Azerbaijan: Business strategy development for local media

Journalism is not all about writing, shooting and editing. It is also a business that requires a strategy. David Brewer, a senior media consultant  in Azerbaijan, tells Seymur Kazimov of the IMS-established Media Center about survival strategies for media in tough political environments

During an intensive four-day Training of Trainers (ToT) course, media consultant David Brewer shared some of his experiences building media business strategies with Azerbaijani colleagues, as part of a joint initiative of the IMS-supported Azerbaijan Media Center, the Council of Europe and the European Commission.

The training sessions were focused on the business needs of the media organisation that commissioned the training.

“That element of the development of Azerbaijan media is still fairly new. Many on the course commented that training sometimes lacks business focus, so it’s important that those on the course learn how to develop a business-focused training plan”.

Political pressure versus media development

Because of the political situation in Azerbaijan it is not surprising that the country’s media are not open to such training or seminars. Many believe that media success requires political will only, and that training is a waste of time and money.

Like many other consultants, David Brewer respects, but disagrees with this popular belief and thinks that Azerbaijan is not alone in this. Journalists work under pressure worldwide.

Need for skills transferring all over the globe

The recent training was tailored to the specific needs of the Azerbaijani media audience. The modules he introduced in Baku were adapted from models previously applied in other transition countries such as Zimbabwe, Vietnam and Georgia. When asked about the specific challenges he might face with the Azerbaijani process, Brewer said:

– The learning process is the same everywhere. But different cultures and varied levels of knowledge have an impact on how the training is delivered and absorbed, so it is important for the trainer to be flexible, sensitive and to take time to understand the audience.

– What is common is the need to transfer skills to empower local journalists and media managers so that they can become the media leaders of the future and research, design, deliver and evaluate training that is relevant to the country and the region, he said.

Success-indicators for training

The indicators for training success are not how many people attended or the list of topics covered. Rather it’s whether the knowledge and skills shared are applied. The final objective of the training is the establishment of a group of Azerbaijani media trainers that can develop and deliver training courses in the future.

– This will then reduce the need to bring in Western experts and will build the capacity of the media in Azerbaijan, concluded Brewer.

For all the participants, the training has become an important milestone in their professional careers. For instance, IREX Pro Media’s Vugar Mammadov will be applying his new skills in the near future. IREX Pro Media has an active presence in the Azerbaijani regions where the organization runs community information centers to help develop youth media.

The Azerbaijan Media Center (AMC) is increasingly working with writers and broadcasters who are filling the void left vacant by the current failure of mainstream media to fulfill its public service role. The Training of Trainers course was just one of the many activities of the AMC to strengthen youth media and promote responsible, issue-led journalism in the country. The course was funded by The Council of Europe (CoE) and the European Commission and organized by the AMC.