Anastasia Golovina has made her way from being a journalist in Moscow, Russia, to becoming a leading PR manager based in New York. She has worked with all the desired business outlets, such as The Wall Street Journal, Forbes and The Financial Times, and has risen to the top PR manager in her field. In this interview, Anastasia has shared advice on liaisoning with journalists, coming up with newsworthy topics, and making business results out of PR.
How and when did you get involved in PR?
As a child, I dreamed of becoming a journalist. I entered the Faculty of Journalism at Moscow State University because I have always believed that this profession is my calling. It seemed to me that I could change the world by talking about really important things. So I started my career in one of the prominent Russian newspapers. I wrote about social justice and politics, but this did not touch upon global problems, and I always wanted to look further than Russia.
Besides, I’ve always had a craving for languages. I started studying Chinese, and soon enough, I was already writing in both English and Chinese for another newspaper based in Moscow. During that time, I was invited for an internship in Taiwan to improve my language and share my native culture.
Amazing! What happened in Taiwan?
I got involved in such a great community — people from Latin America, the USA, Europe and everywhere else. At that point, something upside down in my head… All of a sudden, I realized how many amazing projects are not able to grow because no one knows about them. Taiwan is the technology capital of Asia, so it’s really cool to be a tech entrepreneur there. So I plunged into the world of technology and found myself surrounded by tech people. It was 2016, and my close friends just started selling bitcoin mining machines from Taiwan worldwide. That was also the time when I first heard about bitcoin. My friends asked me to manage their social networks and create content for them. I realized that technology is what drives the world forward and what inspires me.
I saw that my work helped companies grow in international markets. And I always wanted my actions to influence something. I didn’t get that feeling from my articles, and I was disappointed in political journalism, so I switched to PR.
Where did you start working?
The Wordshop Academy – which trains specialists for the advertising and branding agencies, tv and video industry, and the art community. I loved what they do and enjoyed helping them grow by managing their communications and organizing events. But I was more into technology, so when I got an opportunity to work with the M&A PR Studio, a PR agency with a pool of tech clients, I immediately agreed. It was 2017, and the cryptocurrency market was just gaining momentum.
We worked with top projects in the industry – SingularityNET, for example, raised $36 million in 60 seconds, then they turned into a large company with dozens of employees. Another project, Ripio Credit Network, also raised $37 million and became the largest crypto company in Latin America. In addition to the crypto market, we helped launch WeWork in Russia and worked with other established brands.
At one of blockchain conferences I met the founder of the Ditto PR agency, which is based in New York, and after a series of interviews they made me an offer, so I moved to the States.
Do journalists know about you? How do you build relationships with them?
Since I have been in the crypto industry for a long time, journalists from this field know me and reach out to me themselves. Well, sometimes I send them pitches myself, of course. The most exciting part for me is when a mainstream media journalist doesn’t know about the space, and I explain what cryptocurrencies and blockchain are.
In the PR manager – journalist relationship, most important is a genuine desire to help when they need it. When you help find sources, bring more valuable information to an article, journalists appreciate it. I always look at journalists as people who have their own job; I understand the specifics because I used to be a journalist myself. It seems to me that people always feel when you are trying to help them.
Have you encountered a problem when a journalist doesn’t respect PR work and is trying to get to a source directly?
Yes, it often happens. Again, I think the main thing is to let a journalist know that they will get what he needs faster with your help. When a journalist addresses a speaker directly, it’s just a vicious circle because the client comes back to us and asks for advice on what to tell a journalist.
In some way, our work is similar to that of a journalist. We don’t pitch a project but a story. Like journalists, we are looking for these stories and are trying to catch a trend. Sometimes we find them faster than they do. Our task is even more difficult because we need to not only to find a story and a relevant angle but also to implement our client into it creatively. Sometimes I bring a story, and a journalist says – this is great, I didn’t even think about it!
That’s really cool. What are some of your most successful projects?
One of the latest cases is related to LGO, the largest institutional crypto exchange in Europe. When they came to us very few people knew about them in the US. They turned to us so that we could help them to increase awareness. We secured publications in all the big crypto-media plus mainstream business publications such as Forbes, Nasdaq and others. As a result, they were acquired by an American company a month ago. In many ways, this was because we helped them to establish their brand and raise awareness in the US market.
How can you measure the results? It’s normally hard to measure PR outcome.
They used publications in their communications with investors. Many partners noted that the number of their mentions had increased dramatically. We have the number of publications and the number of views for the digits, but we can see how they led to the final goal – company’s acquisition.
Do clients always define their business goals in the first place?
It’s really important to outline them. Some need investors, some new users and downloads. Someone is going through a crisis, and the PR strategy for all those things would be different. This year has been a tough one for the PR industry — when uncertainty comes, marketing and PR budgets are the first to shrink. Many agencies have cut their staff. But we are one of a few who, on the contrary, hired new people and got new clients. Clients are grateful that we are always trying to exceed expectations and provide valuable advice and counseling.
How much does it help you that you work in the same field?
It helps a lot because it’s much easier to keep track of what’s going on in one industry.
It also makes the job easier, because I know journalists from the industry and what they are looking for. I have a specific topic and understand intricacies and technical terms. Plus, I am able to build long-lasting relationships because I often connect with those reporters.
If I gave advice to PR people, I would recommend that they pick one or two industries that they enjoy and get inspired with. You should definitely like the industry, because only then will there be motivation to study it and follow all the trends. And if you think that there is no point in it and don’t believe in it, then you’ll never be successful.
What have you been working on lately?
For the last year, I have been interested in dealing with crisis communications. When something happens that threatens a company’s reputation, you really feel like saving your client. For example, recently, one of our clients had more than a million personal data leaked into the Internet.
This is a huge reputational loss for a company that is protecting this very data and users’ funds. We’ve been to dealing with this crisis for several months. We suggested they speak as transparently as possible about what happened and what the company is doing to prevent leaks in the future, which helped minimize the damage.
How can the level of damage be measured? You don’t know how it could have been otherwise.
This, of course, cannot be measured with numbers. But we think that proactive communication was essential here. A database leak could have led scammers to use this data to steal users’ money. Proactive communication and truthful information about what happened helped inform people that scam attempts are possible. A million emails were stolen, but none of the dollars! And if we had not stated this openly, it would have been different. Users would suffer not only mentally but also financially.
How does your agency gain such big clients?
We are currently working with the largest projects in the crypto industry – Binance.US, Ledger, Celsius, Blockchain.com and others.
This is partly because we were the first believers in the crypto industry. Some employees involved in crypto projects have invested some money in crypto hence have a deep understanding of the industry. Clients trust us because we know what we are talking about. Interestingly, in the last year, they have been coming with the same request – to get featured more often in the mainstream media. If you are a big company, the market already knows you, and the task is not to promote your company, but the industry. I think we are doing important work here — educating people about crypto and blockchain. I often talk to journalists who are skeptical about crypto and help them figure it out. Giants like PayPal are entering the industry, and now it seems the right time to get involved in crypto – it’s just too big to ignore.