Interview: Haya Al Nassr

How will external communication strategies assist in the transition to a knowledge-based economy?

HAYA AL NASSR: External communication is just as important as internal communication. There are now more channels than ever to reach certain target audiences internationally. By effectively alleviating any misconceptions of Qatar, we can raise awareness about the kinds of business and investment opportunities available.

Traditionally, the only content that used to come out of this region was politically charged and contained negative images portraying conflict. Through exporting content that encompasses entertainment and education, we will be able to bring down the barriers and attract the right entities to assist us in transitioning to a knowledge-based economy.

Moreover, branding strategies such as the sponsorship of Barcelona Football Club not only promote sport and healthy lifestyles internally, but communicate externally the importance we place on development and education, which will, in turn, attract the people we need.

In your opinion, how can satellite channels raise revenue and offset the high operating costs?

AL NASSR: I am a firm believer that satellite channels should no longer depend on government funding to run their operations. There is a vast number of opportunities available – sponsorship and advertising could be very lucrative for highly successful channels. Selling airtime and renting studios or services would also help satellite channels to be self-sufficient and raise their revenues. Adopting these strategies will have a positive effect on the organisational structure and competitiveness of the industry.

What is important to establish is that satellite channels do not require huge empires that have a large number of employees. The way to offset high operational costs is by outsourcing and partnering with other entities. For instance, services or production can be outsourced to smaller players, which encourages the creation of small businesses and presents opportunities for young creative individuals. Rather than embedding services and these smaller production companies within the organisation, we can develop the philosophy of outsourcing and co-production, which will make satellite channels more efficient.

What did you expect to achieve by rolling out the Think campaign to cover the GCC and beyond?

AL NASSR: The Think campaign was the Qatar Foundation’s first marketing campaign. With it, we wanted to raise awareness about the organisation’s vision and mission. By rolling it out to the GCC, we aimed to reach a wider target audience, not only investors and potential business partners, but also society as a whole.

Initially, Qatar, along with the rest of the region, was not familiar with advertising campaigns aimed at promoting a concept. It was, therefore, difficult for consumers to absorb such a campaign that raises awareness about the value of research, science and education. These areas are essential as they very much fall in line with Qatar’s Vision 2030, and especially moving the country from a carbon-based economy to a knowledge-based one.

What opportunities are likely to arise from the new media law aimed at the liberalisation of the sector?

AL NASSR: Historically the liberalisation of the media sector has been an incremental and gradual process, and the new law did not come as a surprise. Qatar, which initially started with the formation of the Al Jazeera network, has created a good platform for the liberalisation of the industry, which is now expanding into social media and new digital media, giving people more chance to share their ideas and speak more freely.

This will create opportunities for enhanced competition between media outlets and will increase internal communication among organisations, developing the cascade of information from top to bottom and vice versa. Subsequently, this will lead to a rise in transparency, accountability and freedom of speech.