Foresight and talent engagement: strategies at the network

October 16, 2016 § Leave a comment

The Master in Strategic Communication 2016-17 at URV started talking about on-line marketing on the social networks. Added to the focus on political, institutional and political communication, we are consistently working in the fields of on-line communication and social media. There is a  path to walk on this and teachers and students believe that there are true professional opportunities to cover. Most of the businesses and institutions around our region are lacking of a convincing on-line strategy. Sometimes, this deficit is mistakenly covered by an internship holder, too often poorly trained at the organization, who is “taking care of our Facebook and Twitter”.

img_3080Added to this, we assist to the proliferation of courses and even masters for “community managers”. Does it make sense to instruct someone in “community managing” like a specialization or something detached from the overall communication strategy of an organization, a corporation, a political party? My impression is that the “lucky” label is attracting more attention than the deserved. Community managing should be embedded in a global communication strategy which takes in account who we are, what we are looking for, and how are we going to achieve it. Thus, our communication plan, our reputation strategy, our CRM, etc. must take in account at any moment our action at social networks. Consistently to this, we should not treat the networks isolated, as something particularly special, but any communication strategy should include them in the analysis and management.

The conference delivered by Juan A. Robles, co-founder and VP Customer Success at Adsmurai, was really engaging and highlighted several issues that made me think about how on-line communication companies are trying to adapt to the uncertainty and speed demanded by the networks. I printed two keywords in my mind: talent and adaptation (which implies foresight). Talent! Yes, unfortunately one of the more battered aspects in our business culture. Talent is undervalued, and underpaid. Taking care of our most valuable workers is fundamental, specially for an effective strategy at the networks: fastest on-line processes, reaction abilities, and foresighting followers’ response do need talented professionals. And adaptation! That is our capacity to change and requires a constant reviewing of our plans and well-informed and continuous diagnosis.

The added value of future professionals will not be in knowing where the share button is or how to launch the next photo gallery, but to adequately manage all communication tools and platforms (which today are networked) as true strategists. For this, a master is much more meaninful.

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Pictures taken by Helle Kettner

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Nations in the Market

July 10, 2015 § Leave a comment

How consumer practices are nested in nation branding rationales

IMG_20150531_125454We eat Indian, we enjoy a Spanish trip experience, we drink Scotch, and we wear English, or drive a German… The nation and nationalism have adapted well to globalization. Today nation branding is everywhere and it is a category assessing which countries have more or less reputation. There are many factors involved, and today nations are legitimized not only by military or economic strength, but a true system of soft power makes them more or less attractive for tourism, investment, education and international relations. Although some nations like Catalonia claim for a state, they should be aware that states drive only part of the process of national construction. Other socioeconomic actors have taken on the weight: companies of all kinds, public relations consultants, corporations, universities, travel agencies, airlines, etc.

During these weeks I am researching in the Department of Social Sciences at Loughborough University on mapping diverse forms of consumer nationalism. We assist not only to campaigns promoting products in a given country (buy British, buy American, etc.), but these initiatives often become negative when are launched against products of a particular country, such as the repeated boycotts against Catalan cava in Spain, or attacks on Japanese products in China, or the ones suffered by French products in USA when the Iraq war. In the UK, you can see many forms of consumer nationalism ranging from the imprinted Union Jack in many products in the supermarkets, clothes, or establishments, to more subtle presences in gin labels, teas and plenty of products. Occasionally some megastore launches a “Celebrate British” campaign.

In Catalonia we also have examples of this in recent times, and it is not difficult to find wines or beer brands appealing to Catalonia or the Catalans, or even the independence, as shoes with the estelada flag, t-shirts with national emblems, etc. Not to say on the explosion of consumer nationalism around the Spanish flag or other emblems (the bull, la Roja), and many other symbols that exhibit the national symbols in clothes, the watch or even in a tattooed arm. These practices turn nations in tags, marketing strategies and claims for consumers. And this presence is often unnoticed, perhaps banalized to quote Michael Billig’s celebrated concept. This is where the consumer nationalism certainly wins the bet.

We might think that this only occurs in contexts of hot nationalism, like the one in Catalonia, but this is not the case. The United States has practiced very fierce consumer nationalism throughout history. Its flag and national emblems, from hymns or patriotic songs, or the eagle, through a range of symbols that express the Americanness are everywhere in restaurants, supermarkets, clothing stores, etc. In the eighties the United States expanded this national symbolism internationally through products such as tobacco or jeans, and other consumer goods that were linked to the American way of life. It’s true that it had some opposition, but the Western world embraced these national emblems with joy, and linking them with the ideals of ​​freedom, progress and cosmopolitanism.

