Public Diplomacy/Public Relations in action. Will Italian and Romanian migrants be successfull? An update.

On the 4th of November this post opened a fruitful dialogue between professionals from two European countries (Italy and Romania) and sparked an interesting debate with the participation of visitors and commentators from many other countries ranging from New Zealand, Austria, Canada, the Uk, the USA, Portugal, Latin America and South Africa.

The issue raised by that post was the possibility of proving the effectiveness of the very recent public diplomacy school of thought called sociological globalism -please read this by applying some of its principles to the recent issue of rising tensions between the people of Romania and Italy.

Now, only a couple of weeks later, together with my just-as-concerned and admirable Romanian colleagues Dimutru Bortun and Liviu Muresan, we are happy to report that the project has made progress and -should everything continue to move forward at the same pace- in the next ten days the public relations professional associations of the two countries will be able to announce the start up of a detailed three month joint program of activities -which will also incorporate a predefined mechanism to measure success- thus getting ready to prove the public benefit of public relations (also for the London June 2008 world public relations festival!).
By the way, it is worth noting that the two associations decided to describe themselves to their interlocutors as concerned non governmental organizations -!….funny.. we are so embedded in our market culture that we normally refrain-from and are even embarassed-in using such description which, to the contrary, so well fits our professional associations…

By invitation of our Romanian colleagues, and accompanied by another Italian colleague Claudia Gambarotta , I visited Bucharest last Wednesday and, in successive meetings, met with top ranking officials of the Ministries of Interior, Foreign Affairs, of the Premiers’ Office, plus a quick lunch with a relevant and enthusiastic representative of the Italian business community in Romania.

This visit followed up on:
°conversations with relevant representatives of both the Italian government and of the European Commission;
°correspondence with our regional (Cerp) and global (Global Alliance) professional organizations;
°a completed and active recruitment, through the Ferpi Association website (, of 12 proactive professional volunteers willing to work together on the effort.

From each of these conversations and contacts we received attention, curiosity and encouragement, together with the feeling that -if we play our cards correctly-we will be able raise sufficient private and public resources in the form of a matching fund scheme:
°so much we collect from a second economic coalition of Italian companies operating in Romania and Romanian companies operating in Italy.
°so much we collect by the institutional/government coalition

The whole aim of the project is to create a third coalition together with the leaders of the Romanian communities in Italy (1 million people) and the leaders of the Italian communities in Romania (50.000 people) and, with their support and active contribution, prepare carefully thought-out, highly diversified contents to be strongly advocated and widely distributed throughout all the members of those communities.

This in the presumption that -if the content quality is high and for that reason usable- the latter may wish to channel those contents through their ongoingand constant communication with their friends, peers and families back home (by mobile, land lines, chat, email, snailmail and all other forms of social and ora-media) to respectively con-vince both communities that they have much to suffer if they do not actively get involved in changing the more vulnerable and misconceived perceptions of their respective public opinions.

The specific issues addressed by the program will be carefully selected (and connected to specific indicators of effectiveness) by an attentive analysis of existing sources as well as the outcomes of a battery of research efforts to be immediately conducted (and then repeated at end of program):
°romanian public opinion (representative sample)
°italian public opinion (representative sample)
°opinions of Romanians in Italy (through community channels)
°opinions of Italians in Romania (through community channels).

The project is socially explained by the fear that xenophobic and ethnic tensions could well increase and also expand throughout other European countries by effect of the accelerating world economic crisis, which will inevitably reduce individual incomes and work perspectives, and theoretically explained by the growing awareness that migrant community communication with public opinion back home is possibly the most powerful and certainly the least studied force of influence, and goes direct and immediate, rather than being interpreted and intermediated by institutions and media who have their own agenda to advocate.

Will keep you posted….

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5 Replies to “Public Diplomacy/Public Relations in action. Will Italian and Romanian migrants be successfull? An update.

  1. I regret to inform interested readers that the Italo-Rumanian project which had raised high expectations from the Italian, Romanian as well as from the global public relations community (ga and cerp) has fallen gravely ill and most likely will not proceed.

    As always, there are many factors and specific circumstances which conjured to suggest this sad but rational decision, but possibly the most relevant and instructive is that the success of the project ended up relying on the operative will of less than one (!) handful of individuals who have many other things to do and cannot be realistically expected to take on the many operational tasks which are normally attributed in any project to a team of players who, in this specific case, had also explicitly undertaken the responsibility.

    In other words, we received commitments from tens and active support from less than five.

