Tag Archive: Berlin Wall


Brave declarations of glorious victory notwithstanding …

Do you think Hillary Clinton and her public relations team would like to press the 2009 “reset” button with Russia all over again?

How about a reset of the “reset”?

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Do they give out PR Mulligans?

The Era of Viral Images

How many ALS campaign “Ice Bucket Challenge” social media videos have you seen so far?

The campaign based upon donors enduring an unceremonious cold-water bath has raised a pledged $62.5 million and counting to fight this fatal disease.

The PR/marketing campaign is beautiful in its simplicity. Accept a friend or colleague’s challenge to video tape yourself being dunked with ice water. Post your video on social media. Invite someone else to do the same. It’s a Ponzi scheme for a great cause.

Former President George W. Bush appeared natural and genuinely had fun as First Lady Laura poured cold water on him at the family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine. He then challenged former President Bill Clinton to do the same.

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Conversely Mitt Romney looked stiff, decked out in his Brooks Brothers’-style suit, as shirt-sleeved Paul Ryan poured water on his former running mate.

No one questions that Mitt and many others should accept the ALS challenge. Having said that, the suit serves as a metaphor for Romney’s stiffness, a characteristic that makes it difficult for Americans to warm up to the notion of the former Governor of Massachusetts in the White House.

It appears that Mitt has not lost his stoicism heading into 2016.

Lasting Metaphors?

Sometimes PR pros need to be careful to not let “props” take on a life of their own, and serve as a not-intended lasting metaphor.

If a picture is worth a 1,000 words, how many words can an ill-chosen gimmick, or for that matter a clearly successful backdrop, mean for a personal brand and/or reputation going forward.

Silent Generation-types and more mature Baby Boomers remember Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev pounding his shoe on the table at the United Nations in 1960. Obviously, PR was not a consideration when he engaged in this boorish behavior. Nonetheless this angry incident with his shoe was one for the history books.

nikita

 

The backdrop of the Brandenburg Gate and the hated Berlin Wall served as the framing for John F. Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” and Ronald Reagan’s “Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall” speeches. Both Clinton and Barack Obama (as a senator) visited the same venue, but did not leave the same lasting memories.

And then there was the “Mission Accomplished” banner behind George W. Bush saluting a job well-done in Iraq. Everything is tranquil and peaceful in Iraq. Right?

missionaccomplished

Five years ago, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave her post-Soviet Union, Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, a “reset” button to signal that all was getting better with the two former Cold War adversaries, the United States and Russian Federation.

A few eyebrows were raised, when the reset button reportedly “borrowed” from a Swiss spa, was emblazoned with the word, peregruzka. The only problem is the word in Russian means, “overcharge” not “reset.” One would think the Department of State may have at least one Harvard-head that knew a thing or two about the Russian language.

That day now seems so long ago. This past spring, Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula in the Ukraine, and later its Ukrainian backed rebels shot down a defenseless Malaysian 747. Will Vladimir Putin’s Russia actually invade the Ukraine, directly defying the Western world, including those who once wanted to reset US/Russia relations?

And if so, what will the “reset” button symbolize? Will it bring into question Hillary’s geopolitical judgment?

The aforementioned Romney pointed to the image of smiling Hillary and beaming Lavrov taking turns pushing the magical “reset” button. Hillary has no choice but to not only defend her actions, but to follow the time-tested political axiom: “When in doubt declare victory.”

Will being tough be enough? Or does she deep down inside wish that she never, ever heard of a “reset” button?

http://www.businessinsider.com/mitt-romney-hillary-clinton-embarrassing-obama-reset-button

http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1843506_1843505_1843496,00.html

http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2014/07/24/hillary-clinton-stands-by-russian-reset-in-face-of-recent-events/

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/03/03/remember-hillarys-russian-reset-button-guess-where-she-got-it/

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/nikita-khrushchev-throws-a-tantrum-at-the-united-nations

http://www.alsa.org/fight-als/ice-bucket-challenge.html

http://www.alsa.org/news/archive/ice-bucket-challenge.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77AuXhORs-E

“A thousand years will pass and the guilt of Germany will not be erased.” – Nazi Governor of Poland Hans Frank at the Nürnberg Trails.

