Wednesday, November 3, 2010

One Beer, 47 Different Tastes

Can Europe be sold like beer? In my opinion, the answer is no. Lets cozy on up to the bar to find out why. Look at that selection of brews on the wall…bottles of all shapes and sizes, filled with different shades of amber liquid, just waiting to be poured into a tall glass. How will you choose?
The choice isn’t so difficult for the handsome Italian man a few stools over. He immediately orders a refreshing Peroni and takes a swig from the bottle, adorned with a sophisticated label that exudes flawless Italian style.
On your other side is a chatty female student, visiting from Amsterdam. She finishes her first drink, and waves in the direction of the bartender, who soon returns with a second Heineken in hand. The bright green bottle with its unmistakable red star adds a punch of color to the bar, as does the girl’s bubbly personality.
Your conversation is suddenly interrupted as a group of Irishmen enter the room and noisily order a round of Guinness. One by one, shiny glasses embellished with golden harps are filled to the brim with the dark, cloudy beer and carried over to the table. The men seem to feel right at home as they sip their stouts and chat with their friends.
Each country often has a beer of choice, and that beer is carefully marketed using specific graphics, advertisements, taglines and words tailored to consumers in that particular area. Each beer has its own personality that is meant to appeal to a certain type of person.
Contrastingly, organizations such as the Council of Europe have the daunting task of appealing to an audience of a much greater scale: all of Europe. These organizations must also take into account the geographic distribution and mind-boggling range of cultures and traditions within this audience. Their job is to create an image that targets all of these people in one fell swoop. If we’re talking in terms of drinking, that’s the equivalent of creating one beer to suit the tastes of everyone on the continent. Needless to say, you’re gonna need a really great label to sell that one.


In order for Europe (or, more specifically, European integration) to be sold like beer, a target audience must be established and their specific needs addressed in the sales pitch. This target audience can be individual states or individual citizens, and the sales strategy must be altered depending on whom it is aimed. While states and their top leadership may be swayed by a Europe that promises political clout, individuals are more likely to have needs specific to their socioeconomic conditions. Just as beer-drinkers on a diet can be enticed to buy light beers, Europeans whose socio-economic situations are in need of improvement will buy into a picture of an integrated Europe that provides for its citizens.
Beers exist in a dizzying array of varieties, as each one is created to please the palette of a certain type of consumer. In the same way, the picture of Europe must be painted in as many different lights as there are perspectives of states or individuals. You cannot sell a ‘hands-off’ integrated Europe to a nation or person in dire need of assistance; instead, the sales pitch must highlight the hands-on aspects of Europe that will appeal to their need for social, economic, and physical care.
In addition, when selling Europe to a specific audience, one must portray the benefits of this picture of Europe as drastically outweighing the pitfalls. Just think how much thinner you will become drinking only light beer! Flavor won’t matter when you’re wearing a bikini, looking beautiful, and feeling confident! Spinning every negative view of Europe (or a beer) into a positive one for the target audience is one of the most important tools for selling Europe as a product.

"Europe" : The Latest Commodity

As any good salesman or saleswoman knows, the only way to see their product to the target audience is to entice all of their five senses- easy as that. But alongside intriguing the senses, by making key points about the product, this also helps draw them in closer. So let's say, for the sake of this argument (and for Europe in general), the product was beer. Since beer is cherished by so many of all ages, it makes you wonder: What makes it sell as well as it does? Is it the seemingly endless photos of an ice-cold, frothy beer overflowing over the chilled mug, the feeling of relaxation and contentment as one drinks a sip, or is it the half-naked women who are standing next to these blissful images? All of these factors play a major role in luring the target audience, which generally in this case, are party-hungry college students. But what if the product was "Europe"? As vast as that sounds, would it be feasible to sell this idea of "Europe" just like a beer?

