Maxim Behar for Capital Newspaper: The Crisis Have Made Us Better ExpertsDecember, 2021
Leading PR expert and CEO of M3 Communications Group, Inc. Maxim Behar shared in an interview for Capital newspaper how the pandemic affected his company and team, how he managed to retain and increase its clients, what role social media play in communications today and how he defines the PR business in 2022.
"We managed to leave behind the unnecessary activities in the business and focus on our indisputably strong side – excellent consultant business." – says Behar.
Were you ready, were your clients ready for the crisis?
- Of course not. What happened is something more than a crisis and no one was ready for it. The fact that we, at the company, are experts in crisis management is our main advantage and we faced the situation like professionals – first we made a strategy on how to move forward in these conditions as a company and immediately after that we started helping the clients that needed out help and guidance in communicating with their partners, customers and their teams.
Which of the affected by the pandemic businesses are your clients and what happened with their businesses and campaigns? Did you gain or lose any clients?
- Practically, we don’t have clients that are not affected by the pandemic, each and every one of them were affected to a different extent and in a different way. The thing that makes us proud is the fact that for these 18 months we did not lose a single client. We actually won 11 new ones. The main reasons for that are our expertise in the field and our quick reactions. Another important thing – we did not lay off a single employee, our team is growing, especially in the social media department.
Did the focus of your clients change, their demands, or the environment for communicating their messages? Did the importance of social networks in communication and the place of traditional media change?
- Yes, and that is completely normal. Firstly, all live events were suspended, online video platforms like Zoom took over the communication and for me this is the best thing happening to M3 Communications Group Inc. in decades. We left behind unnecessary activities like coordinating catering, stages, sound systems… etc. and we focused on the most important thing about our business – consulting. This marked a slight decline in our revenues, but in practice did not have a strong impact on our business, as these were funds that only went through our company to go to subcontractors. The trend for social media being prioritized was on even before the pandemic. The thing that actually changed is the traditional media which has launched a new, clearer and more transparent media planning policy.
What are the main differences in your way of working before March 2020 and after?
- We learned how to work remotely, something unheard of before, and I see a lot of positives in this. Now I am able to meet my main team and make direct eye contact with each of them every day, we can discuss our projects, clients... etc. This was nearly impossible in our “previous live”, when we were gathering 15-20 people in the same room every day – absurd! There is just one element that I still need to master – how to create a team online … But be sure I’ll manage to do it soon; I am on it! Many of the possible outcomes are described in my latest book The Morning After, which I published, provoked by the new living and business conditions.
What happened to your team? Have you changed your strategy for finding new staff and do you have any observation for a change in the perceptions of newcomers to your company?
- We have a very stable team of wonderful professionals. There were colleagues who just decided to change their career field during the health crisis, but we immediately find new great people that after a long process of interviews and tests managed to fit perfectly in the team. Of course, in the state of the pandemic, the recruitment process was almost entirely online. As for the perceptions of the candidates about the PR profession or in particular our work - it is constantly changing, but rather it happens with the change of generations and I believe that this is being felt in all sectors. The new generation wants to take all from life, expect things to happen quickly and do not realize the need to prove themselves first.
What are your latest projects and what is your medium-term strategy?
- We do what our customers need and we do it more successfully than ever. The projects in crisis communication and digital marketing are dominating. We introduced new services as well. We started two new projects with our subsidiary company HeadLine, which are based on weekly analyses on trending topics of interest to our clients, (politics, health… etc.), as well as measuring the results of the PR activities. We also started a great educational program online at M3 College – the first private licensed center for PR and communications.
What are you changing in the office environment?
- We have launched three new projects, which are not directly related to our clients, but are important for the team. We started doing weekly the so-called Power Talks, when we meet interesting business people who present their point of view on interesting topics. Quite logically, the last one or two months the meetings were dedicated to world-famous professionals in the field of vaccines and immunology. These meeting are always recorded and posted on our social media. We have announced our Advisory Board for the first time in 27 years, part of which is the former Bulgaria’s Foreign Minister Dr. Solomon Passy as chairman, indisputably amazing professionals in their fields such as the journalist Anna Tsolova, professor Lubomir Stoykov, professor Grigor Gorchev, media “gurus” Martin Zahariev, Valeri Zapryanov, Petar Punchev, Valentin Panayotov, business representatives Tsvetelina Nikolova, Maria Shishkova, Nikolay Vasilev and Stefan Ivanov, and many others. These people, with their experience and wise advices give a powerful motivation to me and my team for our future development in the years to come. And last but not least, we made our office a zone free of plastic. That is our small step in the path of keeping the nature clean. This idea was accepted by the team with great enthusiasm and now our goal is to have absolutely plastic-free office by the end of 2022.
You are known for your visionary mind. What is your definition of PR in 2022?
- To always tell the truth in a way that people can understand it. The key word here is truth. This statement is even more important now after the wave of misinformation surrounding the pandemic and the recent Bulgarian elections for President and Parliament. In our business, the truth must be on a pedestal. And after that comes the important role of creativity - how to convey this truth in an understandable and engaging way.