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    Maria Zakharova

    Meet Maria Zakharova, Russian Foreign Ministry’s First Female Spokesperson

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    Russia’s Foreign Ministry apparently enjoys the lively, dynamic and informal language of its information and press department as opposed to dry, formal press releases: the department’s former deputy director Maria Zakharova has been appointed the Ministry’s new spokeswoman and is the first woman in history to take up the post.

    Recently, Russia’s Foreign Ministry was thrust into the spotlight of the international community, not only for its official press releases on burning issues, but also for its clever, informative and often ad-hoc social media posts.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's interview to Rossiya Segodnya's Director General Dmitry Kiselev
    © Sputnik / Grigoriy Sisoev
    For example, the world learned that Russia’s foreign minister, who is known to the public for his dour-looking formal attire of suits and ties, actually looks pretty good in casual clothes.

    Recently he playfully told everyone to have a nice weekend.

    On another occasion, the Ministry wittily struck back at the crusade of words against the so-called 'Russian threat’.

    The author of most of these posts is Maria Zakharova, the former deputy director of the Ministry’s information and press department, who has been promoted to the official post of spokeswoman for the Ministry and the director of the department. For the first time in the history of the Ministry, the position is to be held by a woman.

    In the Russian blogosphere, Zakharova is often referred to as “the Russian answer to Jen Psaki”, the former spokesperson for the US Department of State and current White House Communications Director. But there is one important exception: Zakharova never makes the kinds of “slips of the tongue” with reference to world affairs which Psaki has become famous for. 

    Asked to comment on the comparison by the RT television network shortly following her appointment, Zakharova answered both bluntly and wryly: "My reaction to those who try to compare me [to Ms. Psaki] is obvious: you are wrong. My name is Maria —Maria Zakharova. [smiles]"

    According to Burson-Marsteller, a global public relations and communications firm headquartered in New York City, “over the past years social media has become the channel of choice for digital diplomacy between world leaders, governments, foreign ministries and diplomats.”

    “Social media in general and Twitter in particular is no longer just an afterthought but an essential communication tool for governments to interact and broadcast 140 character messages and six-second soundbites,” it says

    “For many diplomats, Twitter has become a powerful channel for digital diplomacy and 21st century statecraft and not all Twitter exchanges are diplomatic; real world differences are playing out on Twitter, sometimes ending up in hashtag wars between embassies and foreign ministries.”

    According to the company’s recent study Twitplomacy 2015, How world leaders connect on Twitter, "governments which put more financial and human resources into their digital communications are often the ones who are the most effective.”

    Maria and her team have successfully promoted the Russian Foreign Ministry (@MID_RF), which ranks third among the world’s foreign ministries, after the State Department (@StateDept) and the Turkish Ministry (@TC_Disisleri).

    In her interview with RT, Zakharova explained that in her work, she has tried combine official information, such as press briefings and press conferences, with interesting 'behind the scenes' information "related to negotiations, practical diplomacy and foreign visits." She noted that she believes that it is both "interesting and useful for the audience to understand how it all happens —[to see] how all these official events are prepared for and take place." Ultimately, the diplomat thinks "that the combination of traditional ways of diplomacy and some innovation is the most useful."

    In 2014, the information and press department of the Russian Foreign Ministry won Russia’s Runet Award prize in the category “Culture and Mass Communications”. The award was handed to Maria.

    Zakharova has been working in the Ministry since 1998. From 2005 to 2008 she worked as a Press-Secretary at the Russian Representative Office at the UN headquarters in New York.

    Related:

    Maria Zakharova Appointed Spokeswoman of Russia's Foreign Ministry
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