My answer is simple: yeah, why not? Like all other products sold in the world today, these products have become successful because the teams of advertisers have been able to effectively attract their target audiences. So, who would be the target audience for a product like "Europe"? That answer comes all too easy: Europeans of course. Though it may sound silly to sell the idea of "Europe" to well, Europeans, since they already live in Europe and should know what exactly "Europe" has to offer. But, in many cases, this is not always correct.

So, in order to sell "Europe" to Europeans, I see three main means of advertisement that would attract those who live in Europe to buy into a product like this. They read as follows:

1. The ability to move freely from country to country
2. The ability to explore and discover other countries, especially the
richness of culture and traditions
3. Incredible food, need I say more?

So, now my question is who would not want to be able to travel freely from one country to another without having to face limitations? I know as an American student coming to live in a European country, this makes life a whole lot easier as well as enables me to feel connected to other parts of this great continent. Not to mention, as other Europeans are able to move from one country to another, this allows them to look for better economic conditions and in addition, a happier way of life.

Alongside this importance of free movement, it also enables individuals to travel to other countries and experience cultures that are unfamiliar to them. That is what is so special about the world today; not a single country is exactly the same as another country. As Europeans travel to other countries, unfamiliar areas than what they are used to, this permits them to learn about the cultures and traditions of their fellow neighbors. Europe is a vast region but when those who live here become familiar with the lifestyles of those around them, it becomes a more unified and connected place. Learning about other cultures allows Europeans to see the world in a completely new perspective as well as their own which ultimately, helps them become more eclectic and well-rounded.

Speaking of well-rounded, this brings me to my third and final point: food. It is known that each region of Europe has its own specialties; whether it is the bretzel in Germany, the waffle in Belgium, or crepes in France, everyone is aware of these delicacies based on the area they are in. Just like these foods, the idea of "Europe" holds the same concept. Though each region is known for different things, these specialties are what make Europe as special as it is. Therefore, this ultimately makes individuals, especially Europeans themselves, to want to live in such a place of great uniqueness as well as unification. I do not think it can get much better than that.

Thus, it is rather easy to see that "Europe" can in fact be sold similar to an everyday product such as beer, it just depends on the way one goes about advertising it. It might not be due to the photo of an ice-cold beer or the half-naked girl in a bikini holding it, but it is due to the message that lies behind the product. Both "Europe" and beer can bring their audience a feeling of contentment that is unlike any other; in the end, this is what will allow Europe to sell.

-Jonell Yablonski

Can Europe be sold like a beer?

Perhaps not like a beer, but what about a designer brand? Make the Council of Europe the Chanel of Europe. It’s trendy, fashionable, exclusive, durable, and easily identifiable – all things the Council of Europe brand needs. There ought to be elegance in simplicity. All of the bureaucracy, technicalities, projects, and court cases could unify under a single banner of the European Guardians of Human Rights. From this image of “Guardian”, the brand is associated with notions of honor, intelligence, justice, strength. Legitimacy is built through its longevity and the work it has done in the past.

Like Chanel, the Council needs to stand out among other similar brands. Although there are other well known European brands – Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabana, etc – the double crossed C’s of Chanel are identifiable and distinct. Those who are not in tune with fashion may not know the particular style of Chanel, but even so, they recognize Chanel to be a separate entity. Similarly, the Council’s brand must stand apart from the European Union, the OSCE, and other European institutions. Not everyone knows that Chanel is French, but it is certainly European and certainly a very classy brand. That’s enough for it to sell its image abroad and similarly, the Council should sell its name to the US, Russia, and the rest of the world.

The difficulty arises when the brand must sell in Europe. Here is where the analogy of Chanel breaks down because unlike Chanel, the Council must sell itself as something pan-European but not monolithic. It can’t seem partial to any particular country but it also cannot swallow up individual countries because there are those who are wary of being dominated by the whole of Europe. The brand needs something to show that it appreciates the diversity of European countries while also demonstrating the need for cooperation and unity among them. Perhaps the symbol of “Guardian” can be used to be a guardian of individual countries through the effective cooperation and protection of all.

