The pivotal role of NRENs in advancing research and education is undeniable. Despite this, several NREN initiatives lack adequate marketing, leading to limited awareness among member institutions. To bridge this gap, MAREN and ASNET-AM, Armenia’s NREN, collaborated to organize a training workshop on communication for MAREN NREN staff. The workshop, conducted on February 5-6, 2024, at the Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences, ran concurrently with the HPC, Big Data, and Data Analytics workshop. In an interview, the workshop facilitator shared insights into the communication training, aiming to enhance visibility and collaboration among NRENs.

MAREN: Welcome to the interview. Could you please introduce yourself, mention your position, and outline your role at ASNET-AM?

NK: My name is Naira Katarian, and I am a team member focusing on marketing and communication at ASNET-AM, the National Research and Educational Network of Armenia.

MAREN: How long have you been with ASNET-AM?

NK: I’ve been with ASNET-AM for quite some time, but I joined the marketing team when we started participating in the EAP Connect project. This experience empowered me with the skills and expertise in that field.

Naira Katarian, (Right) receives a gift from Malawi Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Chikondano Mussa (Left)

MAREN: Your primary focus is on communication. Can you elaborate on the importance of communication and marketing within an NREN setup?

NK: Certainly. In the past, we didn’t think much about the need for a dedicated communication position. However, as the world changed and more people started living in the virtual realm, with billions on social networks, it became crucial for NRENs to be visible in these spaces. Marketing and communication play a vital role in creating awareness among audiences and potential university collaborations.

MAREN: You facilitated the Communications and Marketing Training Workshop with the MAREN staff. How was the experience?

NK: I was thrilled to be part of this experience. The sharing of knowledge and warm collaboration allowed for valuable exchanges and support among colleagues from different regions.

MAREN: Looking at communication and marketing on a broader scale within NRENs, what gaps do you see that need to be addressed?

NK: Regional disparities are noticeable, with European countries and Eastern Partnership countries being somewhat on par, as are African countries. However, there’s a gap between these regions. To foster better understanding and collaboration, we should work to eliminate these gaps and bring regions to a similar level.

MAREN: What specific challenges exist in terms of communicating and marketing online services?

NK: The challenge lies in showcasing the uniqueness and value of specialized services to a relatively narrow audience. Unlike mass products, these services require careful communication to convey their distinctiveness and persuade the target audience to engage and cooperate.

MAREN: Regarding the NREN training program, how would you describe its importance in building relationships, especially with MAREN?

NK: The regional and even intercontinental collaborations facilitated by programs like the NREN training are crucial. Such collaborations are more significant than bilateral ones within specific regions because they provide an opportunity to learn from different cultures and environments, fostering a rich exchange of knowledge and experiences.

MAREN: In terms of the specific training you conducted here, considering the vast field of communication and marketing, what were the key aspects you focused on with the staff?

NK: I delved into the building blocks that contribute to developing a marketing strategy, particularly emphasizing social media marketing strategy. I chose this topic as it addressed our struggles, helping us realize the importance of having a strategy to better plan and perform our tasks.