Xenofobia catches up with Italy against Romanians. How could public relations help?

Something awful is happening in my country (Italy) these days, with many implications on public relations (specifically in the sense of public diplomacy) which I feel we should all be aware of. …

Of course I have personal opinions and I will not even attempt to ‘hide’ them.

The centre left government (which, by the way, I voted for…) is in a prolonged state of coma, and its internal hysteria is such that it can no longer be held rationally responsible for its actions (the sooner a deus ex machina unplugs, the better it is).

A couple of days ago, the Cabinet issued a decree (i.e. an immediately actionable decision to be approved by Parliament in sixty days, otherwise it is nil together with all actions taken in the period…) by which special powers are given to city prefects to expel -besides clandestine or criminal migrants from non EU countries which is already in place- also EU citizens with criminal records and/or no demonstrable means of basic sustainment.

The decree is ‘overtly’ aimed at expelling Romanians, who have become the largest and most visible migrant ( now member of the EU) community in our country.
Of course, most Italians also believe that Romanians and Roms (nomads from all countries, the majority in Italy are in fact Italians) are the same, which is everything but true.

This decision was taken following a brutal and horrible murder in Rome of an innocent middle aged woman by a young Romanian thug, an act which succeeded in lighting the final fuse to a mounting national public opinion upsurge protesting the increasing lack of personal security, and its relationship with the wild and totally unmanaged wave of migrant communities in our urban areas and the daily terribly bloody tragedies on our southern coasts, where desperate migrants are disembarked from rickety-rackety boats, at intolerable prices, by contemporary slave dealers.
There are, of course, tens of variables and issues to better explain this upsurge and I will not even attempt to address them.
But the fact of the matter today is that since the second world war, Italy has never witnessed such an intolerable and irrational explosion of xenophobia and racism.

Our political and media communities byandlarge, with remarkable but tiny exceptions, are bipartisanly nurturing this, without even thinking of its dramatic economic, social and cultural consequences.

Ok, this is the scenario, however evolving.
So what?

If we set our mind to the new public diplomacy concept of ‘sociological globalism’ referred to in this blog (link) it could be argued that, under the tutorship of CERP (confederation of european public relations associations) and of its mother organization the Global Alliance, the two Italian and Romanian national associations (FERPI and AARP) should immediately join forces, each tie up with the representatives of the migrant communities in both countries (one million Romanians in Italy, less than 50.000 Italians in Romania, but at least another 20.000 small, medium and large Italian companies operating there with considerable benefits), draw together a pool of private business organizations interested in improving the deteriorated relationships between the two countries, and implement a symmetric public diplomacy initiative by which the Romanian community in Italy influences romanian public opinion in Romania, and the Italian community in Romania influences public opinion in Italy.
Could this be a good vehicle to prove the relevance of contemporary public relations, or, as the GA says, the public benefit of public relations.

Your opinions?

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14 Replies to “Xenofobia catches up with Italy against Romanians. How could public relations help?

  1. excellent and stimulating input, Benita.
    I will re-read with the necessary attention and attempt to integrate in the follow up.
    By the way, here follows a note I have sent today to our romanian colleagues, to my ferpi as well as to representatives of the italian government and of the european commission (coalition creation?) in view of the upcoming meeting with romanian colleaguse and, I presume, government representatives I will be meeting hopefully next week. This is an immediate follow up on the methodological steps I have described in earlier comments on this post.And we still have not addressed the issue of contents and specific channels. Public relations should be a seriously and carefully thought process before it becomes operative. Too bad we usually jerk react by thinking in terma of an event, or a press release or…whichever the issue or problem….
    Will keep you updated (am already receving intersting comments and inpout from concerned colleagues.
    Whatever the outcome the exercise is truly worth it:

    General aims
    The proposed Ferpi (www.ferpi.it) – ARPR initiative defines two general aims:
    ° a social aim:
    contribute to the improvement of relationships between the two people of Italy and Romania
    °a professional aim:
    contribute to a better understanding of the public benefit of public relations both by the global professional community and by its many stakeholders