This is all a general concept for a brand the functions the brand should carry out. It does not go into much detail about how to make these things happen, and honestly, I’m not sure how PR does that. But as an overview for the goals of the brand, I think it would be best for it to be legitimate and esteemed as well as classy and attractive, like Chanel has accomplished.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Media is not almighty

I keep forgetting that the news is written and broadcast by people. When we talk about it in my Policy courses, the media is a big, nasty corporation – mechanic and malicious, sinewy and self-serving. All the newspapers, magazines, journalists, and broadcasters get lumped into this impersonal monolith.

But it’s not all the same. At least, that’s what I’ve been getting out of this class. The news is written by journalists – actual people who, for the most part, work to portray the news as accurately as they see it. The news is also shaped by culture and history. It’s all about context. I was surprised to learn that some sensational-looking newspapers from Serbia with large, bold headlines, lots of bright colors, and a picture of a topless woman, no less, could be considered a legitimate source of news. On the other hand, French and German newspapers contained pages of lengthy, in-depth articles with just a few, small pictures. “That’s great but do they really read all this?” Professor Burton asked, flipping through pages smeared from top to bottom with text. I also liked her note on the French television news, where breaking news slowly filters on to people’s television throughout the day supposedly because the French are in no rush to get things done or to get stories out.

Undoubtedly, the media shapes society, but I hadn’t considered how society shapes the media. As societies and cultures vary, so does the media, which we saw in the juxtaposition of European newspapers. In the same way you realize the particularities of your native culture when you come in contact with a foreign one, the characteristics of one type or nation’s style of newspaper – could you call them the values of that country’s media? – are emphasized when compared to another. Through this plurality of journalistic styles, we can better understand the news that is presented to us in a particular country.

Accents in the News: Flare or fail?

"People trust accents,” Professor Burton said. Although it was only a short aside as we discussed the history of journalism and the start of the BBC, this comment piqued my interest. She explained that when people listen to the news, they prefer genuine voices of people – accents and all – rather than the practiced pronunciation of old school British news anchors (à la 1953 BBC). Huh, ok. I wondered how that outlook would work in news broadcasting in the US or Japan.

I imagined what radio news would be like if Carl Kasell on NPR were to have a New York accent. What if Michele Norris had a thick southern accent (think Paula Dean from the Food Network)? On one hand, it would add flare to the news – something unusual and diverse – but which also runs the risk of becoming irritating or even incomprehensible. My mom, who is foreign but has lived in the states for 20+ years, could not make heads or tails of Southern accents when we first moved to NC. She would have a cow if she had to try to understand the news through some rich, thick accent.

For similar reasons, the news in Japan is broadcast in standard, formal Japanese. Japan has many regional dialects – Osaka/Kansai, Kyoto, etc – which are often considered more expressive and interesting than standard Japanese, but because there are so many particularities to the dialects, people in other parts of the country would not understand the news, not unlike UK accents (see vid).

Still, in the defense of accents, when things like Story Corps on NPR are narrated by the individuals and include their Chicago twang or the sway and flow of black English, their stories become more vivid and personal. I also enjoy listening to Fiona Ritchie’s broadcast during the Celtic music segment and the many UK accents aired on the BBC. Despite perhaps not being practical for reporting headline news, I think accents would communicate to the public the news is not just about media corporations. It is stories about real people in the world told by real people who have quirks and eccentricities in the way they speak – just like you and me.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Watch Your Mouth, Literally: The Insider on Bad Journalism

          Like the popular English-novelist, Graham Greene, once stated, "Media is a word that has come to mean bad journalism." Journalists, whether they are broadcasters, reporters, or editors, can end up being convenient prey of culpability when the stories they publish rouse public controversy. Since archaic times, dating back to the first airing of BBC News and Newsreel, it is a known fact, "the bigger the issue, the bigger the blame." However, not only do journalists fall to the woes of this ever-so-truthful statement, innocent victims such as everday people become liable the moment they open their immaculate mouths. It appears that any presence of critical thought and reasoning has been replaced by mediocrity and journalists have convinced themselves of the lie that the audience is really as feeble-minded as they are. This falls under the perception of very bad journalism, considered today simply by the term: journalism.

