PR is a business of intelligent opinion makers: Maxim BeharJuly, 2023
Host: Hello and welcome to E4m PR and Corm Comm podcast. Today we will be having an insightful conversation with Mr. Maxim Behar, CEO, and chairman of M3 Communications. Mr. Behar is a leading Public Relations expert with wide experience and a strong presence in many countries all over the world. He travels a lot and often speaks in front of world leaders, audiences, practitioners, students, and opinion makers on Leadership, Modern Public Relations, and Social Media topics. He is a past president of the International Communications Consultancy Organization, also known as, ICCO, which is the largest and most influential global organization of PR professionals and practitioners. And now is a president of The World Communications Forum Association, registered in Davos, Switzerland. He is inducted in the Global PR Hall of Fame in London in 2017 for his entire work supporting and leading thousands of international PR projects and for his remarkable mandate as ICCO President. His latest book “The Global PR Revolution” is among the best publications about Public Relations sold now internationally and was ranked by BookAuthority among the top 5 new books on PR in the world. Welcome to my show, Mr. Behar.
Maxim: Namaste. Namaste India.
Host: So, Mr. Behar, my first question for you would be to please tell us more about the highlights from your journey over the years.
Maxim: I enjoyed it very much; I started working when I was 14 years old as a carpenter and then after I graduated from high school, I started working in a machinery factory and I spent about 5 years there. Then I had my university degree in Prague, Czech Republic and my favorite job was journalism, so my practice in journalism led me to a correspondent in a couple of cities in Bulgaria and a special correspondent in Poland for a couple of years. In 1992 I founded the first Bulgarian private daily newspaper as editor-in-chief, but 3 years later I decided to move to another business on my own. I was calling this Public Relations, although almost no one knew what Public Relations is in this part of the world, because it was and still is a little bit an Anglo-American business and of course, the United States and the United Kingdom are countries with the most developed market for Public Relations. Since then, almost 30 years, I’ve been in the business of Public Relations, and to summarize what I’m doing in this business – I’m doing my job and nothing else. Driving every morning to my company, to my office, which is the largest in Bulgaria and the most influential one, having fun, expecting to see and meet young and intelligent people, to meet my clients and to work very hard on my client’s projects, as I do and as I said for almost 30 years.
Host: Thank you, Mr. Behar you also were the Public President of The International Communication Consultancy Organization, so tell us about your work there.
Maxim: ICCO, or International Communication Consultancy Organization, is an extremely special project in my life and has a very deep place in my heart and in my professional life. I was elected as a board member about 10 years ago and then I was a Vice President and a President, and now these days I’m a chair in the executive comity, responsible for the enlargement of ICCO, of the organization. It’s an amazing place for exchanging experience, networking, generating new ideas and it’s a great machine to push global Public Relations business ahead. First of all, we have an ethical standard, which we would like to distribute to many local and international companies and to convince them to service them, because of a very simple reason, Public Relations business is a business of influence, a business of intelligent opinion makers and that’s why they should be absolutely proven in their ethical standards. Professional, it’s OK, we have a standard for professional business and professional performance in ICCO, as well, and if you spread all over the world, we have almost 60 member countries, from all continents. In my experience, learning that you might be an excellent professional, but you can also have some problems with ethics. You may allow some of clients to ask you to keep silent for some things which are very important, and society should know all these details. You can do some things for your clients which might produce fake news or misleading information or false information, so that’s why I will put at first place the ethical side of the business and then the professionalism, which is understandable. You cannot be in this business or at least have a high rank in this business without professional abilities. We manage to implement Everything into the ICCO standard, into the ICCO daily life and I think there are a more than 3000 Public Relations companies from all over the world, which are ICCO members these days. I’m very proud that for the past 10 years we really brought ICCO to a new level of professionalism and ethical behavior on the market.
Host: Mr. Behar, moving forward, you were also a chairman of the Board of Trustees of Every Child Foundation in Bulgaria.