    Parties involved
    The initiative implies the active involvement and engagement, over a clearly stated and limited time period of three (?) months, of:
    °an italo-romanian professional task force composed of twenty members (ten professionals from Ferpi and ten from ARPR) led by a three member executive committee;
    °an italo-romanian organizational task force composed of twenty members (ten Italian companies interested in Romania and ten Romanian companies interested in Italy) who agree to support the three month effort both by supplying their professional resources, as well as a financial pledge of 10.000 euro each, for a total of 200.000 thousand euro;
    °the full support, engagement and cooperation of the representatives of the many Romanian migrant and economic and trade communities in Italy, and of the many Italian migrant and economic and trade communities in Romania;
    °the full support, engagement and cooperation of qualified representatives of the relevant departments of the Governments of Romania and of Italy, who also commit to equally fund the initiative by matching the total funds collected from the twenty companies, for another 200.000 euro;
    °the full support, engagement and cooperation of the European Commission who also commits to fund the initiative through a 100.000 euro grant;
    °the full support and cooperation of the Confederation Europeenne des Relations Pubbliques (www.cerp.org) , and of the Global Alliance of Public Relations and Communication Management (www.globalpr.org) of which both Ferpi and ARPR are members.

    Project governance
    The initiative will be governed by a management committee formed by three members of the professional task force, two representatives of the private companies, four of the two migrant communities, two representatives of the two governments, and one representative of the EC.
    One member of this committee is to be elected by the majority of its members to handle the financial management of the entire process.

    Identification of specific objectives to be pursued and operative process
    Considering that:
    °the general social aim is to contribute to the improvement of relationships between the two people of Italy and Romania in a three month period;
    °the method is based on the engagement of the Italian communities in Romania by interacting with their direct and indirect contacts in Italy, and the Romanian communities in Italy by interacting with their direct and indirect contacts in Romania;
    °the project is focussed on the first ever attempt to apply the new public diplomacy principle of sociological globalism (see attached paper),
    °the specific objectives to be pursued by the initiative will stem from the results of an opinion survey to be immediately conducted (and then repeated at the end of the period) amongst representative samples of:
    – the overall population of Romania and Italy;
    – the Italian communities in Romania
    – the Romanian communities in Italy;
    °the questionnaire will be focussed on specific knowledge and attitude issues yet to be defined, but mostly centred on:
    – levels of preoccupation of bilateral political, social, economic relationships;
    – short term expectations of evolution of specific dynamics of relationships (social, political, economic);
    – levels of perceptions of specific dimensions of the phenomena (social, political, economic fluxes between two countries vis a vis perceptions related to other eu and non eu countries);
    – varied degrees of consensus on specific options of short term social, political, economic interventions;
    – levels of opinion related to the specific roles of the media, migrant communities, economic, political and cultural communities of the two countries;
    °on the basis of survey results the professional task force will quickly identify specific objectives, indicators of success and an active relationship and communication program to be implemented in application of the new public diplomacy principle of sociological globalism which will be submitted for discussion, amendments and approval to the management committee.

    The agreed objectives to be pursued will be made public at the kick off of the program.

    Specific relationship and communication tools will, amongst others, include meetings, rallies, mainstream and social media relations (mobile, internet, podcast and other channels), local and national conferences and events.

    At the end of the period a second survey will be carried out and its results will also be made public to prove that a difference was realized and also to satisfy the initiating organizations’ general professional aim (the public benefit of public relations).

  2. Toni, I am more than half interested in this situation. Not only was the South African gold mining and sugar industries built on migrant labour, but my country today is still host to millions of migrant workers and refugees–traditionally from the southern half of the African continent (you can imagine the influx from the Mocambican and Angolan wars, to say nothing of the Zimbabweans currently streaming into SA) but these days they are coming from even further north (e.g. Nigerians and Congolese).

    I agree with you completely that no communication process can start without ‘doing your homework’ I call this the strategy formulation process or role of the PR strategist at the macro organisational or societal level. Of course top management can engage the PR/ communication function where they think necessary, but I believe that public relations has a responsibility to keep their eyes wide open (being a boundary spanner and practising reflection) and bring issues or opportunities to the attention of top management, like you did (irrespective of whether it is a public, private or non-profit organisation). A thorough issues analysis is necessary before one can even think of starting to communicate.

    In a model described in my book ‘Corporate Communication Strategy’, the most important initial steps before developing PR/ corporate communication strategy and goals are to analyse the internal and external environments; identify strategic stakeholders; and identify, describe and prioritise key strategic issues (differentiating between types of issues) in order to get to the core of the problem and thereby find the publics that arise around the issues. ‘Describing’ and ‘differentiating between types of’ strategic issues are steps often overlooked by many PR practitioners, but richly rewarding in terms of identifying stakeholders and publics, and understanding the types of issues where communication can (or cannot) be used as a solution.