          Recently, I was able to recognize and establish the deviations of journalism between "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly." By gaining an understanding that these seemingly good, yet likewise, bad journalists, are merely doing their job, pushing you to your limits, it is purely a matter of being understood. There is a great journalistic value in what they create; the question lies in what will be remembered.

          However, more people tend to remember the bad rather than the good.

          Like a ghastly scab festering on your skin that will not go away until it receives proper treatment, bad journalists generally maintain this same mentality. Their vileness can come at any given moment since they are always alert for the formation of possible new stories. Because of this, they can lure you into becoming quite comfortable in their presence without you even thinking twice. At this point, it is especially important to watch your mouth...literally.

          By the twist and turn of words, manipulation from these bad journalists can come darting towards one like a speeding bullet. Feeling as if that ten-foot target now lies center on your forehead, it soon becomes a matter of how quick one can think on their feet. In sticky situations, "One must try to be positive, not negative." Bad journalists want you to get caught up in your words so they can twist them around even more and make you out as the culprit. But this does not always have to be the result. Responses such as, "Well I can't possibly agree with that, we have achieved (list of accomplishments to rub in their face)" or "This is a really interesting question, I am so glad you asked me that" generally leave these journalists baffled and at a loss for words. These comebacks come darting back towards them just like they did to you just moments before. Furthermore, this works exceptionally well when delivered with a gracious smile upon one's tranquil face. By remaining calm, you soon can become in control of the situation.

          Alongside remaining calm and in control, preparation is the absolute key. Using the "Three-Things" concept, preparing three good examples and three good messages for what you would like others to get out of your interview, this will limit controversy that bad journalists are hoping to stir up. As long as one can stay steps ahead of these spiteful journalists, nothing can deter you from giving an incredible interview.

          Bad journalists will continue to crawl under your skin if you let them, just like that bothersome scab. But with help from these useful tips, one can stop them before they begin to spread too far. By giving them a taste of their own medicine, this seems to do the trick.

Ask the Prof. Goin’ Crazy? ….then get going with these comms tips.

I get a letter from a desperate woman…or is it a man? Goin’ Crazy is embracing life in Strasbourg with the full force of his or her Syracuse might. Classes, navigating Strasbourg, struggling with French “le baguette….la baguette?”, not to mention friends and sport and nights out.

So, Goin’ Crazy, here are Prof B’s quick and dirty survival tips.

1. Get out the post-its.

The key to survival is to prioritise. Find a pack of post-its and a big piece of wall. On each post- it write one word for each of your activities. Carry on until you are really sure that you have covered everything – studies, calls home, walks to the centre, shopping. When you have finished, stick them randomly on the wall. Step back and take a good ten minutes reviewing them all.

Next step, prioritise. Create three categories…Must Do…Want to Do…Optional. Batch your activities under each heading. Now your priorities should be clear (and by the way, don’t forget that you must wash, you must breathe and you must get some exercise to stay healthy, otherwise you won’t manage anything, me dear!) Dump the stuff you know you won’t do. You can’t do everything!

2. Make a plan

You now have your priorities, so you should be able to start blocking off the time. Use any system you like, online, gadget, pencil and paper. Plan on a week by week basis, it is will make it easer to scan the plan. Use colours if you want…..but remember not to pack the schedule too full. Put buffer zones around appointments and don’t forget travelling time. Give yourself space to breath.

3. Discipline yourself to follow.

Discipline isn’t hard. You know what they say. Just do it.

