There are few thorough and knowledgeable sources on PR in Central Asia. We would like to recommend the book “PR the Asian way. Honestly about Communications in Central Asia” (in the original “PR по-азиатски. Честно о коммуникациях в Центральной Азии”). It covers the unique aspects of communication and the responsibilities of PR professionals in multiple countries in the region.
We would like to thank our colleague Dana Khisimova, a PR account executive at ITCOMMS, and Alexander Likhtman, Agency founder, for preparing this review and highlighting the key aspects of media and PR for each country covered in the book.
The book is well-organized, with sections divided by country, and it provides specific details about the work of PR professionals. This structure has been maintained in this review. To explore a particular country, go to corresponding section.
The book includes many convincing PR examples professionals can use. It also covers internal communication, how to establish relationships with the media, and how to create commercial offers. This review will focus on the chapters that cover communications in Central Asia. Given the intricacies of the region, a thorough comprehension of the principles, mechanisms, and unique aspects of public relations in each country is essential for successful operations.
I strongly recommend this book to — PR professionals, — journalists, producers, — entrepreneurs, — and anyone interested in learning the fundamental principles of working in Central Asian countries.
1. PR = Marketing = Advertising
Owners of small and medium-sized businesses may find it difficult to distinguish between PR, marketing, and advertising. Some prioritize quick financial benefits and sales over building a long-term communication strategy. As a result, they often choose to work with an agency rather than hiring a full-time PR person.
2. The Power of Effective Pitching
Most editorial boards are self-sustaining, relying on paid publications. Although media is often commercialized, a skilled PR professional who can effectively present their newsworthy event can sometimes get their content published for free.
To increase the chances of being featured in Kazakh media, it is crucial to have a well-prepared newsworthy event and press release that can make a journalist’s work easier. Therefore, master the basics of pitching and working with the media.
3. Importance of Regional Considerations
As a PR specialist, it’s crucial to be aware of the nuances of various regions. These include cultural attitudes, daily routines, and information consumption habits.
For example, in western Kazakhstan, long articles are not usually popular, and media may not be as willing to include comments from company representatives. Instead, they may prefer direct quotes. On the other hand, journalists in Almaty tend to prefer quotes from brand representatives, organizers, and speakers.
4. Effective Communication with the Media through Bilingual Press Releases
If you are sending a press release to the media, it is better to prepare its versions in Kazakh and Russian. This way you will show your respect for the editorial office and make it easier for its employees, because your material will not need to be specially translated.
5. Social Media Trust in Kazakhstan
In Kazakhstan, people trust social media as much as traditional media. A single post on Facebook can cause public outcry or prompt local authorities to take action. This trend is getting stronger every year. Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok are the most popular social media platforms in Kazakhstan.
1. Paid Publication and “Blocking” Service
In Kyrgyzstan, it is very common to pay for the publication of corporate materials. Editors prioritize paid placement of materials that mention a brand over the importance of the content. Using the company name in media content for a large corporation with significant financial resources can appear to be an advertisement.
There is also a popular service called “blocking” that ensures nothing negative is published about a brand or person for a certain period of time.
2. Challenges in finding a PR contractor in Kyrgyzstan
There are many agencies in Kyrgyzstan that provide services related to marketing, online promotion, advertising, and event management. PR is not yet a stand-alone corporate service, but rather an additional option for these agencies.
Therefore, finding a PR contractor may be challenging. To select a contractor, you should carefully evaluate all options related to marketing and related activities.
3. Overcoming Negative Stereotypes
Please note that the work of a PR specialist may be perceived as simply sending out press releases. Before starting any cooperation, it is important for the PR person to prepare strong arguments to demonstrate the value of effective communication for the business to the company owners.
4. Importance of Language
In the country, 78% of the population consume information in Kyrgyz. Official information must be provided in both Kyrgyz and Russian, which is why professionals who are fluent in both languages are highly valued.
5. The Digitalization of the Communications Market in Kyrgyzstan
The communications market in Kyrgyzstan is rapidly becoming more digitalized. Social media is growing at a fast pace and is now on par with traditional media as a source of information.
1. Challenges for PR in Uzbekistan’s Government Sector
The public relations and communications market in the country is still nascent. While businesses were early adopters of PR services, state structures are only starting to develop their PR capabilities. Currently, international organizations, foundations, and other official organizations in Uzbekistan are actively exploring various communication tools.
2. PR Multitasking in Uzbekistan
Communication specialists in Uzbekistan often take on multiple roles, including PR, marketing, advertising, and SMM.
