Forget global… think local

Trattoria del Rosso, Via Righi, Bologna

The other day a member of the group asked me where he could find the best place in Bologna to eat true Bolognese food. The city is renowned for its cuisine, so for him it made sense to try it out whilst here. Off the top of my head I suggested Ristorante Diana, on Via Indipendenza, a smart place which makes it into all the guidebooks on the city, though as I’ve never eaten there myself I nevertheless felt slightly fraudulent in recommending it.

Being a vegetarian (mostly!) I can’t comment on many of the typically Bolognese dishes, which are meat-based (everyone’s heard of the tomato and meat sauce, known throughout Italy as ragù).

But what I can comment on, having eaten my way through Italy’s boot from top to toe during the past 15 years, is that a good local restaurant always has certain definable characteristics. For one, it’s usually family owned, often for many generations. It will have a short menu that changes daily, as this will depend on the fresh ingredients available at the market that morning. Sometimes it will not have a menu at all (I’m thinking of the excellent Trattoria La Torre in Siena where the owner simply barks out the day’s choices at you – and no, it doesn’t have a website). It will pobably not have waiters dressed in bow ties, candles on the tables or a menu of multiple dishes printed in multiple languages. And will often not appear in any guidebook (here in Bologna, the great value Trattoria del Rosso fits this bill).

So, if not in a guidebook what the best way to find this perfect restaurant/trattoria? As with everything else in Italy, ask a local. Italy is all about ‘local’ – they even have a word for it (campanilismo – the attachment to one’s own church tower). In Italy it’s word of mouth, not the written word that counts – which is perhaps why PR (as we heard at Edelman the other day) is less developed here than in more globalised, less close-knit Northern European or American societies.

Just an after-dinner thought to imbibe along with your digestivo.

– Gail

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The Religious Backdrop of Italian Life

Religious artwork and graffiti on the walk to Basilica della Madonna di San Luca, outside Bologna

During class, we discussed the irony of Pope Benedict XVI condemning condom use, yet on almost every street corner in Italy, there is a 24-hour condom vending machine.  States Tobias Jones, author of The Dark Heart of Italy, “Being Italian implies being Catholic…it’s a cradle-to-grave religion which is not only devotional, but also political and social and aesthetic,” (pg. 174).  It seems odd that a society noted for being so devout that it houses the Vatican defies, flagrantly, the mandates of the Papacy. 

How do Italians rectify these co-existing, yet diametrically opposed paradigms of the Catholic Church’s puritanical ideology and Italian society’s well-known hedonistic indulgences (mind the pun)?  Answer: The Italians are okay with it.  They are simply comfortable with conflicting ideologies. 

For instance, piazzas were originally meant to be religious, economic and political areas are now areas where Italians gather to drink, eat and socialize.  Additionally, you will find ancient and historically important buildings covered with Biblical references, and shockingly, graffiti.  Local churches, their interiors incredibly decorated, gilded and well looked after often smell of the previous nights’ celebration on the outside.

So, how have the Italians come to be so comfortable with these obvious discrepancies?

Perhaps the influence of Ancient Rome is still alive in many ways.  In Ancient Rome, there was a focus on art, music and literature and entertainment.  The Ancient Romans based their religion on the Greek deity system, where they actually thought of themselves as gods.  Frescoes, graffiti, brothels and sculptures found in Pompeii show a history of lascivious lifestyle, full of physical pleasure seeking.

Henry James may have said it best, “Venice is the most beautiful of tombs.”  James was referencing that Italy, now known for its vitality, has faced changing and sometimes very violent times. 

Whatever the reason, Italy is an interesting and striking country that has largely stayed the same in many respects while the populace evolves around it.

–          Kim

Getting more from less.

Given the apparent nutritional habits of the Bolognese, one wonders at their slender figures. Walking and cycling for transport, as well as consuming more fresh produce and less packaged food, may have something to do with it, but surely these alone are not enough to counteract all the pizza, pasta and gelato. I suspect a cultural factor may also be at play.

What I think I’ve noticed is the absence of the “more is better” culture prevalent in most of the U.S. For instance, compared to the American option to super-size, in a Bolognese gelateria you have the option of “piccolo,” which would be an unacceptably small portion for most Americans.

I believe this variation stems from a different relationship with food: Italians demand and consume superior products. Returning to the example of gelato, daily production with fresh and natural ingredients renders a real food with a genuinely appreciable flavor. We can compare this to mass-produced, highly-processed American ice cream, where the desire to eat is mostly motivated by the effects of sugar and fat on the brain’s reward center. The former is an aesthetic experience; the latter is simply stimulation, and hence conducive to excess.

Thus, I suspect American eating often falls into the category of reward-seeking behavior, whereas the Italians have a more purposeful, conscious, and sophisticated approach.  The interesting point here is that a cultural factor appears to be compensating for the failure of homeostatic control to regulate the consumption of a highly palatable food.