“It is for the rising German generation … unanimously announcing their desire: not for a German Europe, but for a European Germany.” – Author, Novelist Thomas Mann

There really isn’t any specific German word or words for public relations.

The closest appears to be Öffentlichkeitsarbeit or literally public sphere work.

Nonetheless there has been an Öffentlichkeitsarbeitswunder in Germany in less than 70 years since the end of World War II and the discovery of the massive savagery of the Holocaust.

How can a country that was literally wiped flat and left with an indelible stain on its brand and reputation ever become the “Most Popular County in the World” in much less than a century, if one believes the chaps at the BBC?

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According to a random quantitative survey of 26,000 respondents in 25 countries conducted for the BBC, Germany finished first with a 59 percent approval rating vs. 15 percent, who disapprove. It should be noted that respondents were precluded from voting for their own country, so this result is truly a result of how Germany is seen around the world.

What this means is that during the course of nearly seven decades of surrender, occupation, division, rebuilding, reunification and now as the unofficial leader and banker of the European Union, Germany is not only seen as a normal country…a timid one at that…but a nation to be admired.

Two factors immediately come to mind: The healing power of time and how most people view success (der Erfolg).

This post is not my first foray into the question of the enhancement of the German brand (see my earlier Feminizing the Fatherland), but it does trigger a discussion about how one of the most despised nations in the history of the planet can now be the most admired.

As I pondered providing an answer to this question, I walked into the reported largest book store in the world, Powell’s Books, which takes up an entire block in the Northwest quadrant of Portland, Oregon.

Predictably, I found the majority of the hundreds of titles about Germany focused on the NS Zeit or the Nazi times with vivid descriptions of Hitler’s terror, the war and the ovens and gas chambers of the Holocaust.

As a result, there are literally hundreds of movies and television shows (e.g., Schindler’s List, Defiance, Hogan’s Heroes) that make the Germans out to be monsters or klutzy. Recent ads for Beck’s Beer in the United States portray the anal side of the Germans, suggesting that the Teutonic types take their humor, recreation and romance very seriously.

Public relations essentially evolved as an outgrowth of the industrial revolution in America, and it was used to protect the strong business positions of Cornelius Vanderbilt, John Rockefeller’s Standard Oil and other industrialists at the time.

Conversely, one should never confuse Hitler’s propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels with the practice of public relations. Goebbels’ mission was to control all media and thus dominate thought within Germany and conquered nations, not to project a positive image of Nazi Germany to the world.

After the war ended and the horrors of the Final Solution became apparent, Germany still needed to be rebuilt and with it the image of a democratic state strategically aligned to the West in the center of Europe.

What were some of the factors that led from the rubble to the most popular nation on Earth? Here are some factors for discussion and further research:

brandenburggate

● The Marshall Plan, $13 billion reconstruction of Europe program, spearheaded by Secretary of State George Marshall. The program accelerated the comeback of the European continent, and set the groundwork for Germany’s Wirtschaftswunder or Economic Miracle.

● Speaking of miraculous events, there was also the 1954 “Miracle of Bern” when upstart West Germany won its first World Cup. West Germany won again in 1974 with “Kaiser Franz” Beckenbauer as captain, and yet again as a reunified country in 1990 with Beckenbauer serving as coach. German sports stars, including Beckenbauer, Oliver Bierhof, Lothar Matthias, Jürgen Klinsmann, Miroslav Klöse, Steffi Graf, Boris Becker, Katarina Witt, have all contributed to softening the nation’s image and projecting a people focused on success.

● Even though Bayer was owned by IG Farben, which made the poisonous Zyklon B used at Auschwitz and other Nazi camps, the company is best known for inventing aspirin. German engineering is legendary and its products and companies are legion including: Bayerische Motoren Werke (BMW), Daimler Benz, Porsche, Vokwagen, BASF, Siemens, Deutsche Telekom, Systemen, Anwendugen und Programmen (SAP), Becks, Spaten, Aldi (owner of Trader Joe’s) and many others.