4. Give yourself a break

Enjoy the planning and enjoy the doing. Plan in something you love every day. Give yourself downtime. And don’t beat yourself up for the slips. Aim for 80/20. (This by the way is the famous Pareto principle. Look it up)

And some tips for the French skills? Here goes

1. Two sessions of quarter of an hour a day is better than trying to cram it all in at once.
2. Forget vocabulary lists. Instead find something you love and use it to expand your vocabulary. Always link the words to give your brain a better chance. Learn silly and interesting things.

3. Listen to trashy pop songs in French and sing along, it is great for getting a good accent.

4. Remember all those 1930s sultry French stars? Nothing better to cultivate an accent than imitating them by sticking a cigarette (or as a non smoker I prefer a pen) between the lips, and trying to speak.

5. Learn those little words and sounds that fill in between words “vous savez…” “euhhhhhhhhh”. No teacher will ever encourage you to use them, but they give the brain that precious nano second to search for the right phrase.

6. Talk talk talk as much as you can. If people try to come back at you in English, learn a nice polite phrase to let them know you are learning and actually want to speak French.

7. Most of all, relax and enjoy it. It will come. All it needs is perseverance.

Best of luck, goin’ crazy. Let me know how it goes.

How To Sell Your Story

Hello Blog, its me average American consumer.  The trick with me is that I like feeling informed; however, I am not easily captivated. Therefore, not just any news story will intrigue me. This of course means that journalists are left with the difficult task of getting the news out, but in such a way that people will actually read it. Not so easy.  So today Strasblog is here to aid in this stressful endeavor and outline a few tips concerning what makes a good story.
To begin, the story must be topical. People are interested in the here and now. They want to know what is happening today and even in the future, so leave the past for the historians. The story must also include a scandal or conflict because on a whole people enjoy drama. How else could you explain reality televisions’ booming success? The next criterion is having a human angle. Readers need to be able to relate to the events happening around them, in order to process them and remain interested. Another key element is including facts and quotes. Superficial notions in tabloids can be entertaining, but people want to know that what they are being told is the truth, or at least one version of it. Lastly, is the element of exclusivity. No one enjoys hearing the same story twice. So give the audience what they want. Tell them something no one else has.
Keep your eyes locked here for future communication tips.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Professor Burton: A True Tweet

In a world of grouchy college professors berating the influence of technology on today’s youth, Cathie Burton provides a refreshing alternative to truly ‘old-school’ hostilities. Professor Burton shows she is clearly in tune with and ready for the technological evolution of the media industry, even daring to compare the succinct nature of the telegraph to the 140-character-limited ‘Tweets’ of today. Just as the original producers of BBC News were hesitant to use the full potential of television (such as moving pictures and a live anchorman), many professors (in all fields) are hesitant to accept and utilize today’s technological innovations. Walking into the classroom toting a Mac laptop and equipped with a DVD documentary (no VCR necessary here!), she instantly embodies the character of a truly 21st century professional and professor. While some academics preach the idea that technology (in particular, the internet) creates a generation of introverted and socially inept youth, Cathie Burton does not seem to agree. Social Media platforms used by today’s younger generations are also being used by businesses, media outlets, and even nongovernmental organizations. Working with the media at the Council of Europe, she is aware that today’s technological developments can be a powerful tool for spreading one’s message. These developments may be changing parts of the media industry, as she speaks of how Twitter can now break the news just as fast as formal news agencies such as the Associated Press. However, her tone when discussing these changes is not one of disdain or bitterness; Cathie Burton, Mac-in-hand, is ready to go wherever the technology of tomorrow will take her. While most of the baby-boomers cling to their card-catalogs, casting disapproving glances at their Tweeting-descendents, Cathie Burton will be adeptly riding the technological wave through a successful career in the media industry.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Innovative Solution or Sacrifice of Quality?

A simple glance at any newsstand, and it is immediately apparent that print journalism has taken quite a few blows in its ongoing duel with digital media. The magazines are smaller, the newspapers are thinner, and several publications have been killed off entirely. The transition to online journalism has been a rough one, and magazines and newspapers alike have had to find new ways to bring in money despite a major decline in print readership. Some have decided to produce limited online material, hoping that posting a few quality pieces will keep large audiences coming back. Others have opted to focus on quantity, putting out hundreds of articles each day to draw as many readers as possible.

