Greeks are eager to repair their tarnished reputation

23/02/2012

Greeks abroad are creating a more positive image of their economically troubled country.

By Maria Paravantes for Southeast European Times in Athens -- 23/02/12

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Members of the Reinventing Greece team meet in Athens. [Reinventing Greece]

Greeks around the world are undertaking public relations initiatives to re-establish their homeland's reputation, as well as to boost the morale of its people and confidence in its economy.

As media attention has focused on Greek finances and the need for two Eurozone bailout packages to keep the country from default of its debt, some Greeks are critical of reports that they say portrayed the country as a haven for lazy fraudsters who avoid paying taxes.

"The most effective way to counter negative stereotypes and biased information is to build and strengthen our networks and partnerships across sectors and borders," Aphrodite Bouikidis, programme director for the Reinventing Greece media project, told SETimes.

The organisation engages Greek-American journalism students and graduates to challenge negative portrayals of Greece through public dialogue, Bouikidis said.

Changes are taking place in Greece, but it is alternative and independent media that have been instrumental in relaying solutions-based journalism, she added.

"Many people want to read positive news, and when they read about times of crisis or institutions that do not work, they ask, 'What can we -- what can I -- do about this?'" Bouikidis said.

GoodNews.gr has begun reporting on what it terms the "other Greece". It focuses on news of Greeks who create, innovate, build and discover. "In short, people who give back to society, who inspire us," site member Stratos Safioleas told SETimes.

Safioleas said he is confident Greece will overcome its current predicament because it has human capital; in addition, the people have had experience in overcoming hardships.

"Greeks are well-educated, adept and born into a tradition of overcoming the odds. Greece is strategically important. And finally, Greece is a world brand. No matter how tarnished -- democracy, philosophy, technology are embedded in the world's conscience as being born under the shadow of the Acropolis," he said.

Another initiative, Repo(we)rGreece, challenges what it says are misperceptions about Greece through an interactive platform that highlights success stories.

"[W]hat motivated us was that now the Greek people were being portrayed negatively," Alexandros Costopoulos, the man behind the year-old initiative, told SETimes.

The group said it uses its reputation management experience to assist "all those Greeks who work hard and have a success story to tell, serving as the best ambassadors in our effort."

Costopoulos explained however, that impressions cannot be changed in a day; perceptions must be built over time.

"We know what went wrong, now it is time to put things right and the best way to achieve this is through a results-oriented campaign on a grass-roots level," he said.

Even prominent people, such as strategist Peter Economides, formerly part of the Apple team that helped create its 1997 "Think Different" campaign, said an inspired and organised rebranding campaign can turn Greece into the "Apple of the Mediterranean."

"[Greece is] one of the greatest brands never to be branded," he said.

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Economides acknowledged a country is not a computer or software but there are lessons learned from branding that can be applied.

"Branding rests on sociology, psychology and anthropology and if we believe in those disciplines, then we can talk about fixing nations," he said.

While Greeks welcome the focus on positive achievements, some caution that only widespread change of the work ethic and more ready economic results can lead to change in perceptions.

"There is a need for real and extensive changes in ideas and mentality as well as changing the politicians in power. They now seem more than urgent," Thessaloniki writer Vasileios Terzopoulos, 30, who studied abroad and returned to Greece, told SETimes.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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