INNOVATORS VS COVID 19
PR, Honey and Innovation: How a Ukrainian Company Confronts the Covid Crisis
We talked to Valeriy Kureyko of Publicity Creating about Strategic Communication and PR. This is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Valeriy Kureyko: Fortunately, things are going well in our family. We have grown-up sons, both of whom are studying at university (now by distance learning). By the way, they were interning at our PR agency. As soon as the first limitations, rules of conduct during a pandemic appeared, we decided to follow all the requirements – safe distance, wearing masks, gloves, limitation of some contacts, hand washing, treatment with antiseptics, and others.
We continue to set an example to our friends and partners in terms of responsible behavior during the pandemic. And this has a good result – everyone is healthy.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Publicity Creating.
Valeriy Kureyko: I was educated as a mechanical engineer, but in the 1990s, when the market economy began to develop in Ukraine, many people changed their fieldwork. I went into advertising and marketing, which was something completely new in our country. For example, I worked in a well-known Ukrainian company in the IT market and was involved in marketing and quite successfully.
I really enjoyed developing the company. It was great to see brand awareness growing, sales, and scale of activities… At some point, I had the idea of setting up my own business and promoting companies and brands, helping others develop and succeed.
Now our company is more than 22 years old. We were one of the first PR agencies in Ukraine. We work both with local and international companies in the segments B2B and B2C. We have hundreds of successful cases, extensive experience, and, most importantly, a positive reputation in the market.
How does Publicity Creating innovate?
Valeriy Kureyko: Public Relations in our country was an innovation in itself; it is still a technology that not all companies can or know how to use. Although the market is developing in any case, PR is gradually becoming an integral part of marketing communications. I am sure that just because of constant innovation, we were able to expand the list of services and client portfolio. We are constantly offering new services, products, promotion methods. For example, as soon as the digital era began and new media appeared, we began to provide PR services in social networks, helping to improve communication of our clients with their partners and consumers. We also introduced a number of interactive forms, projects with integrated communications, etc.
Our innovations are always based on practical benefits, and the development of something new in our company usually starts with the need to solve a specific problem for the client. We begin to think about how this can be done and, as a result, a new promotion method or a new service may emerge. For example, we have a cooperation format where an agency specialist works at a client’s premises for several months. This is a great opportunity to better understand the product and the client’s business in general. Such an employee returns to the agency with new ideas and proposals.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Valeriy Kureyko: The pandemic has certainly had an impact – budgets have been optimized, and some clients have reduced their activities. Some of the promotional tools have changed – for example, due to restrictions on offline events. But we are happy that most of our clients are aware of the importance of PR in such periods – they did not decrease their activity, but there was some rearrangement, and of course, the focus shifted. Generally speaking, for many clients, we made an update of current strategies at the very beginning of the pandemic, taking into account changing market conditions.
As far as staff work is concerned, remote working is already a familiar format for us. Moreover, back in 2012, the agency opened a back office out of town (30km from Kyiv). At that time, this was done to improve working conditions for the creative team. Today, it allows you to work far away from a congested city and optimize the cost of renting an office in the city centre. Most of the staff now work remotely and are doing fine.
In addition, the pandemic has accelerated the development of our second line of business, which is a start-up in the honey production market. Why was it beekeeping that attracted me personally, apart from the communication industry? My parents bought their first bee family back in 1974. I had been helping my father with the apiary since childhood – it was a small one – but I have had a lifelong interest in bees. About 8 years ago, our agency got a client from the honey market, and later we became partners and then speakers of this brand.
It is worth saying that the honey market is very promising. After all, Ukraine is one of the largest exporters of honey in the world. So, over 70,000 tons of Ukrainian honey will be exported to the EU and other countries of the world in 2020. But the domestic Ukrainian market is no less interesting for business. There are around 400,000 beekeepers and more than 4 million bee families in Ukraine that produce 100-120,000 tons of natural honey annually. Honey consumption in Ukraine is more than 1 kg per capita.
We already have three apiaries – not only traditional (hives), but also wooden boards and logs (decks). We are developing in the “eco” direction, introducing the practice of beekeeping without human involvement – on some boards, we do not look at more than 4 times a year. We produce up to 10 types of natural honey and beekeeping products (pollen, bee ash, propolis, etc.). We sell through the online shop. But most of all, we like the fact that we do something useful for nature, for the reproduction of bees – they are unique insect pollinators. Our team holds training, seminars, and taster sessions for people who are interested in the life of bees. We have special little houses where people can rest and sleep right on the hives with bees.
So, during the pandemic, the demand for honey in Ukraine increased significantly. In March-April 2020, there was just a rush. I am proud that our team coped with all the orders and provided consumers with healthy products on time.
We have recently started creating a “bee farmstead” with a tasting room at the base of one of the apiaries. We want to run tours, make an exhibition of beehives, etc.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Valeriy Kureyko: There were many crises over the past 20 years in Ukraine, both economic and political. This has hardened us all to a certain extent. But of course, the last year has been quite difficult, extraordinary. We have learned to be even more flexible. In addition, I think everyone has learned to value human communication. We monitor the situation, work actively, and try to use every opportunity for development that arises.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Valeriy Kureyko: Active exercise every day, eating right, and maintaining optimism in the team. Although beekeeping is still a small part of our business, it is a good outlet for the psyche. On apiary is clean air, the buzz of bees; it’s the place to rest mentally. In general, you should spend more time in the countryside, in nature.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Valeriy Kureyko: Before the pandemic, PR services were offered by about 50 agencies. Now some have closed down, and some agencies are moving into other areas of marketing communications. You know, we have never been afraid of competition. Our company has considerable experience in supporting a company’s life, in maintaining communication with real clients, in a constant search for new tools, forms, products, and customers. Therefore, there is reason to believe that we will get through this crisis successfully, too, and we will continue to work.
Your final thoughts?
Valeriy Kureyko: I would like to wish all your website readers good health and a positive attitude! Any crisis, in fact, moves us forward.
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