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.
Who is best placed to give a perspective on a country? An outsider or someone who has lived there all their life?
Perhaps the best perspective of all comes from a resident who has travelled and experienced other cultures and seen their own country from a distance.
It was a pleasure to welcome Miriam Pelusi to our class. I know her from studying on an MA program in Leeds and it was lovely to meet up on her home territory (she now lives in Rimini but had attended Bologna University as an undergraduate).
Like several members of the class, Miriam has read Tobias Jones’s The Dark Heart of Italy, and she introduced what she described as her ‘old new country’.
She spoke ofItalians’ love of food, football, family and fashion and addressed current concerns over gagging of the media.
On the subject of media, she was concerned about the representation of women’s bodies on television – and of the general lack of discussion of this issue (though she’s not alone).
For a more detailed account, you can see Miriam’s paper in English on the class wiki page.
I hope to see you again, Miriam. If not in Bologna, then perhaps in Yorkshire.
The visit showed the strength of global systems and standards, driven from the US. We saw something of the complex map of Europe – many countries, many languages, a network combining wholly-owned businesses and affiliates and a blurring of regional boundaries (at one point, I noted Greece linked with countries of the Middle East).
We looked at different models of communications coordination across Europe designed to suit a client’s best interests and avoid duplication and conflict.
We discussed the role of the public relations consultant and considered the enduring place of media relations in the public relations toolkit.
We also gained an insight into some Italian assets. Client relationships appeared exceptionally long-lasting, and Italy’s strength in areas like design, food and fashion were apparent.
Milan makes a statement. It’s a historic city that remains an important commercial centre – and one of Europe’s grandest cities. We noted the willingness of people on the street to help us find our way, switching easily into English to do so.
For all the talk about social media’s utility, its champions’ chatter on the proven role of selective exposure in public affairs appears muted. As far as public affairs advocates are concerned, a campaign full of social-media tactics will inevitably win over the hearts and minds of some of those on the other side of most any issue,…or so they tell their clients.
Numerous studies1,2 have established that web surfers actually tend to selectively expose themselves to information that reaffirms their beliefs and, in fact, avert information that opposes them.
What does this mean to public affairs professionals? Well, besides the fact that they should stop doling out b.s. on the mind-changing efficacy of social media, it might mean that, instead of fully investing in an oft-heralded, oft-digital we are our own media organization philosophy, PA professionals should reinvest in traditional media relations, where the presumed objectivity of the press might temper information seeking tendencies. It might also mean that PA professionals should focus their social-media efforts on mobilizing constituents who agree with their clients’ stances rather than trying to convince those who might never substantially process their pleas.
Whatever it means, it’s high time we disclose selective exposure, in public affairs literature and practice, so that we can come to terms with social media’s actual utility and perhaps find ways of overcoming –or exploiting- this phenomenon.
Nearly everywhere I go and look in this ancient city of Bologna, graffiti is sprayed across the walls of parks and monuments, to the insides of busses and even the outside of my apartment.
Most of the time, these graffiti are words in Italian; other times, works of art, and occasionally, one might even notice a few English words spray-painted.
Tobias Jones discusses the graffiti across Italy in his book on Italian culture, The Dark Heart of Italy. While I don’t know what most all of the graffiti has to say in this city, Jones notes that one can often tell a lot about a city’s political undertones through its graffiti. But why leave all this up?
Especially in a country so focused on aesthetics and tourism, it seems almost ironic and perhaps even detrimental to leave this graffiti up throughout the city.
But, perhaps, in this country where media and politics are tightly under the control of one man, citizens are left with no choice but to voice their opinion on the walls, for everyone to hear.
Italy is well known for its food, but I’m finding the culture surrounding the food to be even more interesting. The first thing I noticed about the food in Italy is the freshness of the ingredients. I didn’t even know that American pasta was lacking in freshness until I tried the pasta here. I’m also noticing how regional the dishes are. Pizza is done so differently in Rome than it is in Bologna. And within Bologna each restaurant has its own take on pasta bolognese (also known simply as ragu within Bologna).
But most interesting to me is the culture surrounding the act of eating a meal. As an American working professional, I tend to eat lunch at my office desk, while trying to type with one hand. I always feel there is no time to socialize with my friends, family and coworkers during the week. But in Italy, meal time is a celebrated event. Virtually all stores and offices close between the hours of noon and 3 or 4, and during this time you will find Italians dining together in one of the many restaurants and cafes. After work, cafes once again fill up for happy hour, but unlike in America, drinks come with tantalizing aperitivos, or small bites, which Italians share over conversation. Kwintessential, an intercultural communication site gives a great overview of the art of eating Italian food.
From a communication perspective, (since that is what we’re here to study) after a few days of partaking in this tradition, I am finding the food culture to be an important communication tool. From what I’ve seen over these last few weeks, these shared meals seem to facilitate relationships and trust much more quickly and deeply than those in the U.S. So, partly because its fun, and partly because its useful, I’m going to take a tip from the Italians and try to export this delicious and satisfying social culture to my U.S. life.
Gelato, the Italian-born but world-renowned creamy and flavorful ice cream, is more than just a dessert in Italy; it is an important component of the country’s social culture. Maybe it’s only because I have an excessively large sweet tooth and am jealously well aware of every tasty looking cone or cup in view, but it seems that everywhere you look, at any hour of the day, someone is enjoying a gelato.
Coming from the diet-conscious, weight-loss obsessed United States, I am fascinated by Italy’s gelato tradition; a tradition that for many begins here in Bologna, studying the cuisine and art at the Gelato University. Gelato provides no health benefits but is still a staple of Italian cuisine. I have traveled through seven Italian towns or cities over the last week and a half and they all have one thing in common: gelaterias. In Italy, going for a gelato may rival going for a coffee or a drink in social settings elsewhere.
Italians and tourists alike enjoy the treat after a sometimes stressful process of selecting flavors based on flavor preference and gelato presentation, which often takes somewhat of an art form and heavily influences a customer’s decision. Even the gelato business has its own creative form of public relations where product presentation is everything. If you like what you see in the window, most likely you will be enjoying a spoonful within minutes. Thus, as usual, the Italians do what they do best, turn food into art and make it taste good while doing so.