Best Practice Strategy: Speak with One Voice

by Sabina Jalilova [ Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action ]

In this article, the Public Relations Officer of the Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action discusses how successful communication with the public has been critical to the success of the mine-action program in Azerbaijan. As part of its public-relations efforts in 2006, ANAMA organized a mine-action workshop for local journalists.

The basis of all public relations is communication. Every organization, whether it be a for-profit business, not-for-profit organization, educational institution or government agency, depends on people. Their attitudes, attention, understanding and motivation can be critical to the success or failure of the organization or idea.

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ANAMA Director Nazim Ismaylov talks with local journalists. All photos courtesy of the Azerbaijan Red Crescent Society

Public Relations at ANAMA

Public relations of the Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action is managed by the Public Relations Officer, whose principal objective is to ensure that information about Agency activities and events is distributed appropriately to raise awareness. The PR Officer coordinates the information flow on every aspect of ANAMA's work, whether for an internal or external audience.

ANAMA's PR policies and procedures have been in place since 2003. They have significantly improved the Agency's internal and external communication, raised public awareness and also improved the overall image of ANAMA. "Speak with one voice" is one of the key strategies of the ANAMA public-relations efforts. Everyone involved in ANAMA activities is provided with relevant guidelines to ensure this strategy is followed. The ANAMA staff is given guidance about how to perform and provide information about their individual work and ANAMA's general activities, making it easier for them to speak with one voice.

The PR Support Group of ANAMA is comprised of one representative from each department designated to assist in organizing and highlighting major events. Introducing the group to the media during a special event for journalists proved to be a time- and cost-effective way to present newsworthy story ideas for distribution to the media.

A Web site Management Committee has also been established. A roadmap was developed and introduced to regularly maintain and update ANAMA's Web site. This strategy has improved the coordination and interaction between departments.

ANAMA's publicity successes are well-documented, including:

ANAMA PR Project: Workshop for Journalists

It should be mentioned that close cooperation with journalists is one of the main tenets of PR. In fact, PR professionals are significantly less successful if they don't develop good relationships with journalists. The days of mailing or e-mailing a news release are long past. Few in public relations are successful with that technique anymore.

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Mine-action workshop for journalists.

Therefore, ANAMA, in close cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Azerbaijan Campaign to Ban Landmines, held a workshop for local journalists to raise their awareness about the important role of the media can play in raising awareness to reduce the problems caused by mines and explosive remnants of war.1

During the workshop, presentations were made on preventive mine action and mine-victim assistance, as well as on the International Standards2 related to mines and ERW. Journalists also had an opportunity to witness mine clearance conducted by ANAMA, as well as to visit a mine-victim reintegration project in Azerbaijan and learn about vocational rehabilitation and an association of mine survivors.

Following the media workshop, Tofig Yusif, Chief Editor of Yeni Terter newspaper, said, "During this workshop I became aware that [the] mine problem is a serious problem for [the] civilian population and attention should be paid to this issue constantly. Apart from providing information to the public, which we did so far, we should educate people about safe behavior and how to be protected. We as journalists have a moral responsibility to support mine victims and therefore we have to present their problems to the society. As of today, I have decided that this issue should be regularly on the agenda of our newspaper bearing in mind the high level of risk existing in Terter region."3

Communication is Key

Creativity, initiative and the ability to communicate effectively are essential goals of ANAMA's public relations. One of the main challenges of the ANAMA PR professionals is not only to pass information to the mass media but also to raise awareness, disseminate safe behavior rules and protect people from the threat of mines and UXO. These endeavors are being undertaken in accordance with objectives of the government of Azerbaijan.

Timely information sharing and openness of the Agency to cooperation with media and other social institutions not only allows ANAMA to publicize its activities but also serves as a sign of transparency. Transparency, in turn, is crucial to developing and maintaining an ethical image of an organization.

In public-relations terms, ANAMA has ideally positioned itself to be viewed as an ethical organization striving for a better world. Other mine-action organizations can do the same by following these best practices. Bullet

Biography

HeadshotSabina Jalilova has been working as the Public Relations Officer at the Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action since June 2006. From September 2005 to June 2006, she participated in an internship in the United Nations Office in Azerbaijan. During the internship, Sabina provided aid to the Communications Manager and the Assistant Librarian working with the Web Coordinator of the Department of Public Information Web site. She graduated from the Azerbaijan University of Languages with a bachelor's degree in 2003 and earned a master's degree in 2005 from the same university.

Endnotes

  1. Editor's Note: Some organizations consider mines and ERW to be two separate entities, since they are regulated by different legal documents (the former by the Ottawa Convention and Amended Protocol II of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, the latter by CCW Protocol V). However, since mines are explosive devices that have similar effects to other ERW and it is often impossible to separate the two during clearance operations, some in the community have adopted a "working definition" (as opposed to a legal one) of ERW in which it is a blanket term that includes mines, UXO, abandoned explosive ordnance and other explosive devices.
  2. United Nations Mine Action Service (2003). International Mine Action Standards. New York: UNMAS. The IMAS can be found online at http://www.mineactionstandards.org/imas.htm. Accessed 13 March 2007.
  3. "Azerbaijan: Working With Journalists to Reduce Impact of Mines and Explosive Remnants of War." ANAMA Web site. http://www.anama.baku.az/. Press release, 20 November 2006. Accessed 10 April 2007.

Contact Information

Sabina V. Jalilova
Public Relations Officer
Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action
65 Fizuli St.
Baku / Azerbaijan AZ1014
Tel: +994 12 4973 851
Fax: +994 12 4974 427
E-mail: sjalilova@anama.baku.az
Web site: http://www.anama.baku.az