Maxim: It is important for our business to deliver a good case studies, to deliver corporate social responsibility, behavior and messages to society, that business is the one to bring interesting projects, which governments cannot implement, so that’s why I care about the children in need and the young people and even the unemployed and people who for one or another reason don’t feel very good in society. We have them in Bulgaria, you have them in India, of course. It’s all over the world, so this is an expression of business, which should support the government and society, because we generate money. We generate business and we show with our behavior that certain amount of money from this business go to good and corporate, social, and responsible causes. The foundation “Every Child” is one example, but I’m a member of 10s others, different NGOs, or None-Governmental Organizations, like Bulgarian Business Leader Forum. I’m on the board of Sofia Economic University, I’m on the board of the largest European university, which is called Engaged.eu, so this is a part of my life to be socially responsible, to be involved in different community causes, with one single reason – to make this world a much better place for living in.
Host: This is indeed inspiring for many professionalists. So, Mr. Behar, how have you seen the PR industry evolve over the years and how did you get inspired to like it?
Maxim: I can summarize it with only one word, which is among the title of my book – revolution. It’s a real revolution of our Public Relations business. Of course, for many reasons. The main one, and I connect it with the real revolution is the appearance of social media. First of all, is the first media in human history to be proactive and brings a two-way communication. It’s not only that people are consumers of news but also, they create news. It’s not only that people read media, but they also own media, and this is, by the way, the whole revolution and this is what the whole revolution is all about – people own media. From that perspective, it brings a couple of sub-revolutions. One of them is from the past, from like 10 years ago, we were advisers to our clients, now we’re the decision makers and it’s a big change, by the way. We were a bridge between our clients and the media, and now we’re not a bridge, we’re the owners of media. Our clients have profiles in Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, TikTok, you name it, all the social media. We’re the ones to manage these media, and from that perspective, these days Public Relations experts are something very sophisticated, in-between, publishers, editors and reporters. Publishers, because we own media, everyone owns media. Editors, because we are dealing with content, so the most important of this media is, of course, the content which we produce. Finally, reporters, because we are looking for news and that’s the reporter’s job. We can put whatever story on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram. If we don’t have news in this story, it it’s not interesting, if it’s not well written, then no one will read it or will see the picture or video, whatever. So, this is the great revolution. The other one is that media is interactive, in a way that people can communicate with each other. And, for the first time ever in history – media are measurable. We can see every single minute how many people have looked at the news or followed the brand, or how many people would want to communicate with our brands, how many people have bought the product. So, we can measure this within minutes, and we can also target the messages we send. So, c’mon, of course it’s a revolution. In the not-so-distant past, we were sitting between our clients and the media, and we were creating good press releases, in a way that journalists like you can take the press release and publish it somewhere, either in traditional media or online or wherever. So, that was, more or less, our job. Creating a good text for our clients, that the journalists would be very happy to publish. Today, we can create a text, we can publish it, we can target the audience at which the text is aimed at. This means, first of all, a much bigger responsibility for the Public Relations expert and secondly, a much greater need for good education and practice. Revolution.
Host: Mr. Behar, you were awarded as a global PR professional in 2022, so how was your experience, how did you feel about that?
Maxim: Oh my gosh, I am so proud. I’ve been to India many times, I love the country, I have thousands of friends. To be honest, I find the Indian Public Relations market very well developed, with great projects. I’ve been a jury to a couple of contests for Indian awards. Not this one, of course, but in the past, and I find the market very well developed, very professional, and I was flattered that someone from India would select my modest person, would come to me, and will see my achievements in the Public Relations business. I cannot wait to come back to Delhi, to meet you, to meet the other friends, especially our friends from E4M, and I also hope that this award will make my relations with my Indian colleagues much better and I would be able to come to the office and sit down with them together and discuss how our business can be better, how it can serve the community much better, and how the world might become a better place for living and for doing business.
Host: Thank you so much, for your valuable time.
Maxim: Let me finish by giving my best wishes to my Indian friends.
Host: Thank you so much.