3. The country’s most widely read media are in Uzbek,
with over 30 news websites among the more than 1,500 registered media outlets, which include 400 websites. The majority of the population in Uzbekistan speaks Uzbek and relies on it for information, reading media, watching TV programs, and listening to the radio. Uzbek websites receive 20 times more visits than Russian websites.
To plan the creation of content and communication for local promotion effectively, it is important to understand how to do it in Uzbek.
4. Challenging Media Relations
In the past, companies and brands would usually pay to have their publications featured in the media. This has resulted in the media expecting payment for all newsworthy stories, regardless of their quality or significance.
However, nowadays, PR specialists are building relationships with journalists and gradually increasing the value of their media channels without having to pay for placements.
5. Importance of Respecting Elders in Uzbekistan’s Culture
In Uzbekistan’s traditional culture, respecting elders is highly valued. For instance, if an elder says that a product is good, young people will certainly heed their word.
In the regions, the practice of listening to elders is more prevalent than in the capital. As a result, regional PR is more effective in influencing local communities than messages broadcast from Tashkent.
1. The Country’s PR is Nascent
Before 2013, PR specialists in the country were limited to the functions of a press secretary, mostly in government agencies . However, in the future, telecom companies and representative offices of international non-profit organizations started to use PR as well.
There are no established professional PR communities in the country, apart from Facebook groups where colleagues share information on SMM, PR, and digital marketing. Although there is a union of journalists, PR professionals are infrequent attendees. A considerable number of agencies offering PR services, in reality, only provide the service of drafting and publishing press releases in media outlets, for a fee. In the market, even experts themselves often conflate the roles of advertising and PR.
2. No Free PR Opportunities
In Tajikistan, it is challenging for brands to get media coverage because there are not enough specialized media outlets in the market. Media outlets in Tajikistan operate primarily as businesses, with the main goal of making a profit. And the main task of any business is to make a profit. As a result, editors often request payment for almost any publication.
State media is especially difficult to work with because of strict censorship, while independent outlets are struggling to survive. International media branches only choose to cover what interests them. In all three cases, a PR professional will need to put in a lot of effort to secure free publication.
1. Digital Focus
Currently, there is a swift shift from offline to digital in the country, with a focus on brands and agencies. The prevalent communication services are advertising, marketing research, and SMM.
2. PR Means Advertising
In Mongolia, PR activities are often conducted by purchasing advertising space to publish paid articles. Bartering is also widespread, with long-term contracts for paid publications being made. Media buying agencies handle the placement of materials, while marketing agencies handle strategic planning, communications management, and reporting.
3. Language Mix
The majority of the population speaks Mongolian. Individuals aged 40–45 may communicate with you in Russian as a sign of respect. Young people frequently use English in digital contexts, such as studying social media, following app instructions, and searching for information from original sources.
4. Relevant Cultural Characteristics
It is common for specialists to start working for a company and then decide to work for themselves, while still working on contract projects with their former employers. It is possible for a person to be both an employee of a company and a blogger at the same time, allowing for effective collaboration even when the person is not a staff member of the company. This type of work arrangement is generally viewed favorably.
5. Corporate Social Responsibility Coverage
Media outlets are interested in covering corporate social responsibility as it is considered newsworthy. Companies can get coverage for their good deeds without paying for it. To get free coverage, companies can link their information to a socially significant issue.
6. Rumor Management Efforts
In Mongolia, rumors are treated seriously and are actively managed. This is because, as nomadic peoples, it is common to spread news and rumors verbally. To address this, nearly half of communication efforts are dedicated to digital media, particularly to shaping and monitoring public opinion on social media.
In Central Asia’s communications market, specialists in the same industry tend to know each other across different countries. This is advantageous for a PR manager, as recommendations, contacts, connections, and acquaintances can be very helpful in their work.
This concludes our review. We suggest you study the original source while considering that not all points in the material are absolute truth and there may be other approaches to consider.
The aim of this review is to help you avoid significant errors and gain insight into how public relations functions in these distinct markets.
We trust you will thrive as you venture into these exciting new markets.
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*Olesya Kolesnichenko, the author of the book, has expertise in the areas of PR and marketing communications. She has climbed the ranks, starting out as a marketing specialist and eventually becoming a top manager at an international company. There, she was in charge of PR and communications for Kazakhstan and Central Asian countries. Throughout her career, she has partnered with various companies such as Euroset, Coca-Cola, Pfizer, Huawei, UEFA, and FIM, and has led press centers for world competitions.