Civil protests around the Russian parliamentary and presidential elections in 2011-2012 marked a significant shift in Russians’ attitudes towards socio-economic issues.
2013 saw constructive transformation of the open political debate into people’s greater interest in how efficiently the government runs the Russian Federation, what local authorities do to improve the standard of living and what the companies do to improve the quality of their services and products.
Today, with the social interest towards the state’s policy-making growing exponentially and politicians getting more tuned to what people say, integrated ‘grassroot’ campaigns, capitalizing on the four trends mentioned above, are bound to be more effective. The phrase “grassroots support” is used in more or less in the same sense for which it was coined in the US in the beginning of the 20th century: In 1903 a Kansas political organizer was quoted as saying: “Roosevelt… clubs will be organized in every locality. We will begin at the grass roots”.1 More known is Senator [of Indiana] Albert Beveridge’s saying in 1912: “This party [Progressive Party] has come from the grassroots. It has grown from the soil of people's hard necessities”.2
Russian policy makers are increasingly more inclined to listen to groups that represent the great mass of citizens provided that issues raised are non-political. In some instances grassroots campaigns will be capable of overriding voices from business associations, let alone foreign investors.
In turn a successful grassroots campaign is impossible without effective and structured engagement of ‘grasstops’ – a widely used term these days for opinion formers with true public power who enjoy widespread support from target groups.
This opens up opportunities for ethical, evidence-based and structured grassroots campaigns by Russian and international companies when their interests genuinely coincide with those of the public and Non-Governmental Organisations.
Communications strategies of Russian and international companies should change to seize the opportunities grassroots campaigns may offer.
Grayling Russia has taken an in-depth look into how communications strategies should change to adapt to this new reality and make effective use of grassroots and grasstops engagement opportunities, from grassroots lobbying, to grasstops engagement, re-thinking traditional and social media and integrated grassroots campaigns.
Read our full in-depth report: Re-Thinking Corporate Communications in a New Russia with a More Mature Civil Society.
By Jan Simunek
Chief Executive Officer, Grayling CEE, CIS & Russia
1Boom for Gen. Torrance, Salt Lake herald, September 25, 1903, 6
2Eigen's Political & Historical Quotations "Beveridge, Albert J." 2006-05-20