● The 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall (ein Stück der Mauer ist an meinen Tisch), the subsequent collapse of East Germany and the reunification of the country, focused the world’s attention once again…but from a positive standpoint…on das Land in der Mitte.

●The formation of the European Union and the resulting currency reform (Is the Euro the Deutsche Mark in drag?) placed Germany as the EU’s largest and wealthiest nation in a leadership position, even though the Germans eschew the word, Führer.

Early leadership by Germany in environmental protection as evidenced by the apparent strength of die Grünen or Green Party, the planned shutdown of the nation’s nuclear reactors and the 80 percent energy consumption from renewables target.

● The open admission of German responsibility for not only World War II, but the systematic liquidation of approximately 6 million Jews and others that were deemed to be undesirable (Untermenschen) by the Nazis. Besides official memorials, there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of Stolpersteinen (bronze stepping stones) that commemorate those who lived in particular German towns, who were then kidnapped and murdered.

● A five-year old held captive in one of the Concentration Camps on liberation day in 1945 would be 73 today. The World War II generation is inevitably dying out. And with their passing goes direct memory of the horrors of Nazi Germany. Time is on the side of the new democratic Germany.

● Chancellor Angela Merkel is ironically the female head of state of the Fatherland. Even though her politics are similar to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher; Merkel is seen as pragmatic and willing to compromise…traits not associated with Britain’s “Iron Lady.” This week, The Economist suggested that Merkel’s Germany is a “reluctant hegemon,” more than happy to be an economic, export-oriented power, but preferring to take a Switzerland mode when it comes to global leadership.

● This week, Barack Obama will be the fourth sitting American president (his second trip there) to speak in Berlin. Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” and Reagan’s “Mr. Gorbachev tear down this Wall” speeches are seared into our collective memories. Germany’s capitol is a symbol of the universal quest for freedom.

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Even though there are some that dredge up the past, including placing Hitler mustaches and Nazi armbands on caricatures of Merkel, Germany is increasingly seen as doing something right. Labor and management work together. Wages are competitive. The nation’s unemployment rate is low. The country is a legendary manufacturer and exporter.

And now Germany is the most popular nation in the world…at least according to one very prominent poll. Who could ever believe this result, even for a nanosecond, more than two generations ago? It’s time to delve into what appears to be a public relations miracle.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-22624104

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-21974496

http://www.cnbc.com/id/100761312

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Mann

http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21578448-what-germanys-football-victory-says-about-its-role-europe-tor-tor-tor

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/06/24/feminizing-the-fatherland/

http://www.powells.com/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schindler%27s_List

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_D._Rockefeller

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornelius_Vanderbilt

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marshall_Plan

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayer

Has there ever been a country in the planet’s existence that has ever been so thoroughly and negatively stereotyped based upon only 12 years of its history?

Consider the national brand of Germany and its 82 million residents. What does the mere mention of the country’s name trigger in the minds of most people? The Nazis, Hitler, Goose-stepping, Blitzkrieg, Luftwaffe, Panzers, Gestapo, Sieg Hail, Holocaust, Lugers, Monocles, the Bunker etc.

This deeply ingrained stereotype (e.g. Wilhelm Klink and Sergeant “I know nothing” Schultz of Hogan’s Heroes) comes immediately to mind and will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to overcome. However, there may be four answers to at least soften the country’s perception problem: time, normalcy, products and most of all, famous women who have or who are softening the nation’s image.

As Pulitzer Prize writer and journalist William L. Shirer wrote in his best seller The Rise and the Fall of the Third Reich he personally detested totalitarian dictatorships and came to loathe Nazi Germany as he lived through it and “watched its ugly assault upon the human spirit.” That was from 1933-1945 or 66-78 years ago.

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Since then, Germany was conquered, occupied, divided and then reunified. Das Land in der Mitte (The nation in the middle of Europe) has become the central economic engine of the European Union (EU). Many are openly wondering whether Germany will bail out Greece, and if they do, will they then be asked to do the same for Spain, Portugal, Italy, Ireland or add any other ailing EU country here.

