Italy is never boring- and this applies also to government and its communication.
If you don’t know, Italy is hosting the Expo- based in Milan, but involving other locations (notably those up to one hour away by high-speed train, e.g. Turin and Bologna).
As I wrote in the past, in Italy I have been called “German”/”Swiss”/”English”/”American”- and in many other ways that, in most cases, are not worth repeating 😀
Probably it has always been so (and I did not notice simply because my “social role” was to be one of the above, not a traditional Italian), but over the last few years I discovered that “up in your face” is the standard approach to communication (yes, we had a politician/comic or comic/politician who won 25% with a movement whose original motto was “f*** y**”- in Italian “vaffa*****”)
Sometimes I feel as if being a “smartass” replaced being “smart”.
The difference: you can play “gotcha!” or create “talking traps” once in a while (I do it basically only with those who play the “smartass” with me, or exceed in their manipulative attempts), but that is a tool that, if used too often, takes over your communication.
Personally, I still think that it is worth sharing constructive criticism, and in some cases being witty is a way to lower tensions down; in others, it is just patronizing: but that is what empathy, something more full-time smartasses are completely devoid of except when they switch the “empathy control” on, and counterproductive.
As I posted on Facebook (yes, I am lazy):
“adottando il nuovo stile… ke bella kosa nah yournada eh soleh 🙂
PS for my foreign friends: the website presenting the portfolio of events scattered around #Italy as a background to the main #Expo2015 event is called “#verybello.it”
obviously, it was vehemently lampooned by Italian netizens 😀
still, it reached in 6 hours 500k contacts, that, considering just a 10% “tell your contacts” and the typical Italian (real life) social network (cascading), it will generate ripple effects generating buzz involving few millions (both in the country and abroad) 😉
comunque, almeno stavolta il sito è “alive and kicking” in Italiano (“coming soon” in inglese) 😉
non come un decennio fa (un paio di governi e ministri ci rimisero la faccia) 🙂
e senza volerlo, il Ministro Franceschini ha indirettamente citato Andreotti- bene o male, purchè se ne parli (500k contatti in 6 ore- ammettendo che anche solo il 10% ne parli ad altri e che questo vada a cascata per una media di 4-5 persone, ma probabilmente saranno di più, qualche milionata di persone è, di nuovo per usare il nuovo stile, “aware” del sito :D)”
If you read Italian, you can have some fun- otherwise, the point is quite simple.
How do you call a website to be used to promote Italy before and during the expo (and hopefully also after it ends)?
The “verybello.it” has been criticized on newspapers, and lampooned by Italian netizens, but I think that probably the inspiration was a phrase from Carlo Verdone, a comedian, “un sacco bello” (actually, pronounced with a strong accent and stretching consonants).
I remember that the first time I worked with an online start-up was in the late 1990s, and it was, curiously, something similar to “verybello.it”- its target was to present cultural events in Italy, a kind of online agenda.
At the time, once I was shown (with some visible pride) the number of contacts per day or per month, but obviously I was looking for something else: are they unique visitors? how many returned? did they “convert” into customers (in that case, it was easy: it was free- still, many did not); having 2,000,000 contacts in a month is nice (remember: we are talking about the pre-history of Internet in Italy), but you could risk ending up as that singer who has tons of followers- but few buyers for his CD.
Yes, you need to be Radiohead or U2 to get “instant conversion” (albeit there are exceptions- both for unknowns and famous ones), and many online companies had just one business side: paying their own suppliers and employees or collaborators…
As I wrote in Italian and in English, having had 500k contacts in few hours is fine, provided that, once they spread the rumour around, you get them back, or they entice others in visiting and further spreading the information.
Positive or negative feed-back, as a “serial prime minister”, the late Mr. Andreotti, is supposed to have said, doesn’t matter- provided that they talk: and Mr. Franceschini tweet was certainly more in line with current “up in your face” communication, than previous structured remarks.
Still, if the point was to make people talk about it, there was no enticement to come back (e.g. why not a discount voucher to be used in one event, or an “Expo ticket lottery”.
Moreover, creating the brouhaha before there was the possibility of obtaining benefits from it (e.g. the English version was marked as “coming soon”) is a waste.
In Italy, outrage on newspapers about the “verybello.it” is probably worth few days of coverage (our politicians are busy generating more buzz for themselves- maybe there is enough time to add something to the website to generate “traction” up to when the doors of the expo will open (few months down the road).