This consumer nationalism is also a sign of normality of a given country in a global map. Catalonia is in a stage of nation brand building as it was diagnosed by Albert Castellón’s book, Catalonia, next brand in Europe. Maybe the F.C Barcelona is the most successful initiative in this regard. We can say that the football club is the organization which most clearly associates its brand with Catalonia around the globe since the team placed the Catalan flag shirt. It is therefore no coincidence that, when doing research on the presence of Catalan in foreign media, the club is one of the most recurrent themes.

It is obvious that not all national expressions denote activism by those who exhibit them through their t-shirts. Even in some contexts, carrying a bag with the American flag and a stamped skyline of New York is perceived as a symbol of cosmopolitanism and postmodernity. Thousands of people every day walk with a pair of sneakers with a British flag or showing an American emblem in the belt, and so what? But, if we see someone with a badge of Kosovo it is difficult to detach the expression of any political significance. Does the same apply to the Catalan and Spanish flag? Can they be displayed with a high degree of banality? It depends on the context and practices. We dare to say that the four bar flag has reached a degree of banality, so the estelada is used increasingly as a symbol of the national demands.

To consider nation branding is today a must, not only in the field of politics, but in the spheres of culture, education, tourism and business. It is certainly the best way we perceive how nationalism has adapted to the globalized world and the neoliberal context. In contemporary communication practices, the nations are in the market, competing with other national brands and labels, printed in bags, belts, shirts, shoes, eyeglasses, cars… Yes, we can say that there is a true ‘market of nations’ and that our consumption habits are nested there. Let’s go for a Chinese dinner?

Enric Castelló, senior lecturer at Universitat Rovira i Virgili and guest-researcher at Loughborough University

We are not ‘looking at our belly button’

July 1, 2015 § Leave a comment

In Catalan we have the expression ‘mirar-se el melic’ (literally ‘looking at our belly button’) to refer to a selfish attitude in which you only consider or observe your own, narrow and limited context or situation. ‘Mirar-se el melic’ is a critical expression then to note that you are not able to have a wider, opened and richer viewpoint over the complexity and the universal values. And this critique is sometimes argued against the scholars, like me, who have been for years studying, analysing and discussing about nationalism, and specifically about the complex (and rich) context of Catalonia, Spain and the political, cultural and communicative relationships within the Iberian Peninsula.IMG_20150701_130618

If you focus on these topics, some colleagues are used to get bored and just note that you are to much ‘looking at your belly button’. This is just nonsense. And the proof is that you have to come to Loughborough University in UK to attend to a great speech organized by Loughborough University Nationalism Network on Catalan and Spanish nationalism given by an Hungarian scholar who has worked in the USA. You have to come here, the 1st of July, to share with a group of around 30 people from UK, China, Italy and other countries, a debate on the Catalan self-determination process, the FC Barcelona, the conflict around the Copa del Rey whistling other ‘domestic’ issues. Then, you confirm that your issues are universal and that your context is the European context and your worries and interests are similar to other scholars’ worries and interests. You can answer, sorry; this is not my ‘belly button’, but a global issue. We are talking about free speech, democracy, politics, legitimating censorship, and the sports events as a place for political expression.

Today I assisted to an interesting conference by Mariann Vaczi (College of Dunaujvaros, Hungary & University of Nevada, Reno) entitled ‘Football, the Beast, and the Sovereign: Sport and Politics in Spain’. She took a sort of anthropological viewpoint with emphasis in observation and historical approach. She recently wrote an article at The International Review for the Sociology of Sport on this issue and today she presented this and discussed on the topic here, in UK.

The academic world is watching with great interest all what is happening in Catalonia and Spain; and finding a great complexity to discuss about the limitations of democracy, the exercise of hegemonic powers, and the performance of political thought. These are big issues and the huge debate in the very heart of contemporary Europe, and today we discussed about them looking, why not, a picture about castells (human towers). To which ‘belly button’ were we looking at?

Concluding a project

April 2, 2014 § Leave a comment

I am almost concluding the project “The media construction of political and territorial conflict in Spain. Studying discourse and narratives”, which I have been developing during the last three years. The website of the project contains a complete account of the results and main events we have organized. To end this, and in order to offer wider results among students, I organized a seminar last month with the participation of Professor Hugh O’Donnell. The seminar was a success in terms of student participation and we could offer a resume of the project to a wider audience. The communication office of the university published a note on the event (in Spanish), and a video ( in Catalan).

