I wanted to title this "An Open Letter to the Serbian Government: Fix Your PR & Branding" but I don't think that many characters will fit in blog posts here.
I know little about politics and even less about Serbian politics; however, as a 25-year pro, I know heaps about PR, marketing and branding. As a PR and media pro who is a big fan and part-time resident of Serbia, it's incredibly painful to see how badly your PR is being bungled, and your story mis-told over Kosovo in the international press. Knowing a bit of Serb history, it seems this PR bungling is a national chracteristic for at least the past 75 years if not longer. You are geniuses at math anmd so many other things, but absolutely dreadful at marketing.
Reasons are partly due to the Serb love of Justice. Serbs seem to think if right is on their side, then somehow so should be world opinion. When you get hurt again, you say, "Oh I am a victim." The fact is, the world is a darker place than that. Justice is maleable, truth is blurry, victims often enough self-made. You may not admire or understand marketing -- but it's time to get with the program, take PR power into your hands and better CONTROL THE STORY. You can to a large extent control world opinion. You're just bungling it now. So, here's a basic plan:
Get a PR firm and decide what the Serb-Kosovo story will be - the message you want the world to hear and understand when they report on, blog, or talk about you. What's your side of the story? Don't assume anyone knows anything - even big famous reporters or international officials.
Generally you can get across three points only. People can onnly hear/learn that much about a situation not dear to their heart. Pick those points based on market research -- find out what things are near and dear to the hearts of the people you most need to influence to get your story told. Journalists, bloggers, top international political officials. My idea, knowing the US mindset wouold be:
#1. Serbia is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in Europe with more than 40 ethnicities, and a dozen religions. Ethnic diversity is never easy (think of troubles in Parisian Suburbs) but Serbia is doing better than one might think. Consider the gypsey music festivals, and the towns in Volvodina where as many people speak Hungarian as Serbish. The government and people are dedicated to smoothing ethnic diversity in future - they see it as a virtue and strength.
Position the message as "Help us seek peace in diversity."
(hidden message: it's not nasty pure-ethnic-Serbs vs pure-ethnic-albanians; it's not about ethnic cleansing. You accept everyone, you love everyone, you are in the right. The US democrats and rest of world left wing will love that.)
#2. A certain percent of the land in Kosovo is owned by Serbian citizens who are not of Albanian-ethnicity. News reports always talk about the population being 90% albanian... they never mention land and business ownership. Republicans and capitalists care about this - the rights of land owners vs renters put things in a different perspective. If the percent is more than 10% of land, then you have a kick-ass message.
#3. A certain percent of the Albanians are either illegal immigrants or first-generation direct descendents of illegal immigrants. If the percent is 15% or more, then that's a huge message too to all the right-wing politicos in many countries who fear that illegal immigrants will take over their countries. In the US you position this as "Serbia is facing America's nightmare -- what if the population of East LA decided to call themelves Neuvo Mexico and succeed one day?" (Yes, I know that's BS and I hate the people who worry about stuff like this in the US, but for PR-s sake, you sure can play on their emotions powerfully...)
Then, working in close partnership with your Minister of the Diaspora, your PR firm needs to get that story out in an extremely factual, academic-footnoted, even-tempered tone via:
- blogs written by the government and famous Serbs
- editorial letters and blog comments written in response to news and editorials about Kosovo in the world press everywhere. (The Diaspora can helpo with this if you marshal your forces.)
- Formal media relations with influential press, especially the British such as The Economist, and to include a presentation at the National Press Club in DC.
-Printed and PDF booklets packed with factoids and messaging around your three big points distributed to everyone who might have interest or be influential, including the Diaspora, politicians outside Serbia, jouirnalists, etc.
This plan does not require enormous amounts of money. It does require research, focus, planning and management. It's PR 101 guys. Please, make this pain stop!