I had the pleasure to be recently interviewed for PR Magazin, recipe
a magazine dedicated to communicators in Germany and beyond, by Andrea Fratini, Director of Corporate Communications at the Bauer Media Group. The “Im Chat” is a section where communicators ask other communicators about various issues relevant to their job and practice and the format is snappy, imitating the chat/sms conversations.
Below is the un-shortened English version of the interview. The original, published recently, is in German.
AF: How comfortable do you feel in Berlin?
AA: Berlin is a wonderful and very vibrant city. I love its international feel, its diversity from one neighborhood to another and its history. I have moved here a little more than a year ago, so I am still finding my way around; however I am glad to call Berlin home.
AF: What can your students learn from you?
AA: I teach a variety of subjects at Quadriga University of Applied Sciences: from the more theoretical Applied Communication or Theories of Communication Management to the more applied Integrated Communication, Globalization and Communication or International Public Relations. Internationalization and digitalization are core themes of my research and teaching, followed by measurement and monitoring of communication. Personally, I hope that my international background is provides students with alternative views as does my pedagogic approach – flexible, digital, blended, integrative and considering there is no single solution for a single problem.
AF: …and what do you learn from them?
AA: I am inspired by our students everyday: they are all professionals balancing work, family and their education (studying for an MBA or MA at Quadriga University is not easy!). I admire them for their resilience, ambition and dedication, for their creativity, ability to plan ahead, and for their “there’s always place for improvement” approach.
AF: Are there any global trends, which have not been introduced in Germany in Communications, yet?
AA: German communicators, like their counterparts in any other country, are advancing at different speeds towards what, as an aggregate, we would consider global trends in communication. I believe that when it comes to digital media German communicators remain partisan to websites and present a high skepticism towards social media. This leads to noticeable communication integration, monitoring and measurement challenges. I also think that, at times, communication is considered a one-size fits all solution. A more culturally diverse approach to communication and segmentation would go a long way.
AF: What do German PR professionals do particularly well?
AA: I would say that German PR professionals are good at planning and executing their plans. I also believe German PR professionals are very good networkers with solid connections which they nurture very carefully over a long period of time.
AF: What is essential in Social Media?
AA: Social media is incompatible with traditional approaches of controlled, owned communication. Abandoning the idea that messages and brand images can be controlled at all times as can perceptions of reputation be always influenced the way organizations demand, is essential.
AF: Why do German communicators tweet so little?
AA: What I am usually told is that Twitter is time-consuming and ineffective. Of course, we can speak about how one can approach Twitter strategically so that it becomes an effective tool but the true reasons for avoiding the platform are perhaps culturally-dependent; Germans tend to be more risk averse as they do tend to appreciation privacy matters more than others.
AF: Why storytelling? Is this really new?
AA: Storytelling is not new, not for humans at least, but it is new for organizations. And when I say storytelling, I do not mean telling a “once upon a time” story with a “happy end” or the accounting an event in a manner that makes sense, whether a coherent succession of images or pages on a website but rather a personal narrative focused on each individual’s development. Storytelling that is impactful empowers: employees, consumers, citizens. So empowering organizations are the ones who facilitate development (whether discovery, improvement, change or other) and not present themselves as magical solutions. Jonah Sachs explains this new concept brilliantly. He puts it in marketing terms but Dr Camelia Crisan and I have recently applied this concept to CSR volunteering programs run by corporations. Our preliminary data suggests that when focusing on the individual’s development, storytelling is not only empowering but also helps legitimize the business and forge a stronger connection between the employees and the organization.
AF: What are the three main reasons for CSR in business companies?
AA: There is plenty of research out there on the topic indicating that location, industry and ownership influence a company’s motivation to embrace CSR. The general belief is that “doing good” positively affects the brand. The problem is that this “doing good” is too often self-serving (see cause-related marketing) or regulatory driven (see here legal and compliance frameworks). Good CSR is voluntary, is focused on benefiting society (whether as a whole or the immediate community of the business) and is not related to the bottom line.
AF: How is good communication going to look like in ten years?
AA: The same and different: the same as the principles of authentic communication have remained unchanged since humans started communicating, different as technology evolves and we learn to adapt or to cope with the new methods and environments.