A motivating MA year

December 7, 2013 § Leave a comment

If I’m not wrong this is my fourth year teaching in the MA in Strategic Communication at URV, MASTERDEC and it is my pleasure to see that the program is improving each year in quality and quantity of students enrolled. The Master is coordinated by Dr. Paul Capriotti and I am teaching a course entitled  Media Text Analysis. In this subject, I have six sessions to invite the students to know more about how to approach media texts using several methods, including content analysis, framing and discourse and narrative approaches. This year’s promotion is a very dynamic group of a great international profile (the students are coming from seven or eight different countries!).

This year I also offered some sessions in the MA on TV Entertainment, jointly by URV and Gestmusic and coordinated by Dr. Josetxo Cerdán. This is the first year of this innovative MA program which is closely approaching the students to the TV industry. The MA is specialized in big entertainment production and I did introduced them in a couple of sessions to the concept of TV format and to the dialogue between TV market and cultural identity factors, putting a final attention on Catalan TV entertaniment model. As overall, this is being a motivating MA year.

Sales in Priorat

July 18, 2013 § Leave a comment

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Catalonia celebrated last year the ‘Year Sales-Calders-Tísner 1912-2012′. A full calendar of activities and cultural events remembered the legacy of three great writers; all them united by the fighting for the democracy and the liberties of Catalonia and against fascism. All three wrote prominent texts, being Calders a master of the short story, Tísner excelling in journalism and chronicles, and Sales… well… Sales wrote the best novel about the Spanish Civil War ever published. He indeed wrote other novels and short stories, but his legacy and the text to which he dedicated almost his entire life was Incerta glòria, a book translated into English in 2002 (Uncertain glory, trans. by David H. Rosenthal).

Sales is one writer who I consider has been unaware by the cultural world (he is very unknown, even in Catalonia). Only a brief note in the Spanish Wikipedia is dedicated to Sales, and the entry for Incerta glòria is an undeveloped text just for the Catalan version. Little information is found on-line in English about the author who wrote one of the best European novels of the twentieth century, and also one of the best works against war and violence.

I read it years ago and I was immediately caught by the epistolary structure, the strength of the language and the thoughts of the main characters, the philosophy about life and the nonsense of war, and the reflexion that the novel generated in me as reader about the evil and the absurdity, the loneliness and the complexity of the human being. Incerta glòria (1956) is in one sense a book comparable in quality to Celine’s Voyage au bout de la nuit (1932) or Mailer’s The naked and the dead (1948), all texts being masterpieces refusing war and violence. All them are novels grounded on writers’ experience as soldiers and dig in the obscure parts of the human mind from with different techniques and approaches.

Last Saturday I was visiting Siurana, a place where I go from time to time, as is one of the most beautiful sites in my nearby. Sales lived here for years and he was buried (1983) in the tiny cemetery behind a Romanic Church from which you have spectacular views to the reservoir of Siurana River. I was remembering the characters of the novel and some of the best passages and taking some pictures. You can smell there the spirit of Sales, climbing the hilly land of Priorat among vineyards. A pleasant sensation now frozen in this post.

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Ibercom, almost ten years after

May 30, 2013 § 1 Comment

I remember to assist in 2004 to Ibercom, the congress which bring together scholars on communication studies from Spain, Portugal and Latinamerica. Then it was in Covilha (Portugal) and was the best organized conference I assisted since this moment in the Iberian Peninsula. Today, I am in Santiago de Compostela, almost ten years after, participating in the same conference.

Foto0047It is being a rather successful event in quantitative terms and organization. There are a lot of scholars coming from Spain and specially Portugal. Some of the presentations are being of quality although I have assisted to plenary sessions and I note the incapacity of Iberian scholars to go forward the already existing topics and debates years ago. Now the economic crisis and the special impact in Portugal and Spain media and communication systems is in the agenda of the discussions, but it is rather discouraging to see that the considered ‘top scholars’ in the field are so rooted in old debates and premisses.

Younger researchers and participants are bringing few fresh air to the research and issues. One of the lack of this kind of events is the few real research presented in the sessions; some sessions sink to critical but unproductive debates, most interesting in terms of ideas exposed but generally very poor in terms of progression of the field and innovation of perspectives, etc. Other of the improvable points of the congresses like this is the almost nonexistent participation of some of the first-line and senior scholars in the field, and specially those who are offering some international impact in their production. Are they not interested in spreading their results in this kind of events?

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