“Borat” – 1 Nazarbayev – 0?: The PR battle continues
In August, I had posted a brief piece on the inevitable conflict between the PR of Kazakhstan’s President Nazarbayev’s trip to the U.S. on September 29 and the upcoming “Borat” film that is scheduled to open in early November. Since that time, it seems that the publicists of “Borat” have begun to pick up on this issue and are exploiting it. Recently, a string of articles in Hollywood-style PR tabloids have spun the conflict between Nazarbayev’s trip to the U.S. and the opening of the “Borat” movie in such a way that it makes it sound as if Nazarbayev had planned his meeting with President Bush explicitly to address his concerns about “Borat.” Now, the Borat publicists have begun to sink their teeth into their competitor’s work. A new article in the U.K newspaper “The Daily Mail” mocks a recently published PR piece placed by the Kazakhstan Government in the journal Foreign Affairs. In particular, the newspaper dismisses the Foreign Affairs insert’s assertions of Kazakhstan’s “evolutionary democracy.” The other target of “The Daily Mail” is the spokesperson for the Kazkahstan embassy in the U.S., Roman Vassilenko, whose words criticizing the “Borat” character are mocked extensively in the article. Perhaps the Kazakhstan government needs to hire a Hollywood PR firm to deal with the likes of “Borat”; not a beltway consulting group. I would have to say, however, that Mr. Vassilenko from the Kazakhstan Embassy in Washington is starting to understand what he is up against a little better. One of his replies to the “Borat” image of Kazakhstan that is cited by the Daily Mail is allegedly the following media soundbite.
"Kazakhstan really is a special kind of 'stan and people need to know that; It's a different 'stan." That might not beat the publicists of “Borat,” but it is a start.