    Xenophobia (the ‘hatred or fear of foreigners’) is obviously a key strategic issue in the Italian/Romanian migrant problem. Well, it might come as no surprise that it is also very much alive and kicking in South Africa (and growing). In delving a little deeper into our own problem and its causes, I found a chapter by Bronwyn Harris in a book titled ‘Psychopathology and Social Prejudice’ (edited by D Hook and G Eagle). A former Project Manager at the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (a South African NGO), Bronwyn says that despite the transition from authoritarian rule to democracy in 1994, prejudice and violence continue to mark contemporary South Africa. The shift in political power has brought about a range of new discriminatory practices and victims. One such victim is ‘The Foreigner’. Some say xenophobia surpasses its dictionary definition in our part of the world, resulting in ‘intense tension and violence’ by South Africans towards immigrants and other foreigners– particularly towards blacks from other African countries.

    Xenophobia has many causes, not necessarily the same in countries as different as South Africa and Italy. Within the context of social transition and change, hostility towards foreigners in South Africa could be explained in relation to limited resources, such as housing, education, health care and employment, coupled with high expectations during political transition. Foreigners thus become ‘frustration-scapegoats’, somebody to blame for social ills and personal frustrations. But why are foreigners the targets for hostility and violence, and not another group? In South Africa the answer might lie in its isolation from the international community during the apartheid years. Xenophobia exists because foreigners are different and unknown.

    But why are some foreigners at greater risk than others, and why do African foreigners seem to be particularly vulnerable to violence and hostility? One explanation offered is that xenophobia in South Africa is located at the level of visible difference, or otherness, in terms of physical biological factors and cultural differences that are exhibited by African foreigners such as Nigerians, Congolese, Malawians, Mocambicans and Lesothos (e.g. hairstyles, accents, vaccination marks, dress and physical appearance).

    Another possible way of understanding why black foreigners are targets of violence is to situate xenophobia within South Africa’s transition from a past of racism to a future of nationalism. At a most basic level, this involves looking at the role of broad social institutions such as the media, in generating specific images of African foreigners in the country — exemplified by headlines such as the following:
    • ‘Illegal immigrants are flooding into most SA cities’;
    • ‘In Johannesburg apartment blocks, notices in English and Afrikaans have taken a second place to signs in French and Portuguese as thousands of new migrants from Africa pour into the city’;
    • ‘Citizens fear for their job prospects after hordes descend on the country from the troubled north’;
    • ‘City haven for victims of Africa’s wars and woes’;
    • ‘Illegals are helping to turn SA into a banana republic’;
    • ‘Even under the most oppressive conditions we endured under apartheid, our economic conditions were never as bad as in the rest of Africa’.
    • ‘Alien has become almost a swear word in this country to describe those who have come to take our jobs, our homes, our women; and conmen from Nigeria who’ve come to steal our money and feed us drugs’.

    This kind of language used by the media portrays other Africans as a negative, illegal and criminal threat. But the media are not the only guilty ones. Drawing on interviews with seventy-seven African foreigners, Sinclair notes that ‘hostility towards foreigners has become one of the most significant features of post-apartheid South African society’. The sample spans a range of institutions and interactions, from the police and the Department of Home Affairs to employers and neighbours. However, Sinclair’s study also points to the fact that migrants themselves view South Africans through negative stereotypes, especially black South African men whom migrants perceive to be extremely violent, lazy, adulterous, not nurturing of their partners, and criminal.

    The above illustrates in a small way that an issue such as xenophobia can have many different causes and hence stakeholders and publics might not be the same in different countries. It is thus necessary to dissect issues as thoroughly as possible before deciding what needs to be communicated to whom (the essence of communication strategy).

    Another tool in this process is a typology I developed for differentiating between types of strategic issues, in order to pinpoint what kind of role public relations and/or communication can play in solving a problem/ issue or capitalising on an opportunity.

    • Organisational issues (Type 1):
    Communication is not the cause of the problem, but can provide a solution (e.g. organisational change such as transformation or mergers).
    • Organisational issues (Type 2):
    Communication is not the cause of the problem, cannot provide a solution but can explain the issue (e.g. budget cuts or new legislation).
    • Corporate communication issues:
    Where too little or no communication with external stakeholders is the problem (e.g. with the media in case of negative publicity; or with investors in case of low share price).
    • Management communication issues:
    Where too little or no (internal) communication between managers and employees is the cause of the problem–not telling employees what they want to hear (e.g. about the organisation’s vision or staff reductions).
    • (Tactical) communication issues:
    Where messages are not reaching the target groups (e.g. because of inappropriate communication channels such as television to reach a rural population; or email to reach factory workers, or difficult/technical language used to reach people who are communicating in their third or fourth language).

