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Keti Khositashvili: “A PR Manager’s Role is Often Crucial in Highly Competitive Conditions”

Interview with Keti Khositashvili, the Head of Public Relations of Georgian Manganese LTD.

Why did you decide to enter this field, and what kind of opportunities does this profession give you?

I got an education in journalism and I’ve been in media for 25 years. I have been working in PR for many years, and in this respect, I have worked with and still cooperate with numerous organizations. I can’t remember all of my jobs, so let me highlight some of them.

In 1993, I first worked for the newspaper Tbilisi; then my favorite, 7 Days, which specially helped me fall for the profession; I sometimes wrote for Dilis Gazeti (Morning Paper), Akhali Epoka (New Epoch)…. Then there was television: “Eureka’’, “Iberia TV’’ where I worked for five years, later “Public Broadcaster’’, the “Moambe’’ editorial office and the press service of the MIA.

I was a head producer of the program “Patruli’’, the art director at “Adjara TV’’ and chief producer of the channel, as well as many others… mainly I covered justice and conflicts. I lived in Pankisi and Kodori Gorges for years, covering Tskhinvali events. I will never forget those years, full of thousands of stories and adventures.

Eventually, I realized that the time had come not to think of someone else’s desire, but to take care of mine, so I considered the media business. I started a news agency with a small newsroom and two computers. With the help of interns, we gradually expanded it over the next five years. Today Kvira (Week) has established a media holding incorporating several media products, and has an image and reputation for reliability, which I believe is the most important thing.

As for PR, in recent years I believe that I have acquired experience here, too. Some years ago I started working at the American Center, where I headed the PR service. Later, friends offered me cooperation with the City Institute, which it was my pleasure to accept. This is the organization that develops the General Plan of Tbilisi, and I still work with them.

At Georgian Manganese, I was appointed to the position of head of PR in the organization about a year ago. It was a challenge—a huge organization and a hard industry, which combines the Zestafoni ferroalloy factory and the Chiatura ore-processing plant. It has 5,500 employees (and a many more contractors), and contributes a lion’s share to the country’s economy.

What qualities do you value in a person at work?

I must admit it was not easy to adapt to a new environment, but the friendly, family-like atmosphere here helped a lot. Most important was the head of Georgian Manganese, Nika Chikovani. He is a man from whom I learn something new every day: I learn to gain strength, courage, patience, and to make wise decisions; I learned how to be a team-player, manage crisis situations, and accept high social responsibility. It is important for me to follow his steps, which are crucial for the development of the company. I also see the specific policies that develop the major areas of Zestafoni and Chiatura. I am glad that I am participating in these projects and processes, and that is an enormous responsibility.

I’ll bring up one example: as we all know, we have five fingers on each hand. Every finger has its own unique function, but imagine if we had only index and pinky fingers. Or if we didn’t have a main one: the thumb. We would be incapable.

The thumb is like a company leader. This person is the primary compelling power and instrument. When working for a company, you should realize that you are part of one organism, and realize that constant management is vital for its existence. Importantly, this thumb should be flexible and strong. I think that is true for my company and its head.

I’m part of a larger organism. I never expected that I would ever wear a yellow jacket and rubber boots to walk in the mines, but I got used to it, and as time passes I appreciate the professionals who work there more. Mineworkers have a surprisingly interesting, challenging and important job, and I wish this profession received more appreciation in society. It could become more prestigious, popular and more attractive for young people. However, there are not just miners at Georgian Manganese: this company combines a lot of industrial specialists, including engineers, technicians, mechanics and drill and explosives operators.

When I look at their work, where accuracy is often vital, and when I see very tired, dusty faces, I wish to just go and tell them: thank you! I believe that they do as much for the state as anyone else. I would like everyone to be aware of that.

What is it necessary for successful communication with the public?

Fortunately we have a lot of instruments to communicate with the public nowadays—via TV, in print, online, using social media…. We have the opportunity to have personal communication and share our occupations, goals and current and future projects directly. We must use all channels to share our message to the audience adequately.

It is also important company to have a clear goal of what we want to achieve by communication. We need to meet the requirements of our audience, as well as finding the right style and method to bring our message simply and clearly to them.

We shouldn’t hide from problems, it’s better to turn them into a task we can solve and be open to talking about problems. Generally, I think, being sincere is the main thing.

Three tips you would give to someone who wants to work in this field.

  1. Always define your goals clearly—calculate the results, evaluate the risks, analyze the situation and work to establish a long-term PR plan.
  2. Discuss with the public what they are interested in, and not just what presents your topics of interest.
  3. The main wealth of PR is in contacts, the human relationships we collect as a result of our experience. Make rational use of your links, all people and their resources. This is the best PR practice that technology cannot replace.

What do you wish you knew before you started your career in PR?

Today people who want to get PR education or experience have many opportunities. There are unlimited sources of information that allow them to develop professionally.

There are higher education and vocational institutions, training centers, print or online resources, literature. It enables a PR specialist or a person who wants to pursue this profession to learn relevant knowledge and become a qualified specialist.

Unfortunately, two decades ago, when I became interested in this profession, there was a different situation and many fewer possibilities. The specialists of this field were mostly self-taught. However, my second profession, journalism, helped me very much. While these are absolutely different fields, both of them require similar skills, for example: good general education, a permanent presence in the epicenter of the country’s important events, good writing skills, analysis and connections.

These “parallel” professions often give me an opportunity to see the events from two different sidesfrom the inside (with PR) and from the outside (as a journalist). This is very interesting, and in the end gives me a chance to see the whole picture.

I advise everyone to work a lot on themselves before starting a career. The world and technologies develop, and public taste refines. We need to catch up, improve ourselves and learn constantly, especially because PR is crucial when companies operate in highly competitive conditions.