SOCIETY

Campaigns recasting Greece’s image in a better light

Rebranding, reinventing, enhancing the image of Greece at home and abroad: These ideas are key nowadays in restoring the public image of a country which has been badly damaged by a severe economic crisis and five years of recession.

Over the past two years Greece has suffered a blow to its reputation abroad because of a mix of economic troubles and poor political management.

However, a number of new initiatives are now attempting to restore the image of Greece, the Greeks and the Greek market as perceived by the international business community and potential visitors to the country.

One example is the Repo(we)rGreece campaign, which is seeking to redefine the country?s image by focusing on result-oriented perceptions as reflected through success stories, thoughts and opinions that stand out and inspire. It aims to show a side of Greece that can confront misperceptions abroad while at the same time revitalizing Greek morale.

In response to a question form Kathimerini English Edition, the Repo(we)rGreece team wrote: ?It is a fact that the mind-set and the psyche of a nation has repercussions on what the rest of the world will think of it. Therefore, the starting point of Repo(we)rGreece is to first redefine the image of our country in our own eyes by reminding every Greek citizen that if they look around, they will find people who work, correct their mistakes, evolve, create, succeed and have their own story to tell. We believe that once we re-establish a relationship of trust in our country, the world will respond in the same way.?

Reinventing Greece Media Project is another similar venture, one which highlights the new ideas, initiatives and endeavors of leaders, entrepreneurs and young risk-takers in different sectors seeking to reinvent Greece and their local communities. Those behind the project wanted to give young Greek-American journalism students and journalists an opportunity to take the lead in moving forward the public dialogue from a focus on problems to a focus on solutions. By traveling to Athens to seek out and report on stories themselves, they also forged the kind of personal connections necessary to increase communication and build future partnerships in Greece and in Greek diaspora communities.

Aphrodite Bouikidis, program director of the Washington DC-based Reinventing Greece Media Project, explained how the project ?was inspired by the frequently negative media coverage of Greece?s role in the economic crisis, and our belief that people everywhere are inspired to act and work together when we see positive examples from our neighbors, from fellow citizens, and then even from others halfway around the world with whom we sometimes discover we have more in common than we ever knew.

?Highlighting examples of ideas, actions and programs that work, that lead to change to improve people?s lives, is crucial at a time of economic and political crisis,? she added.

Goodnews.gr is a different story, being the first news agency reporting all the ?good news? related to Greece.

The Goodnews.gr team?s aim is to show the side of Greece that is consists of scientists who innovate, entrepreneurs who build businesses, investors who create jobs, teachers who use innovative methods, farmers who employ science in agriculture and export abroad, doctors who develop new medical treatments and people who give back to society.

?It?s time to introduce the best to the rest. It?s time for the rest to be inspired by the best, to strive to reach them. To aim to work like them and with them,? GoodNews.gr board member Stratos Safioleas told Kathimerini English Edition.

The people behind Goodnews.gr believe that Greece can survive this crisis for three reasons: first, because it has the human capital to do so — Greeks are highly educated, adept, bold and born into a tradition of overcoming the odds; second, because Greeks inherited a land that is rich, beautiful and strategically important; and third, because Greece is a world brand.

?No matter how tarnished this brand may be lately, democracy, philosophy and technology are embedded in world?s conscience as born under the shadow of the Acropolis,? Safioleas said.

These are just some of the many initiatives aiming to showcase the potential of this country and to revitalize Greek morale, and together with a strong communication campaign spearheaded by private or government bodies, they could go a long way toward re-establishing international confidence in Greece and making the world aware that while Greece may have financial problems, it is not in a state of collapse.

With reference to tourism in particular, reviving the country?s image is key, especially assuring potential visitors that the kind of civil unrest shown on televisions around the world from protest marches getting out of hand is certainly not the norm and is not widespread.

According to experts, Greeks, moreover, need to recover their lost pride, not just personally but internationally, in order to recover their standing in the global environment.

?In our DNA there is a mentality that when a problem comes up, we fight for it; Greeks are fighters. There is not so much mistrust in ourselves, there is mistrust in the political system and these initiatives are meant to communicate abroad what people are ready to do, so as to change things, to improve their business activities and to create new ways of achieving wealth,? said Aphrodite A. Bletas, deputy president of the Hellenic Chinese Chamber of Commerce, a partner of the Repo(we)rGreece campaign.

Greece presents plenty of economic opportunities which have yet to be exploited to the full: for example, tourism, shipping and the energy market. In addition, it enjoys close ties with the countries of the Middle East and Eastern Europe, making it a strategic gateway to European markets.

However, until the day comes when foreign investors start flocking to Greece, culture, archaeology, the arts and tourism are likely to be the fuel that this country runs on — and they cannot run out. What efforts like Repo(we)r Greece, Reinventing Greece and Goodnews.gr underline is that Greece must value and build on these resources to exit the crisis. [Kathimerini English Edition]