Tag Archive: Offentlichkeitsarbeitswunder


It’s not whose army wins, it’s also whose story wins. And we have to think more about narratives and whose narrative is going to be the most effective.” – Harvard Kennedy School Political Science Professor Joseph Nye, 2010 TED Talk

The U.S. ranks No. 1 for Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at $18.56 trillion, and holds the top position in The National Brand Index.

When it comes to “hard power,” including its military and its economy, the U.S. has no rivals … at least for the immediate future.

Despite these clear hard-power advantages, the U.S. reportedly spent $670 million for “public diplomacy” in 2014, according to George Washington University professor of political science David Shambaugh.

In contrast, China spends $10 billion annually to project itself as a “soft power.”

China as a soft power? In essence, the answer is affirmative. China recognizes it needs more than the collective power of its 1.37 billion people, its second-ranking $11.39 trillion economy, and its growing military strength. China is trying to promote its distinct culture, its language and market its country as a place to invest and visit.

The aforementioned Professor Nye is widely credited with formulating the notion of “soft power” or projecting what you have in terms of culture, language, business, tourism etc. to those who may want the same.

Some contend as mentioned in the stately The Economist that a totalitarian state (e.g., China) may not effectively exhibit soft power as it may be interpreted as single-party propaganda. And yet China created The Confucius Institute in 2004 to entice the appreciation of its culture, to lure hundreds of thousands to study its difficult language and visit and invest in China.

Is the Politburo in Beijing trying to buy love?

From The Devastation of War, Occupation, Division and the Holocaust

The activities of the Goethe Institut improve Germany’s reputation abroad, enhance the quality of German-language teaching, contribute to the development of the German language, promote German artists worldwide, and attract talented youth and professionals to Germany.” – Tatiana Lanshina, “The Goethe Institute and Soft Power”

Germany experimented twice in “hard power” in the 20th Century … and lost big time, both times.

In 1951, Germany’s public relations (Öffentlichkeitsarbeit) were understandably at an all-time low … most likely the deepest nadir experienced by any country at any time. Interest in German Kultur, Sprache and Land was close to nil.

These facts did not stop Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and the German government from creating the Goethe Institut in 1951. The mission of this 350-Euro non-profit organization, drawing the majority of its funds from the German foreign ministry, was to use the forgiveness of time to eventually and systematically regain interest in Das Land in der Mitte (The country in the middle of Europe).

Fast forward to today, Germany is No. 2 in the National Brand Index trailing only the United States. The country’s transformation from an international pariah to revered is nothing less than a public relations miracle (Öffentlichkeitsarbeitswunder).

The author of Almost DailyBrett has a framed Goethe Institut Zertifikat B1 for German language study in his office at Central Washington University. Is the Goethe Institut solely responsible for Germany’s resurrection? Of course not.

There are many other determinants including the reunification, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Economic Miracle, the Marshall Plan, Made in Germany, four World Cup wins, German business success, Germany’s hegemony in the European Union, the popularity of Angela Merkel and many other factors.

Germany understands more than other nations that hard power is not the answer. China obviously appreciates this fact as well. Ditto France with its Alliance Francaise, Italy with its Societa Dante Alighieri, Great Britain with its British Council, Spain with its Instituto Cervantes and Portugal with its Instituto Camoes.

All of the above brings up the obviously question: Who and what projects “soft power” for the United States? One other question: Are we satisfied with the answers?

Donald Trump, Hollyweird, American Media?

Certainly, the U.S. is nowhere near the lousy image that Germany endured – and still suffers – as a result of the 12 years of Hitler and the Nazis. Nonetheless, the U.S. image at home and abroad is less than ideal regardless of the nation’s military and economic hard-power advantages and the country’s number one ranking in the National Brand Index.

Who sets the tone for the United States of America?

Try traveling abroad and see how many times you are asked about Donald Trump once it becomes known that you reside in the Land of Uncle Sam? Does the intemperate, nocturnal Tweeter-in-Chief send the best of image of the red, white and blue across the fruited plain and across the ponds?

How about Hollyweird and the denizens of the TMZ?

The entertainment industry can’t even deliver the right envelope for its biggest announcement of the year (e.g., Oscar for Best Picture) at its most celebrated venue (e.g., The 2017 Academy Awards). Do we really want to entrust our soft power to this motley crew?

When it comes to our elite media, the American public sold the stock and voted them out of office. According to Gallup, the Woodward & Bernstein media of 1976 enjoyed a 72 percent approval rating. Last year, the same polling firm recorded a 32 percent approval rating for the boys and girls of the Fourth Estate, a 55.5 percent decline in the last 40 years.

If the American public is turned off by our nattering nabobs of negativism, why would those beyond our borders respect their interpretations of American soft power?

Maybe the time has come for a non-profit, soft-power Mark Twain, Will Rogers or some other American literary giant institute to celebrate American culture (e.g., baseball, hot dogs and apple pie), our unique take on the English language, and the USA as a wonderful place for investment and tourism?

Or maybe we can instead just leave the task to Donald Trump, Hollyweird and the failing American elite media?

https://www.economist.com/news/china/21719508-can-money-buy-sort-thing-china-spending-billions-make-world-love-it

http://www.ted.com/talks/joseph_nye_on_global_power_shifts

http://www.demdigest.net/tag/soft-power/

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

https://www.goethe.de/en/index.html

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2017/02/25/enemy-of-the-american-people/

http://www.gallup.com/poll/195542/americans-trust-mass-media-sinks-new-low.aspx

 

 

“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?

merkel

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.

germanflag

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

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