Kurdistan hopes promotional push will increase foreign interest

WASHINGTON: Kurdistan, part of northern Iraq that has been spared the violence roiling the south, is tapping a US agency to highlight its natural beauty, tax-free living, and 100%-foreign-ownership of businesses as reasons to visit and invest in the Kurdish-controlled province.

WASHINGTON: Kurdistan, part of northern Iraq that has been spared the violence roiling the south, is tapping a US agency to highlight its natural beauty, tax-free living, and 100%-foreign-ownership of businesses as reasons to visit and invest in the Kurdish-controlled province.

San Francisco-based Russo, Marsh & Rogers (RMR) has launched a PR and ad push on behalf of the Kurdistan regional government of Iraq, seeking to promote Kurdistan in the US as "the Other Iraq" – a relatively safe place for Western investment.

Contrasting Kurdistan with war-torn central Iraq, the new Kurdistan campaign boasts on the www.theotheriraq.com Web site, for instance: "It's spectacular. It's peaceful. Welcome to Iraqi Kurdistan. Where democracy has been practiced for over a decade."

"We were concerned a little bit that the violence in Lebanon was going to overshadow Middle East coverage," said RMR founder Sal Russo. "But on the other hand, while it would make competition for media time more difficult, it also makes the case for Kurdistan stronger because, in a region known for a violent past and present, here is an island of peace and prosperity."

Along with ads that have begun running on CNBC, MSNBC, Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, and Investors' Business Daily, the campaign also include media outreach to various cable news networks and national media, along with business meetings set up with particular groups in three initial markets: San Francisco; Portland, OR; and Washington.

For instance, the head of the Kurdistan Development Corporation, which was set up by the Kurdistan government, is meeting with timber industry chiefs in Portland in hope of encouraging investment that would help reseed Kurdistan's mountainous areas, which were largely deforested by Saddam Hussein's government.

Two additional phases of the PR campaign, to follow in September and November, will target other areas of the US, according to Russo, who said that the campaign will be a "multi-year process."

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