Precarious security conditions and poor infrastructure are not the only difficulties that media and press currently have to currently confront in Iraq. The local media are struggling to get rid of a heavy legacy and freedom of the press still faces significant challenges.
In April 2010, Lufthansa, Europe's largest aviation group and one of the world's leading airlines, resumed flights to Iraq after a two-decade hiatus. The new route connects the city of Erbil in Northern Iraq to Frankfurt International Airport four times a week. The Group occupies a prominent position in the air connections between Europe and Iraq as, in addition, Lufthansa serves Erbil through Austrian Airlines, one of its subsidiaries, which offers five weekly connections between Vienna and the thriving Northern Iraqi city.
Due to the economic recovery and improving safety conditions of Northern Iraq, numerous diplomatic and commercial representations, organisations and foreign companies are being set up in the capital city and its surroundings while Erbil International Airport has recently been expanded with a modern passenger terminal. bridge:media's challenge consisted of organizing the communications campaign for a launch event of not only strong symbolic value and a considerable impact on the future development of the region, but also one that was conducted amid a demanding security environment and in the face of the difficult media and press context of Iraq.
Moreover, with Lufthansa's Kurdish target group scattered within Iraq and throughout the world, a strategy had to be developed to address not only the Kurds of Iraq but also the fragmented, global Kurdish diaspora, particularly that of Europe and North America.
The collaboration between bridge:media and Lufthansa for promoting the new Erbil-Frankfurt route started few weeks in advance of the official launch event in April 2010. bridge:media's consulting service touched all the stages of the PR campaign and involved messaging, media relations, organization of a press conference event and follow-ups with the media in response to the campaign.
Firstly, a continuous research and liaison activity was carried out to ensure an accurate and updated list of Iraqi national and regional Kurdish press. This task proved particularly demanding both for security and practical reasons. Indeed, the lingering security risks, weak infrastructure and lack of web sources made it particularly hard to reach journalists or their media outlets.
Press releases for promoting the new route were created in Arabic, Kurdish and English in order to achieve a comprehensive outreach of the event in the region and across all of Iraq. During this phase, persuasive efforts with the media were required for determining the releases' final wordings as the generally cautious attitude of the media engendered prolonged negotiations before achieving a final agreement.
Secondly, the press conference held in April to launch officially the new Frankfurt-Erbil route was conceived as a high-level event attended by international media and top-level Lufthansa management. On this occasion, bridge:media was responsible for the media relations and invitations management but it also coordinated the logistics and organizational aspects related to the event.
The steps undertaken entailed invitations to editors and journalists, preparation of press kits and information material, media selection and follow-ups with confirmed participants to the conference. On the other hand, there was an intensive work behind the infrastructure management and organizational aspects related to the venue of the event, since the security of the guests had to be organized and granted in advance to ensure a consistent media participation.
Throughout the entire communications campaign, the constant liaison with, and information updates provided to, the concerned Iraqi media, represented a main pillar of the provided consulting strategy, with bridge:media acting as the main intermediary between Lufthansa and the press based in the country and the region.
The subsequent monitoring and follow-ups carried out by bridge:media to determine the success of the campaign, showed the extensive coverage that the event had generated in all types of Iraqi media.
The press conference in Erbil saw the participation of the largest Iraqi national print, radio, online and television media as well as great interest from the international press, both in the run-up to and in the weeks following the official launch event. Despite the challenges posed by the media situation in Iraq, the launch of the new Lufthansa route successfully managed to gather the invited press in Erbil, with dozens of journalists attending the event. These included the leading Kurdish television channel targeting expatriate Kurdish communities in the West, in addition to the two leading websites aimed at the Kurdish diaspora. News of the event was also broadcast during prime time news on Iraqi national television.
Through the provision of press material in Arabic, Kurdish and English language, the potential audience was maximised and a broader outreach achieved, consistent with the multilingual press context of the region. The news appeared in major regional dailies and was broadly reported on by the Kurdish international press based in Europe.
In conclusion, bridge:media significantly contributed to the successful promotion of this important event for travel between Europe and Iraq. The communications campaign around the opening of the new Erbil-Frankfurt route substantially caught the attention of national, regional and international press and Lufthansa is currently planning the opening of another route to Baghdad.