    With communication issues it is much easier for the PR/ communication function to take responsibility to solve a problem. It is usually in their hands to do so. However, when we have to do with organisational issues (such as the migrant issue) many stakeholders groups and different types of organisations are involved in coming to some type of a solution. If Ferpi is the focal organisation (as in Toni’s case above), then the migrant issue/ zenophobia is an organisational issue type 2. Ferpi cannot solve the migrant issue with communication—it is much more complex than that. But at least Ferpi can take initiative by forming strategic alliances, explaining the issue to the many different stakeholders, and go a long way towards diluting and defusing the issue.

  3. Marie Rose,
    how wonderful to hear from you and also to know that you are now working with Eric. Blogs are great also to catch up with old, esteemed, loved and well remembered friends!
    Yes, Brian,
    roms are not romanians, although there are many roms in Romania, as well as in Albania and other eastern european countries, where they were not exterminated by the nazis…this holocaust is much less known and was at least in good part finished also by the soviets after the war…
    Being errants for centuries they are problem people in the sense that they tend not to belong if not to themselves and create difficulties in all integration efforts. But there is signifcant literature of their saga which has many heroic and impressive moments.. wish I knew more about this.

    And now to a brief update on the option we have to proceed forward:
    ° I received a call from some romanina colleagues who are coming to see me on saturday evening in rome to discuss;
    ° I involved the international relations committee of Ferpi and sofar have received excellent feed back and availablity to proceed;
    ° I have received direct news from three major Italian corporations willing to cooperate and support an eventual effort.
    Will keep you updated and am keeping my fingers crossed.

    if I may I would like to continue my process if you are half interested.
    Once I have identified potential stakeholders, objective by objective, I need to select those external issues/variables which might affect my reaching of each objective, identify those that I might be able to influence in favour of my objective and those subjects I need to dialogue with in order to make this happen. Also, I must identify those opinion leaders who, if appropriately engaged by me, would be willing to influence my end receivers, or final publics or customers, voters or howver you wish to call them. Thus far I have segmented: active stakeholders, potential stakeholders, variables, issue influencers, opinion leaders, final public.
    This is the homework. Only now can we start thinking about what and how to communicate. And this comes next.

  4. Phrase of the month, from Benita, is “boundary spanner.”

    Without even thinking of the phrase back then, in my days as a corporate PR exec I certainly was spanning boundaries. I had some sort of unspecified, undefined but actual, respnsibilty, authority and ability to go where I wanted to meet who I wanted, to say what I wanted, about all sorrts of “reputational” aspects of my companies’ relationsships with the telecommunications industry in particular and, more broadly, the general communities in which we operated.

    And, although we did not have specified budgets and pre-approved amounts, I could even spend company money without asking anyone.

    Then I went to Burson-Marsteller, where I invented the term “$400 vice-president.” A $400 vice-president is someone who not only holds the title of vice-president (It means they get biilled out higher than a director)but can approve a $400 expenditure of agency money woithout grovelling before some imported exec from New York or London.

    $400 vice-presidents, it turns out, are few and far between in the PR consulting business.

    I think any discussion about strategists changing the world, or even a small part of it, need to seperate corporate PR people from agency PR people. The latter won’t do anything without putting the time spent on an invoice to a client, and I’m not so sure many clients will be happy paying $225 an hour for ten hours of meetings a pr agency person held to improve the world.

    As for the corporate PR people… with every passing day I’m finding fewer and fewer senior PR people actually holding jobs in corporations. The PR department is being dumbed down, top jobs are disappearing, or if a vp remains, the upper-middle management who used to at least have some thinking-time and the authority, etc. to go out and do things are gone. All that’s left are juniors and intermediates who don’t read the papers and who strive for work-life balance, which means they quit early and plug iPods into their ears and don’t know what’s happening in the world anyway.

    As for PR somehow getting town governments to happily welcome newcomers — there’s a big difference between welcoming legal immigrants who have met standards required by a government (or a string of federal, provincial/stage, regional, countty, and municipal governments)and illegal immigrants, whether they sneaked across fields in the dead of night, arrived stuffed into cargo containers filled by snakehads, or cleared immigration with forged papers. Withour without criminal records.

