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Greece does not have an image problem but a real one

16 October 2012 / 16:10:48  GRReporter
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"I'm not very patient with governments that deal with their image. Any looser can hire an expensive media to explain to people how great one country or another is. No great man starts a conversation with the statement of how great he is." This is how Simon Anhold, one of the most famous political advisers in the world, began his lecture to the economic forum of the International Herald Tribune, which was held in Athens. Anhold consulted the governments of more than 50 countries and international organizations like the European Union, the World Bank, NATO and the UN on issues of economic, cultural and political cooperation.
    According to the expert, the most important thing in today's globalized world is reputation. However, it does not belong to us. "Every day, people around the world take millions of decisions that are important for the future of Greece - where to go on vacation, what food to buy, where to send their children to study. There is a super power at present and it is the world public opinion," he said. These decisions are based on prejudices and preconceptions deeply rooted in us.
    "Many people think that they get information on other countries from the media. In fact, we receive information about other countries from the mother's milk and then, we choose the media that fit our notions. Look at the image of Turkey in the eyes of the Greeks and you will see what I mean," the expert said. He is working with Greece for the first time and has included it in his study this year, which he has been carrying out among 30 thousand analysts worldwide.
    "Contrary to your expectations, Greece's reputation is not impaired. As far as cultural heritage is concerned, it is among the top three countries along with China and Egypt. Unfortunately, as far as efficiency of government is concerned, it is in the same company, but at the bottom of the scale," Simon Anhold said. Therefore, he believes that the problem of Greece is not its image. The problem is a real one and the country needs to solve it. "Greece has a very meaningful image, full of different ingredients. It is not Rwanda, which we associate only with ethnic massacres," he said.
   The expert claims that 40 of the countries with which he has worked make the wrong diagnosis by saying they have an image problem. The same is the opinion of all Greeks, with whom he had spoken. And they think so because they read the media or talk with other elites. "I have learned from my long years of working that people are interested in three countries. The first one is their own country. So, if a politician wants to win the election, he focuses only on foreign policy. The second country is the United States because it has earned the glory of the greatest country. The third one is individual - it could be Great Britain because his child is studying there, or Italy because his wife comes from there, or Thailand, for he is planning to go there on vacation. He is absolutely indifferent to the other countries," Anhold said.
    However, he has found in his study that Greece has become relevant to more people worldwide, but for the wrong reasons. Therefore, he believes that if Greece starts using public resources to improve its image abroad, it will revolutionize the euro zone, and the effect will be nil. "I do not know a country that has managed to improve its image through advertising," he said. He said Greece should solve its real problem, which is more tourism, more trade, more production. "A good piece of advice for Greece is not just to make its finances stable, but to help others to do so," Simon Anhold said.
    He explained that the large quantity of empirical information has helped him to find the answer to the question of why people prefer one country to another and that it consists of four factors - morality, aesthetics, importance and power. He gave the example of Tibet as a very popular country. It is a weak country, insignificant to world politics, its beauties are comparable to those of China and Nepal, but it is very moral and this is the reason for its popularity. "Advertise your beauties. This may not bring tourists immediately but at some point, it will surely pay off," was the other advice to the hosts.
    Greek diplomacy has good traditions and name in its conventional part, but Greek embassies around the world are very old fashioned and do not actually engage in public diplomacy, the expert noted. "They very often invite me to the Greek Embassy in London, which is a big, beautiful building in the aristocratic neighbourhood of Belgrave. Every time I go there, my heart sinks for the Greek taxpayer who pays for its maintenance. This diplomacy should be used more efficiently," Simon Anhold suggests.

Tags: Simon AnholdNational brandingImage repairingGreece's reputationTourism
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