One thing in common for all the countries in our region (except Greece) is the history as a part of the communist Eastern Bloc. Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 meant the end of the communist regime and a new beginning for Eastern European countries.
Adjusting to the completely new way of life has not been easy neither for businesses nor people. PR is no exception. Sandra L. Braun from the University of Alabama, USA, has interviewed Bulgarian PR professionals, journalists and directors for her study The Effects of the Political Environment On Public Relations in Bulgaria (link). Here are some of the most interesting findings about the state of PR today in Bulgaria.
1. "The scar of socialism":
Braun's interviewees stated that people thought that their former social identities were changed when democracy came and that they couldn't accept new identities. For public relations practitioners, this means dealing with a general public that is very difficult to influence, highly cynical, and resistant to public messages.
2. Wrong perception of public relations:
Many of the professionals interviewed in the research felt that the public does not understand the term, the function, or the purpose of public relations, that the public views the profession negatively and largely associates it with propaganda and duplicity.
A communications professor even said that: "In the scientific world, it is very normal to say “public relations.” Everybody understands. But if you go to the street and say “PR man,” people don’t understand. Bulgarians think about Superman. If you say “PR specialist,” that’s a bit better."
3. The "Black PR" and corruption:
Many participants commented on the concept of Black PR.It was described as “PR meant to hurt an opponent or competitor—even lies about another.”
A good example was given: "In an election there were two candidates for President. And one, he came on TV and he didn’t say I will do this or I will do that. He said that he had heard his competitor had been with criminals."
Many participants also agreed that editorial corruption exists in Bulgaria which means organizations (have to) pay for journalists to publish their press releases.
Braun, S. (2007). The Effects of the Political Environment On Public Relations in Bulgaria. Journal of Public Relations Research, 19(3), 199-228.