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The Strategy Room

A Bulletin from Berlin

By: Peter V. Stanton

March 10, 2009 Berlin Wall
When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, a barrier that separated people, families and, in fact, a nation ceased to exist. Recently, in the area that was formerly no man’s land, a meeting occurred in a luxury hotel standing squarely inside what before 1989 was the kill zone for anyone trying to flee from East to West. No one attempted to flee this meeting.

What occurred instead was dialogue, openness and a spirit of collaboration among the members of PR World Alliance. The international agency network convened its latest assembly in Berlin to discuss how the five year old group could accelerate its growth and continue its development.

Typical for this group, the discussions and social gatherings were sometimes raucous, occasionally fractious, but always frank. Not always polite, but certainly frank. In other words, what happened in Berlin was honest communication. No barriers. No restrictions. No timers to curtail discussion. And no one was shot.

It would be nice to say the result was perfect harmony. That wasn’t the case. A little exasperation. Some frustration, but also many revelations. Members of the alliance proved they are engaged in compelling and innovative work for clients on a global basis.

Cap & Cime from Paris discussed their recent representation of three technology innovators at the latest CES in Las Vegas. General Manager Thibault Peulen, shared his firm’s successes utilizing new social media platforms, as well as sample reports of measureable results that serve to enhance client confidence. He also shared a set of five “convictions” that guide all client work. The firm features those convictions at the top of its web site, not, as is so often the case, promotional samples of its work. The implicit message is “Here is what we believe in and stand for.” Before the wall fell, Berliners never knew whom they could trust. Cap & Cime puts forward their belief system above anything else on their web site so clients and prospects can say without question, “I can trust this firm.”It’s a model to be emulated.

Briefing Communication, one of Croatia’s leading agencies, shared not only their work on behalf of clients, but their own corporate social responsibility initiatives. Agency Director Davor Huic discussed his formation of a taxpayers union in Croatia and his work to facilitate economic growth in his country. What began as a sidebar interest, he said, is now a rapidly rising NGO with Huic contributing to its evolution even as he continues to lead his own firm. Many in the assembly asked if this was the first step toward a run for elected office in Croatia. For the first time ever, Huic was at a loss for words and the subject changed. Expect more on that in the future.

Panama PR, which actually is located in Stuttgart, Germany, presented new work for lifestyle and consumer product companies. Christian Josephi and his senior partner, Meike Grisson for years have represented the Champagne industry. Now they are expanding their beverage portfolio with a new program for the Sherry industry. It features highly designed, but informative collateral explaining the differences in Sherry variations. Traditional communication is clearly not dead so long as it is accomplished with clarity and creativity. And to ensure their message was fully understood, Christian and Meike made certain that Sherry was on the menu when the presentations concluded and delegates repaired to the bar.

These are but three samples from the nearly dozen presentations made in Berlin. Others were equally compelling. Above all, they were candid discussions of progress, challenges, and perspectives on the future of global communication.

That a meeting of this nature could occur in a city once synonymous for secrecy, deceit and fear is evidence in itself that there is reason for optimism about the future of the alliance and the future of communication. In five years, the members of PR World Alliance have come to know each other better, trust each other more, and fully appreciate the quality of the work each partner produces.

Berliners deserve to be justly proud of their courage and determination against formidable odds in the decades between 1961 when the wall went up and 1989. If PR World Alliance partners individually expressed “Ich bin ein Berliner” through their discussions with colleagues, then even in the absence of the physical object, we helped to “Tear Down This Wall.”




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