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Svetlana Putintseva

"Is this your period?" Why was comedian Nurlan Saburov canceled.

20.04.2022

Disclaimer: not for his stance on Ukraine. 

On April 9, during his U.S. tour, Saburov spoke in Los Angeles. He was asked about his position on the war in Ukraine and said that he was sincerely sorry and feared for his family. The video went viral on the Internet in an instant.

On April 12 in Seattle, people came to Saburov's concert already determined to ask uncomfortable questions. On April 13 in San Francisco, the situation went into tatters when Ukrainian artist Yulia Kosivchuk appeared onstage in a long white dress with red spots imitating blood, and shouted "Silence is a crime”.

To which Saburov reacted with a ridiculous joke: "Is that your period?"

After that, a series of concert cancellations began.

AT WHAT POINT DID EVERYTHING GO WRONG AND WHY WAS NURLAN SABUROV CANCELED?

I've been working as a marketer for five years, and during this time I've studied the psychology of expats (not only Russian-speaking ones) very well.

Nurlan was not canceled for his position on the war. In fact, he didn't even voice it, but simply avoided answering, hiding behind fear. The real problem of Saburov is his bad communication strategy.

Today's world can hardly be called a world as such. The high polarity of opinion, the constant stress of reading the news, and the perpetual sense of the unknown and inevitability.

This condition cannot be ignored, especially if you work with people. And even more so, if you want to sell them something. This is the first mistake.

The second mistake is that in order to succeed you also have to understand not only the existing agenda and people's moods, but also their psychology.

Immigrants are very different from people who live peacefully in the country they were born and raised in. In what way? Literally everything. By energy, by the way and speed of decision-making, by ambitions.

If a person moves to another country, there is a very good chance that he shares the views and values of the country to which he goes. This includes freedom of speech and expression. And emigrants often successfully adopt this skill of speaking openly about what bothers them and asking uncomfortable questions.

Not to mention sexist jokes in the homeland of feminism, the United States. Putting misogynistic jokes on the air is like putting your hand into the mouth of a lion and then complaining that it bit it off. For making such remarks about, say, colleagues, you can end up in court, under dismissal and on the front pages of the tabloids - it is so obvious (to everyone except Nurlan) that it is not even up for discussion.  

The third mistake is ignoring the mix of diasporas. In emigration, we all come from the post-Soviet space. Belarusians, Ukrainians, Russians, and Kazakhs - we are all mixed up in this Russian-speaking space (although the situation may change a lot in the near future). And when you have a person in your close circle of communication whose family was directly affected by the war, you can't stay away.

GIVEN THESE THREE FACTORS, NURLAN HAD TWO OPTIONS:

  1. Go on tour, but be prepared for uncomfortable questions. And to be ready to openly express his position. And ideally he should also organize a charity collection for those who suffered from war, and give at least a part of the profit from sales to help Ukrainians.
  2. Cancel the tour if you are not prepared to openly express your position, or if your personal opinion really is at variance with that of the majority of emigrants. Yes, yes, just like that. The topic of war is too sharp, too painful, you can't hit people right on the nerve because they can easily fight back. However, that's exactly what they did.

Instead of it Nurlan and his command (a lot of questions to his PR-director, of course) have decided that it will suffice and it is possible to go as it is. But somehow it did not work out. Recently the news came out that his concerts in Israel have been canceled as well.

At what point did everything go wrong? At the moment of deciding on the US tour, weighing all the pros and cons.

There is irony in the fact that Nurlan's concert is called “Principles”. In sales, marketing and communication, as we see it, such "Principles" don't work very well. We need more empathy, guys!

By Svetlana Putintseva

“An unknown future is better than a future of violence, censorship and broken lives”. Fifth wave of emigration.
Emigration

“An unknown future is better than a future of violence, censorship and broken lives”. Fifth wave of emigration.