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A Focus On... Kazakhstan

VitalStatistics

Population: 16,560,000.
Monetary unit: tenge
Capital city: Astana
Major languages: Kazakh; Russian (Russian has official equal status per article 7.2 of the constitution.)
Major religions: Muslim (mostly Sunni) 42.7%; nonreligious 29.3%; Christian 16.7%, of which Orthodox 8.6%; atheist 10.9%; other 0.4%.
Ethnic composition: Kazakh 63.1%; Russian 23.7%; Uzbek 2.8%; Ukrainian 2.1%; Uighur 1.4%; Tatar 1.3%; German 1.1%; other 4.5%.
Age breakdown: under 15, 24.3%; 15–29, 27.2%; 30–44, 21.0%; 45–59, 17.3%; 60–74, 7.7%; 75–84, 2.1%; 85 and over, 0.4%.
Life expectancy: male 63.6 years; female 73.6 years.
Education: Population age 25 and over having: no formal schooling/some primary education 9.1%; primary education 23.1%; secondary/ some postsecondary 57.8%; higher 10.0%.
Urban/Rural split: urban 54.0%; rural 46.0%
Income per household (USD): -
Broadband internet users (%): -

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica

Introduction

Like so much else in the former Soviet republic, PR only really took off once the Soviet Union collapsed at the start of the 1990s. In 1993 the first global PR firm entered the market with Burson-Marsteller communicating around the USAID-funded privatization programme. Local agencies soon sprang up and by 1995 Kazakhstani universities were offering courses in PR.

“Up until very recently PR in Kazakhstan has been synonymous with media relations,” says Mikhail Dorofeev, the former head of PR at oil and gas company Exploration Production KazMunaiGas (KMG EP). “That is no longer the case. Now PR practitioners are beginning to build brand loyalty and corporate reputation through activities such as corporate social responsibility.”

For example, John Smelt, head of corporate communications at copper mining giant Kazakhmys, says: “Ours is a well-established brand in Kazakhstan, and some of the regions where we operate are hugely dependent on the company. So, social responsibility plays a major part in our communications plan. For example, one of our current campaigns is a children's book writing contest.”

He continues: “Kazakh culture and language suffered during the Soviet era when Russian dominated the educational system. Now it is compulsory to learn the language at school, but there are few books written for children in their native language. In this campaign we aim to highlight the issue, and to bring some Kazakh language children's book to print.”

Assel Karaulova, CEO of the Kazakhstan Press Club agrees that the industry is maturing. She says: “In the past year and a half there has been growing use of social media. Also there has been progress in financial PR. Last year saw the launch of the People's IPO programme through which ordinary Kazakhstani people are offered the chance to own shares in large national companies. This has boosted the demand for financial PR.”

According to Kazakhstan's National Association of Public Relations (NAPR) the value of the PR services market in Kazakhstan in 2011 was estimated at USD$70 million dollars. “It's not a lot of money, though I believe this figure is somewhat understated,” says Dorofeev. “In any case, the Kazakh PR market already ranks third in the CIS after Russia and Ukraine - and it is growing fast.”

Media

“Unfortunately, we don't have very strong media brands,” report Karaulova. “Media owners have considerable control over editorial policy. If you want to be heard by government - as is often the case - you have to go to the two leading government funded papers: Kazakhstanskaya Pravda in Russian and Egemen Kazakhstan in Kazakh. For business media there is no single dominant brand, but important titles are Kursiv, Kapital, Panorama, and Expert-Kazakhstan. Recently Forbes-Kazakhstan opened its office.”

Indeed for Kazakhmys, developing local business journalism is an important strand of its PR work. Smelt explains: “Kazakhstan does not have a fully developed business journalism segment so we run an educational programme for local journalists. This involves a series of site trips and educational seminars hosted by local and international business journalists. We also reward best writers with an annual Mining Journalism Award. This programme has been very popular, and we have seen a shift in business reporting

over the last few years.”

Away from the print media, the most popular TV channels are KTK and Khabar. Caspionet is a popular international channel. For radio it is Energy FM and Tengri FM. Popular websites include www.nur.kz, www.zakon.kz, www.tengrinews.kz, www.resuirs.kz, www.gazeta.kzwww.today.kz, and www.bnews.kz.

Major Brands

Unsurprisingly it is the extractive industry and companies such as Kazakhmys and KMG EP that are leading the way in PR. However, large-scale extraction always requires large-scale finance and so Kazkommertsbank, Caspi Bank, BTA Bank and Halyk Bank are important brands.

Then there are the local telco brands such as Kcell, Beeline, Tele 2, and Kazakhtelecom. Finally, there are the ubiquitous multinational FMCG brands; Pepsi, Coca-Cola, P&G, Samsung and LG are strong here.

Agencies

Most of the credible agencies are members of the National Association of Public Relations which was founded in 2001. Regional player Action PR is present and Ogilvy PR has an office, but for the

most part the market is dominated by local agencies such as PG Communications, Renessans, TSAFSI, and AGT-Kazakhstan.

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