The newest approach is much more cutting edge, but makes the conventional journalist shake his head in disgust. Recognizing the undeniable power of search engines like Google, news sites have begun to generate content based solely on what can be found at the top of search results. By choosing story topics from a list of some 200,000 frequently searched items, it’s almost guaranteed that the stories will draw numerous page-views, bringing the news site a large return from advertising revenues.

Choosing topics that are relevant to readers’ interests is a key component of good journalism, and it stands to reason that the topics that we most frequently search on the Internet are a perfect reflection of those interests. The larger question lies in the quality of this search-based journalism. An article from The New York Times asks, “How far can a news organization go without undercutting its editorial judgment concerning the presentation, tone and content of news?” Although featuring Justin Bieber’s name in an article could, on one hand, be seen as a marketing device to attract readers to the page, the chance of finding a profound and moving story within the same lines is less than likely.

Using search engine algorithms may be a foolproof way to make money, but the decision that journalists today have to make is whether they’re willing to sacrifice some potentially wonderful stories in favor of those that will receive more mouse clicks.

From the Classroom to the Newsroom: An Insider’s Scoop from a Student’s Perspective

Let me paint you a picture of a typical day at “News 12 Connecticut.” It’s nine o’clock in the morning. The reporters rush into the newsroom, pour themselves each a cup of coffee, and file into the conference room for the morning staff meeting, followed by us – the interns. After everyone settles, the assignment editor walks in with a large stack of press releases and begins handing them out for us to read through. Some of the press releases describe very local stories; “Three new kittens need homes at the Milford animal shelter!” Some of them describe national tragedies; “One man was allegedly thrown overboard by his wife on their honeymoon cruise!” One thing I did notice is that the reporters look at each press release the same way—there is a story to be told.
I sit in the corner eagerly awaiting my assignment while secretly hoping I would be asked to cover the big crime as opposed to taking a trip down the road to see the kittens. “Adrienne,” said Bill, the producer, one morning, “why don’t you head out with Dave first. They’re going to talk to the attorney for the Smith family…it’s the story about the honeymoon murder.” Yes! I screamed in my head. A national story! Of course, I wasn’t always assigned to the national stories. Afterwards I did have to go out with the photographers and take pictures of the poor kittens. When Dave and I sat down with the attorney, I listened carefully to the questions Dave asked him. “What is the story with Jennifer (George Smith’s widow)? Why was the press so interested in her drug use and how does it tie into the crime?” The attorney responded with an extensive explanation using law terms that I had never heard of. Was I stupid? Was I missing something here? I wanted to know what the drugs had to do with the crime just as badly as the public did!
When we left the firm, Dave asked me if I understood what the attorney was saying. “I have to say, I really couldn’t follow it,” I replied. Dave told me that that’s why reporters sound like they’re being aggressive at times. They’re trying to get the people they are questioning to respond in a way that the public can understand. I had never quite understood the real challenge of news reporting until this very moment. Reporters are not merely bystanders of a note-worthy event who just happen to have the privilege of recording what they see. Reporters are, in fact, looking at each story with a very specific lens. They are searching for something others are not, and they are responsible for telling each story in a way that will engage people from all walks of life. After all, not everyone is an attorney. I had begun that morning eager for the juicy stuff. I was excited to see fingerprint samples, blood stains, and horrific accounts of the event. I thought that these assignments were what the best reporters got to tackle. I was wrong. A good reporter is one who can cover a story about kittens at a local shelter and tell the public everything they need to know so that they understand what’s going on and care about it, too.

A welcome from Prof B

Welcome to Strasblog, a place for experiments in communication and musings on Euro-media.

Feel free to browse and explore at will.

Incoming......thoughts on journalism from Syracuse students, and ...all new... Ask the Prof...where you put me in the communications hot seat!