I’ve started my work in PR when I was 20. Even though it was a governmental structure, we were lucky enough to have good management and actually try to do something. On the other hand – we were close enough to other governmental structures to know how much money gets spent and what outreach was being received. Budgets were enough to feed the families of the whole management, while outreach was simply not worth it. At least PR wise.
If you are thinking about starting business in Azerbaijan, probably the first word you should learn is “otkat” (ot-cut). This word we adopted from Russian language means the amount of money one has to bribe with if he receives a grant or a purchase from a certain structure.
And if you think that this is being covered and not talked about – you’re mistaken. An Azerbaijani is usually fine talking about the otkats he received or had to pay. “How else should my family survive in this economy”, he’ll say if you ask.
Otkat works in all fields: business, education, arts and of course PR. As a result – cattles of expensive 4-wheel-drives filling the streets of Baku, millions spent on projects, outreach of which are once again – not worth it. 20 million manats for Flowers Day, 10 million dollars on participation in Eurovision (while Russia only spends 30 thousand), millions of money on cultural events around the world, which are mostly attended by Azerbaijanis. And does it bring more tourists to Azerbaijan? No, it only makes people pick up the phone and check the prices and then choose Turkey or Spain for vacation. Because it’s simply much cheaper.
Safura Alizadeh, Azerbaijani participant of Eurovision 2010
Let me tell you another PR story, which I’ve already mentioned a few days ago will write more broadly about in my next post.
A couple of months ago German Embassy contacted me asking if I would be interested in attending an International Blogger conference to be held in Berlin in May. “Of course!”, I said. A month and an interview later – I was chosen as a representative of Azerbaijan to attend a 10-day Bloggertour organized by the Foreign Office of Germany.
What can I say? It turned out to be the best event I’ve ever participated. Not only was it well-planned and completely paid, but also so informative, I’ve already drafted two and wrote 1 post about things I’ve seen and learned there. And I’m only going to mention 30% of it – parts of the program that impressed me the most.
As a result – 16 most popular bloggers from around the world (and my blog was the weakest there) sharing their impressions and experience with their readers, who will repost those in their blogs or share on their Facebook pages. Outreach – thousands of readers and a line for the next year’s tour.
Should I tell about a number of scholarships for international students and kind of promotion it gives to a country? Or work with Social Media activists? Or hundreds of festivals and celebrations held all around the world? La Tomatina in Spain? Saint Patrick’s day in Ireland? Shopping festival in Dubai? Even the Pillow Fight in London? Or Karneval der Kulturen in Berlin I was lucky enough to see?
That’s my friends, what I call PR. And our ambitions to show ourselves in a good way by spending loads of money are nothing more than just a nice icing on a really bad cake, no one will order again. And no otkat will save it.