The Brand of Kazakhstan is Being Created Today
Birzhan Kaneshev, the chairman of the Kazakh Foreign Ministry’s International Information Committee, has answered questions from our magazine.
Mr Kaneshev, in which spheres does your committee work?
First of all, the International Information Committee is responsible for promoting and strengthening the positive image of our country abroad. In the globalised information world, there is the need to work out new approaches to creating a positive image for a country, which is why many countries are currently “re-branding” themselves to increase their recognisability and attractiveness. Kazakhstan is no exception, especially when we are trying to join the club of the top 50 most competitive countries in the world. Competitiveness starts with recognisability and the stability of a brand.
The information which is currently available about Kazakhstan is mainly about its immense natural resources. However, our people have a rich history and culture, and our economy is booming and has a great investment potential in the non-extractive sector. We are ready to open tourist routes which have never been known to the world.
Kazakhstan is pursuing a responsible domestic and foreign policy, establishing the principles of religious and ethnic tolerance, developing close cooperation with neighbouring countries and global players and is expanding integration processes. We need to realise our advantages and strengths, advancing them on the world information markets. Many foreign people have a very superficial understanding about Central Asia, which is why they do not conceal their desire to learn more about this region, including Kazakhstan.
Our committee aims to spread comprehensive information about Kazakhstan, its people and the events that are taking place in the country, as well as the possibilities for cooperation in various spheres.
Could you please tell us about the activities of your committee? What have you managed to achieve?
We have established an efficient system for coordinating information and image-building efforts taken by government agencies and national companies. To this end the Kazakh prime minister has passed a resolution to set up an interdepartmental working group.
Of course, as the committee’s name suggests, it should cooperate with the foreign media. We offer assistance to foreign journalists arriving in Kazakhstan, organise their meetings and provide them with all necessary information.
In addition, in order to attract attention to processes in Kazakhstan the committee organises public events involving Kazakh and foreign high-level experts. For example, together with the Russian RIA-Novosti news agency on Lake Issyk-Kul in late June, we organised the first international conference “Democratic Processes in the Post-Soviet Space: Words and Deeds”. Experts, politicians and journalists from Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan attended the conference. Earlier in Moscow, the committee held a scientific-practical seminar on Kazakh economic reforms. Both events attracted widespread media reaction, and foreign experts admitted that they had received a lot of important and useful information from these events.
Which competitive advantages should Kazakhstan base its image strategy on?
The basis for creating a brand and reputation for any state is the individuality of a country, which includes a combination of its qualities and resources. It also reflects the country’s technology and approaches to work, partners’ trust and expert information, the level and quality of management, the dynamics of communications and so on. All these factors influence the image and, as a result, the competitiveness of a country.
Based on the world’s experience of successful country branding, our priorities have three components which will make it possible to create a recognisable and unique image: cultural-historical, territorial-geographical and economic.
The country’s image is closely intertwined with the cultural and historical peculiarities of its people. Each country is unique because of their history, traditions and original culture. The recognisable ethnic portrait of Kazakhstan’s people will make it possible to use its multi-ethnicity as a factor that would appeal to the spiritual, cultural and historical traditions of many peoples in the world.
Taking into account that Kazakhstan has an advantageous geographical position in the centre of Eurasia and significant transit potential, as well as diverse climatic and natural zones combined with transport infrastructure, the territorial-geographical factor can be used successfully in creating the country’s brand.
The country’s recognisability also depends on the level of its integration into world economic processes. In this context, Kazakhstan’s economic potential acquires particular importance because of its favourable social and political stability, investment climate, well-developed banking and stable regulatory systems. Using all these factors Kazakhstan can fulfil strategic tasks to propel its companies and development institutions to an international level and enable them to claim their positions in the global economy.
Are there general methods for assessing the efficiency of a country’s brand? Will you use foreign experience in your work in this sphere?
There are many reputable companies operating on the country branding market. They are capable of objectively assessing the perception of a certain country’s brand by political and business elites and creators of public opinion in leading countries.
In order to identify strengths and weaknesses of the brand they use various methods of qualitative and quantitative statistical analysis, and after this they make relevant recommendations. However, the initial assessment is not the most important thing. Similar analyses should be carried out on a regular basis. These analyses make it possible to assess the results of information and image building activities and correct them.
Other important criteria for assessing country branding are the frequency of references in the media, the number of searches on the Internet and the number of visa applications. In the future, we intend to carry out these detailed analyses with foreign companies. Of course, we ourselves are always watching the perception of image and attitudes towards Kazakhstan, analysing articles in the foreign media and running opinion polls to correct our current activities.
What do you think should be done to create a positive image of Kazakhstan abroad? What principles, approaches and instruments can be used?
For this we need, above all, systemic measures and coordinated efforts by government agencies and national companies that are useful in creating a positive image, i.e. the state and the business community should work together.
Our approach to creating a positive image is very pragmatic: we expect specific economic results and political dividends in form of investment, strengthening Kazakhstan’s positions and increasing its reputation in the international arena.
The main instrument for developing our country’s positive reputation should be an active information campaign aimed at a wide range of foreign audiences. To achieve this we need to build efficient communication channels with international newsmakers. We should also improve the quality of outgoing information flows from the country and talk often about successes and progress achieved by Kazakhstan. Ignorance breeds monsters whereas the absence of information leads to absurd conjectures. Developing the country’s own efficient means of spreading objective information about events taking place in the country is very important.
Making news reports that promote Kazakh achievements and interests in foreign countries will produce positive results. Large-scale initiatives should be launched in the spheres of tourism, culture, sport and investment.
Public diplomacy also helps to create a positive image for a country. Measures to study and establish relations with foreign audiences, including journalists writing about our country, NGOs, friendship societies and so on, are important in this. The active use of public diplomacy instruments will enable us to conduct information and strategic image campaigns on a permanent and systematic basis.
The Brand of Kazakhstan is Being Created Today Birzhan Kaneshev
Where Does the Brand Start? Yevgeniy Zharkin
The Tree of Diversification: Prescriptions for Growth Sergey Gakhov
Our Telecoms Charge Ahead; Kaznet Grinds to a Halt! Alexander Vassilyev
Civil Aviation: Takeoff or Letdown? Sergey Smirnov
Railways. The Quadrature of a Wheel Pair Sergey Smirnov
Atlas Copco. Growth Strategy Hans Hedensjö
Pension Funds. Re-assessing Values Editorial
Securities Market: Six Months’ Figures Tatyana Kudryavtseva
Second Advent. Scheme for Placing SPO Yuliya Feller