind that their credibility in the country is very low. According to a study by Caucasus Barometer, trust in the media in the country gradually decreased from 50% to 20% between 2008 and 2019. The same data indicate that one in five Georgians does not trust the media.
The media is often highly politicized, with owners frequently dictating editorial content. The media environment in Georgia is marked by intense social strains that involve issues of religion, LGBT rights and Russian influence.
Public relations in Georgia: Main characteristics
Public relations is an evolving field in Georgia, where PR specialists are relatively scarce. Typically, only sizable corporations, like TBC Bank, have dedicated PR departments.
The official language is Georgian, meaning all media materials require translation into this language. However, English may be used when engaging with journalists. It’s preferable for the company’s spokespersons or official representatives to be local, native speakers. Some companies, such as Spar and Coca-Cola, opt to replicate their names in the Georgian language.
Essential tips for excelling in PR in Georgia
- Customized content. Ensure that all press releases and expert materials are relevant and connected to the regional backdrop. Journalists often welcome news that involves partnerships between local businesses and state departments. Analytical reports and materials should highlight the impact on the local market.
- Networking. Georgia is a nation characterized by strong horizontal ties, where recommendations from friends and personal communication are highly valued and play a crucial role in the fabric of society. Investing time in networking is crucial. Make an effort to connect with journalists, share your story, and seek opportunities for face-to-face interactions. Establishing a relationship with one well-respected journalist could potentially open doors to their entire network within Georgia, often described as being just one handshake away.
- Focus on the top media. The region hosts only a few media outlets, all with limited reach. As a result, it is crucial to prioritize engaging with the major, widely distributed ones. It is also important to point out the near absence of highly specialized media outlets in Georgia. During my 18 months in this industry, I’ve encountered several media outlets that cover cryptocurrency, but none that specialize in IT. Discover television opportunities to showcase your expertise by securing spots on business-focused TV programs.
- Events are a linchpin. They hold a special appeal for local businesses and journalists. Whether it’s a press conference, a company anniversary, a press breakfast, or a brunch, events serve as a valuable opportunity to nurture relationships and offer something the media can appreciate. TV is the prime choice for event coverage.
- Allocate funds for presents and subscription-based publications. Agreeing to free, unpaid media coverage is a feasible strategy, but I would still suggest allocating a budget for paid publications. On average, posting an article in a major media outlet costs $500. Not only does paying for publication secure your spot in the media, but it also fosters better relationships with them. Similarly, giving gifts can achieve this objective. Journalists particularly value personalized gifts or corporate items that feature the company’s logo.Gifts help to cope with the same task.
Journalists are open to collaborating with Russian PR specialists and firms, with their main focus being on the quality of the content. It needs to be both informative and engaging for readers. Use LinkedIn to search for journalists’ contact details. Ensure you research the journalist’s areas of interest in advance and provide news and expert content that aligns with those topics.
Here’s what you need to understand when collaborating with Georgian journalists.
- The pace of work can be slow. It’s important to expect that any discussion about the news may extend over several days. This often applies even to urgent news about your company, as journalists typically do not hurry to release such information.
- News embargoes often fail. Despite sending news with an embargo, journalists may not comprehend it fully. In the best-case scenario, the journalist might notify you of any misunderstandings, but in the worst case, they might release the information prematurely.
- Journalists generally show little interest in clickbait headlines. There’s a sense that competition is lacking within the Georgian media landscape. Traffic numbers don’t seem to concern them, nor do they pursue sensational headlines. They remain untroubled when their colleagues scoop stories before them.
- The opportunity to comment appears limited. Possibly this happens because of minimal competition and slow work pace. However, the reality is that you shouldn’t expect to swiftly post a comment on published news.
- Journalists often edit press releases. In Central Asia, news is usually published without changes, while in Georgia, it is normal for the content to be edited. Nevertheless, journalists are generally willing to make changes to articles that have been published already.
- Journalists appreciate exclusive content. Providing them with unique, exclusive material will ensure they prioritize preparing and publishing it promptly and to the highest standard.
- Georgia’s PR market is in its formative stages, yet it offers opportunities to establish strong, trustworthy media connections.
- The media landscape here is sparse and not all outlets are considered reliable. Therefore, it’s wise to focus on major international media right from the start. This approach can swiftly boost your company’s visibility in the market and facilitate the achievement of your objectives.
- Leveraging materials and partnerships with local businesses can secure media mentions. Additionally, networking and face-to-face interactions with media professionals will solidify your success.