As vexing as these questions are, they also signal that Germany may be increasingly regarded as a normal country. This is not to suggest the concentration camps, the ovens, the mass graves and the Holocaust should ever be forgotten; all should be permanently remembered to prevent this horrifically sad chapter of human history from ever repeating itself.

Why do I care about this subject? Personally, I have been studying the German language since 1989, the year the Berlin Wall came tumbling down and with it, the end of European branch of Communism. An authentic piece of the wall sits within inches of my mouse pad as I write this commentary. Just this week I received word that I will receive the Zertifikät Deutsch from the Goethe Institut, signaling at least a basic conversational proficiency in the German language. The question is should I openly celebrate?

On more occasions than I could possibly count, colleagues and associates express surprise when they hear that I am studying German. It doesn’t take long for the 12 years of the Third Reich to come into the conversation (not that I raise it). I even experienced one of my colleagues suggesting that I banish Shirer’s award-winning best seller from my home book shelf because it includes a Swastika on the side cover…Gee, I didn’t put that emblem there…

Maybe, I should just be at peace with my interest in learning a second language and let people think what they want to think? Germany does not have the same luxury. So how is Germany rebuilding its reputation and enhancing its brand, even though the damage from the Nazi years will never be totally mitigated?

● Time. The World War II generation is dying out. With each passing day, there are fewer people who have first-hand experience with the War in Europe and its aftermath. The Prussian guns have been silenced and an enduring democracy has emerged from the ashes of war.

● Normalcy. As discussed already, all eyes are on Germany as the solution for the European economic crisis. Germany has been sending its military out of the country…not as invaders and occupiers…but as peacekeepers (e.g. Bosnia) or to assist in the War on Terrorism (e.g. Afghanistan).

● Products, brand names and reputations. BMW, Daimler-Benz, Porsche, Audi, Volkswagen, Bayer, Siemens, SAP, Deutsche Telekom, Deutsche Bank, Becks, Bitburger, Spaten and more are all regarded as world-class competitors in their respective automotive, pharmaceutical, technology, banking and brewing segments. German craftsmanship and quality engineering are legendary.

● The influence of prominent women. One of the quickest ways to soften an image and maybe to start the job of repairing a brand are women who do not threaten and command respect. Three German Frauen come immediately to mind in ascending order: Steffi Graf, Katharina Witt and most of all, Angela Merkel.

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Graf, 42, (born, Mannheim, Baden Württemberg) won 22 Grand Slam tennis titles (second most ever) including the only calendar year Grand Slam (Australian, French, Wimbledon and US). Fräulein Forehand played a classy brand of tennis and earned the respect throughout the tennis world. She is married to former male tennis star Andre Agassi and they are raising two children.

Witt, 45 (born, Staaken in former East Germany) won two Olympic Gold medals in figure skating in Sarajevo (1984) and Calgary (1988). She won the figure skating World Championships four times. She raised a few eyebrows with her nude portfolio in Playboy in 1998 becoming only the second personality to ever sell-out an entire editorial run of the magazine; the other is none other than Marilyn Monroe. She is regarded as one of the best figure skaters of all time.

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Merkel, 56, (born, Hamburg but grew up in East Germany) is the nation’s Chancellor and first female head of state in the various iterations of Germany that goes back to the formation of the Holy Roman Empire in 962. Merkel is the head of Germany’s Christian Democratic Union (party) and is the second woman to ever chair the G-8. She has positioned herself as a pragmatist and centrist in domestic and foreign affairs. She was welcomed to the White House with an official state dinner earlier this month.

Just like the rubble that piled up in Berlin took years to clear out after the shooting stopped in 1945, the rebuilding process for Germany’s brand is well underway. Will the Nazi past and with it Vergangenheitsverdrossenheit (angst about history) ever go completely away? The answer is nein. However, time, normalcy, engineering prowess and the influence of some key women (and men too) are maybe the keys to reassessing Germany’s reputation and steadily building its national brand equity.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steffi_Graf

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katarina_Witt

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angela_Merkel

http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/06/07/watch-live-welcoming-chancellor-merkel-germany-white-house-official-visit

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hogan’s_Heroes

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germany

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