    The positive side is that we have made many new friends in the effort, particularly our Romanian colleagues who, one must also say, have also not unlike us, operated with less than perfect procedures….

    The negative side is that, basically, we failed in getting the team to work in adequate coordination, in convincing third parties (most times not even trying..) to provide the necessary funds, in making sure that what we were saying to one party was coherent to what we were saying to the other.

    We did not even attempt to approach the contents we were due to elaborate nor the processes we would activate.

    What a professional, even before associational, disappointment!

    I apologise for having started all this and will make sure such an incident does not happen again, at least… nimby (!).

  2. We (I say we because as of today december 6 there are more than 30 professionals from the two associations directly involved as volunteers in this effort)are very grateful for these encouraging comments as well as for Benita’s south african correlation. To update those that are interested we are eagerly working on the closing of the various coalitions (see posts) in both countries while we are also trying to give ourselves, as we grow, an adequate organization. It now seems likely that, coming the xmas holiday period, we will need to extend somewhat the timing of our plan which is wuickly proceeding:
    a) we have collected a significant amount of research materials on the issue in order to define the different structures of the four questionnaires;
    b) we have begun to contact leaders of the two migrant communities (italians in romania and romanians in italy) and will interact also with them in the selection of the questions and the elaboration of specific contents related to the various channels and instruments such as ethnic media which are available to communicate with the members of those communities;
    c) we are in the process of contacting italian and romanian economic interests to recruit them into our project. Friday (tomorrow) in Bucharest there is a conference of a group of Italian businesses (Unimpresa which associates some 20 thousand italian companies operating in that country!) with the Italian embassy in which our colleague Butrun will speak on issues related to our project;
    d) we are planning to have a full day meeting (the first!) between 5 romanian and 5 italian colleagues in Bruxelles on jan 11 invited by the European Commission. This will (should..) be the kick off meeting of the project.
    So you see, we are working hard.

  3. I would only like to congratulate both Mr.Falconi and Mr.Bortun for their outstanding conjoined efforts and for the promise of what may yet become a PR case-study around the world. I have followed this subject from the begining, and found that, even if for nothing else than a positive change in atitudes, PR professionals should always take public concern affairs to heart, and that is what you have acomplished so far. I wish you the best results possible for those efforts, in the certainty that even one mind changed today may change many more in the future. I also eagerly await further developments, and ask that you do keep everyone informed of what is transpiring.

    My best Regards,
    Miguel Pena
    Lisbon, Portugal

  4. This is an incredible initiative, Toni, and I stand in awe of what you have started.

    I sent your first post on this situation to Margi Moscardi, CEO of the PR Association in South Africa (PRISA). She let me know that she forwarded it to members of the PRISA Board. I have now also emailed her this post. (And I think I must send it to IABC Africa as well).

    When I read an article in the McKinsey Quarterly (newsletter) last night titled ‘Addressing Africa’s health workforce crisis’, I couldn’t help but think of the difference that an initiative such as yours might make in Africa.

    The core of the problem described by McKinsey is that Africa bears one-quarter of the burden of disease around the world, yet has barely 3 percent of all health workers. Millions of people across sub-Saharan Africa thus suffer needlessly because they cannot obtain medical care from trained workers. About 820,000 additional doctors and nurses are needed to provide the region with even the most basic health services. The money to hire, train, and sustain such an increase will not be available in the foreseeable future. Moreover, the classical Western model of health care training, which prevails throughout much of Africa, is capital intensive and time consuming: even if the funds materialized, about 600 additional medical and nursing schools and more than two decades would be needed to close the gap.

    Another challenge is the relatively low appeal of health care as a career in Africa. Wages for doctors and nurses are low here, and many doctors depart for the better working conditions, job security, and pay available elsewhere. (I don’t want to know how many highly qualified South African doctors and nurses, trained with our scarce tax money, are now working in Canada, Australia and New Zealand).

    According to McKinsey, to ameliorate the problem in the coming decade, countries in Africa should build systems based on thoughtful ratios between professional and paraprofessional workers. Governments can’t do so alone; the development community and the private sector also have roles to play. And might I add, the professional PR community can also play a huge role as demonstrated by what Toni has started with the Italy/Romania situation.

    In case the link to the article isn’t working, here is the URL:

  5. This sounds like excellent progress and potentially of great value. I think the idea of spreading out the core concept through a wide range of interested parties should be very helpful. Good luck with this fascinating approach that could have real global use.

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