    Or who arrive, as is the case in Canada, pleading that they are refugees. Some are, some lie.

    I’d be hard pressed to go to my clients and say I want each of them to devote ten percent of their budgets to letting me clean up the immigration mess in Canada.

    And if my time wasn’t being paid by a client, I’d bve hard-pressed to to spend ten hours a week clearing up immigration when I know that even if 500 other PR people across Canada joined me in this mission, we’d have dozens of opinions on what “clean up” means. Does clean-up mean giving government supported, taxpayer paid, health coverage to criminals who broke the law by sneaking into the country? Does cleaning up mean reducing the money spent in immigrant support for those here legally — English as a second language, French as a second language, document (diplomas, licenses, etc.) translation, training and apprentice programs to give them Canadian experience, — and giving some of this money to criminals and thier families? “We;ll, thier children aren’t criminals,” one will say, and the other will say, “neither are the kids of the honest immigrants, and there’s not enough day care spaces for them as it is, let alone pushing them out for the criminal families.”

    Guide me in Euro-education, please. Are Romas and Romanians differnt, or are all Romanians Romas? I thjink it is the former, but I think the latter are probably the (percieved????) problem people.


  5. Hello Toni

    There’s a long time ago already that I didn’t have news from you and your activities, but I see that you more active then ever to confrontate Public Relations to actuality and things of the world. That’s great!

    So, can PR’s solve problems or sometime make it worst?
    In the case of xenophobia against Romanians in Italy, it can certainly help, and your project looks very interesting to give to this terrible “fait divers” its real place and avoid irrational reactions.
    But regarding Belgian politics, and the mess where “politicians pr’s” put us today, I’m not so sure. Have you heard about it? Communitary problems and personal ego’s are taking in hostage our future government, where dutch-speaking and french-speaking ones do not seem to understand each other any more – or at least to try. This would be a good case study for professionals..;

    Best regards

    Marie-Rose Thérer
    PR Consultant
    for CC Strategies, Belgium
    ps: Toni, I’m working there wit Eric Potier also.
    Mobile: 0032 475 365 847

  6. In having read the above ‘case study’, I cannot help but provide a theoretical framework for what has been described so far. In picking up on Toni’s statement that “public relators are not usually problem solvers: more often they can be problem analysts, problem facilitators…”, it is my opinion that Toni has been practising ‘strategic public relations management’ by playing the ‘role of the PR strategist’.

    The ‘organization’ is Ferpi and ‘strategic stakeholders’ are for instance the Romanian PR Association, the migrant communities in both countries, Romanian and Italian subjects who are aware and interested in the improvement of bilateral relationships, the Italian Cabinet, Parliament, the city prefects, political and media communities, CERP, the Global Alliance, Italian companies operating in Romania, other private business organizations interested in improving the deteriorating relationship between the two countries, and a host of others.

    The direct quote below on relevant theory is on page 139 of the chapter I wrote in the most recent Excellence book (edited by Toth):

    “Strategic Public Relations Management:
    In its strategic role, public relations thus assists an organization (or institution) to adapt to its societal and stakeholder environment by feeding intelligence with regards to strategic stakeholders (and their concerns or expectations), societal issues and the publics that emerge around the issues, into the organization’s strategy formulation process. Public relations also influences organizational leaders to address the reputation risks and other strategic issues identified in this process by aligning organizational goals and strategies to societal/stakeholder values and norms—serving both the organizational and the public interest. By acting socially responsible and building mutually beneficial relationships with the organisation’s stakeholders and other interest groups in society on whom it depends to meet its goals, an organization obtains legitimacy, garners trust and builds a good reputation. Public relations also influences organizational leaders to state the organization’s position on, and practice two-way communication with external and internal stakeholders about, issues of strategic importance. The above process constitutes public relations’ contribution to strategic decision-making and especially to the formulation of an organization’s enterprise strategy”.

    The following quote appears on page 145-6 of the same book:

    “The Role of the ‘PR strategist’:
    • is regarded as a strategic role at the top management/societal/environmental level. (In the
    strategic management literature, this is referred to as the macro or strategic level).
    • is based on the outside-in approach to strategic management, conducting environmental scanning to gather
    information on stakeholders, publics and issues from the environment.
    • is the information acquisition role of the boundary spanner, being part of the strategic team that adapts the organization to the future.
    • is the information processing role of the boundary spanner, which entails strategic thinking by interpreting information gathered with regards to its consequences for organizational strategies and stakeholders.
    • is to perform the mirror function of public relations, consisting of scanning/monitoring relevant environmental developments/societal issues and anticipating their consequences for the organization’s policies and strategies, especially with regard to the stakeholder and
    societal environment.
    • constitutes PR’s inputs into the organization’s strategy formulation processes — resulting in a strategic contribution mainly towards enterprise strategy, but also assisting corporate,
    business-unit, and functional strategies in the identification of reputation risks and other strategic issues that need to be communicated about”.

