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Focus on Iran

VitalStatistics

Population: 78,868,711
Monetary unit: Rial
Capital city: Tehran
Major languages: Persian (official) 53%, Azeri Turkic and Turkic dialects 18%, Kurdish 10%, Gilaki and Mazandarani 7%, Luri 6%, Balochi 2%, Arabic 2%, other 2%
Major religions: Muslim (official) 98% (Shia 89%, Sunni 9%), other (includes Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian, and Baha'i) 2%
Ethnic composition: Persian 61%, Azeri 16%, Kurd 10%, Lur 6%, Baloch 2%, Arab 2%, Turkmen and Turkic tribes 2%, other 1%
Age breakdown: 0-14 years: 23.9%, 15-64 years: 71.1%, 65 years and over: 5.1%
Life expectancy: male: 68.84 years, female: 71.93 years
Education: 4.7% of GDP
Urban/Rural split: urban: 71%, rural: 29%
Income per household (USD): -
Broadband internet users (%): -

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica

Introduction

On 1st October 2012 the rial lost 15% of its value against the dollar starkly highlighting to the world the effect international sanctions are having on a country which for years had relied on oil exports to prop up an economy that was restricted by the ruling theocracy.

This Black Monday was no one-off. The rial has lost 75% of its value in the past 12 months, GDP is still 2% below its 2008 levels, and perhaps most painfully for Iranians, Iraq now exports more oil than Iran for the first time since the early 1980s.

This economic frailty, combined with a media which is closed controlled, make it unsurprising that the PR industry is yet to take off. As one senior PR executive, who was unwilling to be named, but who works in Iran for a UK multinational, says: “Almost all the PR in Iran comes from the Government.”

He continues: “In recent years, some foreign companies have tried to reach out to the Iranian public, press, NGOs and their employees. But they never really managed to make much impact. The Government, on the other hand, might be a totalitarian dictatorship which suppresses any voice of objection, but it also depends for its survival on widespread public support, and so operates the sort of PR machine of which private companies can only dream.”

Media

Television is Iran's most popular medium, reaching 80% of the population, but it is almost entirely state-run or state-controlled. The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) is the official state broadcaster, all other terrestrial broadcasters are closely monitored and it is illegal to use satellite equipment.

The picture is similar for radio, and government news sites such as www.irna.ir, www.isna.ir, www.farsnews.ir dominate the online space.

So it is in print where the greatest opportunities for impartial coverage exist. The main newspaper in Iran is Keyhan, which has a huge
circulation due to major grants from the state, but editorially it is under the direct control of the Supreme Leader. Other state-supporting daily titles are Ettelaat, Resalat and Iran Daily, while opposing the government are E’temad, Arman, and Mardomsalari.

There are also several important weekly titles including the right-wing Panjareh and Mosallas - both of which tend to oppose Ahmadinejad - as well as those that support the reformist-Rafsanjani camp such as Aseman and Tajrobeh.

Major Brands

Around 50% of Iran's economy is centrally planned, so the state encompasses not only ministries such as those of Health, Oil, Roads, Urban development, and so on, but also banks, telecoms providers and even the two main car manufacturers: Irankhodro and Saip.

Pirouz Malekzadeh, CEO of Tehran-based branding consultants Innovate, says: “At the government bodies all PR will be done by an in-house PR manager who places stories in government news outlets and reports directly to the top management.”

There are many private companies in Iran including multinationals Danone
Group, Nestle, Samsung, LG, Unilever, and Reckitt Benckiser as well as some local FMCG producers like: Sunich, Mahram, and Kaleh.
 
Malekzadeh continues: “These private companies usually face huge media restrictions. Newspapers and websites cannot have a major cooperation with private companies because they are afraid of being accused of receiving financial benefits or having a special relationship with them. Therefore these companies tend to get their messages out through their own privately-owned sites and blogs or through product launch ceremonies or conferences.”

Agencies

There are not any PR firms in Iran to speak of, but advertising and marketing agencies such as Daarvang, Eshareh, Innovate, Final Target, Kanoun Iran Novin, and Persia Media offer PR services.

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