For those interested in reading further about the neurological side of food, addiction, and reward-seeking behavior, I’ve attached a literature review I wrote last year.  Common Neural Bases of Food & Drug Addiction

– Munis

The Colosseum: Movies as PR?

Kelly at the Colosseum

Last Sunday, my classmate Phillip and I visited Rome for the day. Our first and last stop was the Colosseum. As one of Italy’s most ancient and major tourist attractions, it needs no publicity or word of mouth. When we first arrived, the line to enter the Colosseum was so long, we surmised it would take us at least two hours to gain entrance.

So, we decided we would hit some other tourist spots and make the Colosseum our last stop. When we returned and walked into the Colosseum, I immediately knew it was worth the wait. As an American who loves period movies, my first thought turned to Ridley Scott’s Gladiator. Who doesn’t remember Russell Crowe’s most infamous lines spoken in the final Colosseum scene?

“My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.”

Take that Commodus! OK, I digress. As I harkened back to some of the best scenes of Gladiator, Phillip asked me if I had seen Doug Liman’s Jumper film. I had not so he told me that there was a great fight scene that also took place at the Colosseum.

My trip to Rome showed me that PR takes many different forms. It can be overt or covert. But, it also can take the unconscious form of a Hollywood film, usually filmed not on location but on a studio lot miles away. And, some of the best PR is free PR, especially if a consumer can attach a brand to it.

-Kelly A. Campbell

PR for Marketing and for You

Something touched upon in our meeting with Edelman (HP’s relationship with Edelman’s Spanish office) is how the public relations function fits into the promotional puzzle of larger, MBA-driven organizations. One might be surprised to find that PR is, to many in the business world (particularly B2C), the last –albeit essential- step in the marketing process. This, I’ve learned, holds some important implications on how to brand oneself to would-be clients,…so I’m wondering how these implications could be affected by European business dynamics.

The tenets of B2C marketing can most elegantly be described by the Four Ps: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. Rather than delve deeply into each P’s relevance to an overall strategy, I’ll simply say this: after one has developed the optimal product for a market, has priced it for maximum gross profit, and has placed it in the most profitable mix of sales channels, they then seek to promote it via advertising and public relations.

This globally taught schema suggests two things right away: 1) after product release, biz school grads (those not schooled in relationship marketing) immediately see PR as asymmetrical, and 2) if one hopes to work with big business, one should brand oneself as an important, informative piece of the Four Ps or, after years of strategic experience, brand oneself above the Four Ps.

I am, however, hesitant about the best way to present oneself to European business, specifically. Given the more collective nature of many European business cultures (e.g. German), should one worry about transcending PR’s predetermined space? Moreover, given all of the cultures and varying measures of success, do European businesses tend to depend on more common-denominator, institutionalized capacity verification (e.g. professional schooling) than their American counterparts? – well, if so, having taken a course in PR and Public Affairs from a European Perspective certainly couldn’t hurt! 🙂

– Jude C.

Pizza Relations

A few months ago I was in New York City with a few buddies. On our last day in town we decided to take a “Pizza Tour” of some of the oldest and best-known pizzarias in the city. Scott, the tour guide, owner and expert of everything pizza taught us the intricacies of the differing ovens, techniques, water, dough and cheeses. He showed us there are no two pizzas alike.

Being in Italy, where there is a pizza place literally on every corner, got me thinking. Pizza and public relations are not all that different. In almost two weeks in this country, I have yet to taste two pizzas that are even remotely the same. The slice I had in Venice is completely different from the ones I had in Bologna, Rome, and Milan or the one I just had for lunch. The same can be said for public relations.

Public relations across Europe and around the world is like pizza. There is no one size fits all model. Public relations in the UK looks entirely different from public relations in Italy or France. The people, cultures and language are all different. Just like pizza, PR is unique to specific regions and countries and these differences must be accounted for when producing a campaign for a product or large corporation.

The ingredients going into the campaign are not always the same. Public relations professionals all have different techniques and approaches. Some of these methods are more effective then others. That being said, just because pizza is different doesn’t make it bad and the same is true for a diverse set of public relation practices.

-Phillip

PR police arrest beautiful women at world cup

 

Why does PR get bad PR? Possibly because it’s paymasters too often react like this merely to potential asymmetrical rivals:

Beware what you wear or risk being mistaken for an “ambush marketer”!

What next? Oaths of brand loyalty from ticket purchasers? Color schemes allocated to supporters?

If this was indeed “ambush marketing” then its designers should be congratulated for their creativity. At worst, scolded. Arrested!? For orange mini-skirts. Seems like the marketplace of ideas has an entry fee – and an exit fee.

PS – how many people have now read of Bavaria beer because of the police action?

 – Ruarai