    To me, this case is a good demonstration of how Toni played the role of the PR strategist in Ferpi’s strategic management process.


  7. Toni – as you describe, the approach of building coalitions and alliances though direct relationships does address my concerns. Very often, what we see undertaken are high profile “campaigns” that fail to get to the heart of issues and so have limited effect.

    One of my students who works for a local authority in the UK was explaining a very successful initiative in her city where individual young people from different ethnic backgrounds were brought together in a long-term project. It seems that this approach has begun to deliver some effective results. As a result of the success, they are now able to widen its focus and also gain more public recognition of the strategy.

  8. Now, if Dumitru agrees, I would like to.. dare a step forward also addressing some of Heather’s considerations.
    It is clear that public relators are not usually problem solvers: more often they can be problem analysts, problem facilitators and unfortunately sometimes also problem creators..
    Creation of coalitions or alliances is one of the major competencies which we, as professionals, should be well equipped for.
    An effective alliance implies the ability to select the right interlocutors which in turn implies being very careful and selective in analysing and identifying your active stakeholders.
    Now, in this specific case, active stakeholders are certainly romanian and italian subjects who are aware and interested in the improvement of bilateral relationships because the present situation produces negative and undesired (also… undeserved) consequences on them.
    It is not difficult to identify many of these subjects, maybe not all of them, but I believe we can quickly have consensus on who they are.
    In order however to attract their interest and con..vince them to join forces in an alliance, we must follow a very quick envisioning process to shich they may relate to and then immediately engage them in defining together the specific objectives our organization wishes to pursue in a specific time frame.
    I am now assuming (and hoping) that ARRP and FERPI are ready to agree on mission (who we are and what we do) and vision (where we want to go) and maybe the best strategy to go from one to the other.
    Once we have defined specific objectives to be pursued by the alliance with the identified active stakeholders, we must then proceed to identify, objective by objective, the potential stakeholders, i.e. those subjects who, if they were appropriately made aware of those objectives, would probably be willing to migrate -at least on a single objective and maybe more than one- to the active stakeholder role.
    Sofar we will have only begun the process, and if we should agree, I will be more than happy to continue describing the successive steps.
    Heather, as yoou can see sofar we have not actively done any media communication (it would be a disaster if we raised expectations we are not sure we are ready to satisfy), but only engaged in direct relationships.
    Comments, suggestions, integrations, criticisms?

  9. Dear Toni,
    Your analysis happens to coincide with mine. I totally agree with your proposal for cooperation between the two associations. I will convey your ideas to my collegues and I shall keep you updated.
    I, sincerely, admire your initiative. I love people who care and also try doing somthing about it…

    Way to go!
    Dumitru Bortun
    President of ARRP

  10. Dear Toni,
    Your analysis happens to coincide with mine. I totally agree with your proposal for cooperation between the two associations. I will convey your ideas to my collegues and I shall keep you updated.
    I, sincerely, admire your initiative. I love people who care and also try doing somthing about it…

    Way to go!

  11. Toni,

    Italy and Romania are not the only countries involved in the issue regarding attitudes and behaviour towards immigrants. I believe it is a major communications issue affecting most countries in the world, and a huge variety of organisations from political bodies, to local government, charities and providers of social services, to corporate giants and small-medium enterprises.

    The media has a key role to play in enflaming problems between communities or in reflecting on similarities and benefits. But which sells better?

    This weekend’s terrible fire in the UK where four fire-fighters have lost their lives has had an uncurrent of such issues in the media coverage. The fire occurred in a food packing warehouse employing largely migrant workers – you can fill in the media presumptions yourself.

    CIPR last year set the planning assignment around this topic which was very interesting to consider. I worked with students in many countries and each could relate to this issue. However, PR solutions sometimes seem superficial when facing such a real social issue. PR can play a role, but communications alone will not address the underlying concerns of societies about others.

    I would certainly support your ideas of the PR associations looking at this challenge – but perhaps it would also benefit to reach out more widely and engage with other groups who also need to act to prevent racism dividing our societies even further.

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