Next: the election of the next President of the Italian Republic (by Saturday? that was the last announce), and the ensuing quarrels and posturing on the left and the right, as there are many potential leaders of a new party of the left, taking inspiration from Syriza (are they ready to form a government with Fratelli d’Italia? In Italy, we already had in the past attempts at “mono-task” multi-party coalitions united only by one purpose, but all short-lived).
Another side-effect of the new approach to communication? The habit of applying pressure from the top and from the bottom (and sideways through relationships) as a way to coherce into doing something is widespread… albeit it is puzzling the assumption from those playing these games that those on the receiving end of their tactical ploys will be a) oblivious to what is going on b) willing to trust them later on.
Now, if it is applied to individuals (as I saw personally over the last decade, with a crescendo since 2008), it is already a case of “tunnel vision”- but if you apply that on political negotiations, and it is applied by everybody, it becomes akin to a guerrilla infight, not guerrilla fight- as it was aptly described few days ago by an Italian columnist, it is politics “against”, not “for”.
But if everybody is against everybody else, eventually what is the difference? The claim that you are “different”?
Again, it is a matter of “conversion rate”: if you are the latest one offering “none of the above”, your credibility (and political credit with your followers) is basically linked to how many did the same before… and we moved from political parties and coalitions based on ideology, to those that do not last few months after the elections (provided that they do not fight during the elections- yes, we had that too).
I keep hearing the word “strategy” confused with “strategizing”, and “strategies” often look more like short-term tactical tools aiming more to trap the enemy and make their own tactics fail, than to achieve strategic objectives.
OK, back to the expo- hoping that, at least on that, there will be a truce lasting until it ends: quarrels between politicians are converting Italian politics into something that Ancient Rome had (more than once I heard politicians talking as if they were Russell Crowe in Gladiator, Mel Gibson in Braveheart, or even Christopher Lambert in Highlander), and the Italian public is used to that (actually, demands it), but probably visitors at the expo would not have a good feed-back to share about the trustworthiness of Italy as a tourist attraction, if wildcat strikes or “tafferugli” (Black Bloc and the like) were to become part of the daily life of the expo..
The last expo that I attended? I think in 2000, at Hannover, with a Latvian friend who was there as a journalist (I was just a regular visitor).
This year the expo will be focused on food- not a bad choice, considering that, while I was working in my first paid job, an Italian unit of an American consulting firm, in the late 1980s, I was sometimes switching more than a town a day (always by public transport, if I was alone), and I can bear witness to the diversity and richness of Italian food, wines, and produce.
What is really infuriating is that probably the largest producers of what then abroad become prejudices against Italians and their seriousness when it comes to business is actually… generated way too often in Italy, for Italian consumption.
As I discovered in the early 1990s in Germany, being young and Italian implied that I could be a “pizzaiolo”, “hairdresser”, “tailor”- but nobody could believe that I could be a consultant on cultural/organizational change whose main customer was a banking outsourcing company… and therefore it was “fair” for those not working in my field to try to “check” (do not worry- an American friend of Greek ancestry told me of a similar experience- so, it isn’t exclusively against Italians :D)
And I met other Italians abroad (e.g. while studying a couple of summers at the London School of Economics) who shared similar stories: you had to be smarter, more “German”, everyday just to be considered as any ordinary local worker, in certain fields.
But I had some positive feed-back as well as, as when a British customer said that at the beginning it was tough to understand my accent (I was midway between Scottish and Indian- and I was actually at easy working with both), but what I said was worth listening to, so they listened 🙂
Actually, I was helped by my working habit (that you wouldn’t believe, from the amount of written material that I share): I wrote yesterday on http://wodeshudian.wordpress.com “Reading before writing”, but I am also used to do more listening than talking.
Personally, as it seems that locally nothing moves, I hope to be already abroad by when the expo starts: it is nice to have interviews, but getting interviewed more than once for the same contracts, by different companies, and each time simply with a rate lower than the one you agreed to with the previous one isn’t really my concept of “a live market”.
OK, now back to my WCM and SAP GRC training 🙂
Have a nice day- and if you plan to visit the expo (official website: http://www.expo2015.org/en/) and would like to get some information that isn’t yet available in English, let me know- I will share the links and the translation online 🙂
As I wrote above… “constructive criticism”- first the criticism, then, the proposals, and finally, something that you can deliver to improve and doesn’t impact on what others are doing 🙂