Refugee Relations

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Published on August 8, 2017, at 9:52 a.m.
by Brie Carter.

You have a corporate social responsibility and you likely aren’t doing it. The most effective way companies can build authentic public relations is to relate to their own communities. Public relations professionals understand how essential it is to know their audiences, but they have forgotten to check up on the locals. While this is not a new idea, it has been underestimated.

Getting down to the basics, companies gain recognition when they invest in the people down the street. When a company connects with people in its community, it creates conversation. Word of mouth is one of the most effective communication strategies.

Invesp LLC, a marketing consultant group, says that through recommendation there is a 90 percent chance that people will be more likely to trust a brand. So, you might ask, how does one gain more “town talk”? It can be done by creating an emotional connection with your community.

“Brands that inspire a higher emotional intensity receive 3x as much word of mouth marketing as less emotionally connected brands,” Invesp LLC said.

Let’s take a walk through Greece, for example. Here are some questions PR professionals there have asked to find out what kind of approach they should use to connect with their natives: “What is our local community interested in? And what grabs their emotional attention?”

Greece has a reputation of housing refugees. Currently there are over 57,000 refugees within the country. It is apparent that Greece has a passion for these people, and here’s why.

Dr. Toula Perrea, a marketing professor at Deree College in Athens, explains that Greeks were once enslaved to the Turks for over 400 years. Their human rights were  taken; they were viewed lower than the Turks and worked to serve their rulers. Greeks now relate to refugees due to their many failed attempts to gain freedom. Today, when Greeks and Greek companies see a need for people who suffer, they attend to them.

“Private initiatives [apart from the EU and Greek government] to help refugees are absolutely welcome. Most of the time, Greeks consider these initiatives as a moral obligation that everybody has to conduct,” Dr. Perrea said.

Nicoleta Vernadaki, a Greek native, volunteered at Khora, a community center for refugees and migrants in Athens. She said that she gained a lifetime experience of being a part of a world community and learning cultural habits from a variety of countries.

Verdanaki teaches English as a second language even though it is her second language as well. She mentioned that, for her, teaching English was all about body language, gestures and pictures. But most importantly, it was about having the opportunity to connect with someone.

The people she met would be sad during weekends because Khora was closed. The refugees would ask for extra lessons to hold onto their only piece of sanity as long as they could. Yet today, the kids who aren’t refugees are happy if a class gets cancelled.

Greek companies show their corporate social responsibility by being sensitive to each element of refugee needs that are most pressing. They do this by making donations monetarily or by volunteering.

Two Greek entrepreneurs Taxi Beat, a smartphone app to call taxis, and METAction, a nonprofit who focuses on connecting refugees arriving on Greece’s islands, partnered together to tackle the refugee crisis. Taxi Beat sent a car to anyone’s doorstep that wanted to help pass out essential living supplies gathered by METAction.

“Showing a humanitarian profile is always beneficial for a company,” Dr. Perrea said. “It shows that the company is not only motivated by profits, but it has a social and altruistic dimension.”

Motivation and determination are keys in influence with either a nonprofit or in a corporate business. If PR departments knew what it was like to be on a friendship level with their own communities, they could know instantly what actions to take when problems arise —  because that is what a real relationship is.

“Most importantly, I learned that one of the most basic human needs is to feel a part of a community — to feel worthy and create [a life for themselves],” Vernadaki said.

Vernadaki was asked if she would choose a company that invests financially in refugee help centers over ones that do not.

“No, a company that just gives money for those people is not going to affect my preferences,” Vernadaki said. “However, a company that spends time and effort will [gain her preference].”

Vernadaki suggests that a company can offer jobs to refugees and make them a part of its team. Once a company gives them opportunities to be useful, they have a chance to build their own, new future.

As they say, give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day. But teach him how to fish and he will never be hungry again.

Dr. Perrea stated that marketers are always on the move to make a difference for their   company. But the ones who gain longer strides within the industry are the ones that are also doing it for their local people. Greek companies have taken the initiative to help refugees by organizing entertainment; provide necessities like food; give health check-ups; or even offer to furnish temporal homes.

Simply put: Go back to relating to your public just down the street. Build your company’s public relations by focusing on corporate social responsibility. Find out what your audience’s emotional appeals are. They will remember that your company was there when it was called for. Touching their “sweet spot” will spread word of mouth and eventually will lead to a recommendation to use your company. Talk about relating … now that’s branding.

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