Branding for EU Membership

Recently I read an article about the perception of Turkey and Turks in the European public opinion in regard to Turkey’s long awaited EU membership. Shortly speaking the article talks about the negative public opinion and opposition against Turkey’s membership bid. The author asks whether Turkish image has been suffering from the “wrong sort of immigrants” – a question that I have tried to answer in an earlier post.


The article has a substantive summary of Turkey’s weaknesses and strengths on the way to become a full-fledged EU member. The negative aspects about such an acquisition are “immediate and personal”: “the loss of jobs, the threat of terrorism, the weakening of national culture”, where the positive aspects are “strategic, long-term and rather abstract: future economic growth, a stronger EU foreign policy, energy security”. I am not going to go into a discussion over whether or not Turkey should become a member of the Union. Rather, I will focus on how branding can/should be utilized to create a more pro-Turkey public opinion.

Thus far, when Turkey wanted to strengthen its hand in the negotiation process; it either tried to blame EU (for being unfair to Turkey) or underlined two issues: “young population” and “Muslim secular identity”.


When we consider the aging population of Europe, and how the welfare systems works; yes, young population is an important advantage. But public opinion is based on perception, not scientific explanations or technical realities. Young population means more people looking for jobs! So, in fact, in perception, Turkey’s young population argument is heard by the public as “Hey, we know you are already unemployed, but we are bringing young and qualified people into the job market… It sucks to be you”..

The article cites Paul Taylor with regard to Muslim-secular identity.

“On television, Turkey means minarets, headscarves and the Bosphorus bridge”, says Paul Taylor, Reuters’ European affairs editor. “In the newspapers, a ‘secular state with a predominantly Muslim population’ gets edited down to ‘a Muslim country'”.

I will not further elaborate this comment in order not to strengthen the muslim stereotypes, but, being a Muslim country does not have positive connotations.

turkey-flag-europe I highly appreciate the findings of this article and appreciate the fact that it has associated the concept of nation branding with EU membership. Now, a brand has to offer a solution to the problems you have in your hand. This is why, while branding Turkey, the most important thing to consider is the perception of European public opinion – what do Europeans see as a problem? Unlike what Turkey thinks, possibility of a collapsed welfare system or negative reactions from Muslim countries do not constitute major problems for them. Consequently, the brand promises of Turkey do not appeal to them. Conversely, these promises repel the public as Turkey clearly distinguishes itself in demographic terms. Although the message trying to be created on Turkish side is “We are different and ready to create a synergy with EU”, the message understood on the European side is “They are not one of us”.

One sentence summary: A new brand (a more accurate image of what is going on in the country) is necessary for Turkey – let it be through events (as Simon Anholt suggests) or through communication (although Simon Anholt thinks it is not possible).

PS: Apparently, I used to be a better blogger earlier this year. I promise I will try to post more often.

Too Late, Too Little: Turks in Germany for Public Diplomacy

I saw this article yesterday. As far as I can understand the advisor to the advisor to the Prime Minister said: “Turkey should start to invigorate Turkish immigrants in Europe as an effective diplomatic tool for EU membership. They have been in Europe for 50 years, but Turkey has not managed to mobilize them.” (Please click here for the full article)

The idea is great. We are talking about 5 million people from Turkish ethnic origin in Europe, over 2 million people in Germany! It is not possible to disagree with what the advisor to the advisor to the Prime Minister tells us: Turkey has neglected its nationals living abroad for decades. I highly appreciate this belated attempt to mobilize these people. At the end of the day, these people are in interaction with foreign publics on a daily basis. In marketing terms, they are walking bill boards.

But, as far as I can see there are three important problems due to the fact that the action came too late and too little. (Although I highly appreciate the attempt, the statements of the advisor to the advisor to the Prime Minister – which were published only in one English language Turkish newspaper – are not enough to claim that public diplomacy is at the top of government’s agenda).

  • Least integrated minority
  • A recent study showed that Turks are the least integrated minority in Germany!

    Also, this video-report shows how Turks try to keep themselves away from the German community in general. There are individual exceptions to this generalization, naturally, however, the majority of Turkish community is not integrated with the local community

    In fact, Turkish government never wanted these people to integrate with their host societies. Let’s look at the following article in 1982 Turkish Constitution:

    Constitution Article 62. The state shall take the necessary measures to ensure family unity, the education of the children, the cultural needs, and the social security of Turkish nationals working abroad, and shall take the necessary measures to safeguard their ties with the home country and to help them on their return home.

    The main aim of the government was to keep Turkish nationals working abroad as connected to the home country as possible and to support their return home. In other words, who didn’t see this lack of integration coming?

    I had the opportunity to spend a week in Germany in 2005. I went to Frankfurt and Essen with a friend, where we experienced this lack of integration first hand. I stayed with a Turkish family. The father was a first generation migrant, with a bachelor’s degree and a fluent German. The mother was second generation, in English, Turkish and German. The children were all enrolled in German schools and were successful. Although this situation describes a level of “integration”, during our stay, we never had to speak a word of German or English and never shopped at a non-Turkish store. And, well, our opinions about getting married and moving to Germany were asked a few times.

  • The image of Turks

    And Turks are not German’s most favorite minority mostly due to the fact that Turks are living in their closed chambers which are located somewhere in between 1960s’ Turkey and contemporary Germany.

  • Lack of strategy
  • Let’s assume that Turks are well integrated to the German society and have the potential to influence the German public opinion. How are we supposed to create a diaspora power from the masses of people? In fact, the very same news article quotes Cenk Alican saying “There are dozens of Turkish foundations in Germany’s big cities, but due to ideological differences and problems between the heads of NGOs, they cannot unite around common goals.” So, who will create a strategy? How will these organizations and individuals act in coordination?

    Thus, we have (in metaphorical sense) broken billboards in the unseen parts of the cities with different messages written on each and every one of them… We have miles to go before we can start implementing public diplomacy projects through the migrants in Europe.

    But even discussions about Public Diplomacy in Turkey make me happy! We are definitely in need of a branding strategy and we are definitely in need of designing more public diplomacy projects using all available resources – including Turkish migrants!

    My presentation in IABD

    Presenting Public Diplomacy

    Presenting Public Diplomacy

    Last week, I was in IABD’s 21st Annual Convention in St.Louis. Apart from IABD Press, I also presented my paper entitled “More Than A Touristic Visit: Scholar Exchanges As A Communication Method In Public Diplomacy”. Below is my presentation and my abstract.


    This paper discusses the concept of Public Diplomacy and the effectiveness of a specific Public Diplomacy tool: Scholar Exchanges as a tool of Public Diplomacy. The foreign Fulbright Program of the United States Government is introduced as a case study and for further interpreting the perceptions of the program, a survey is ran among 59 current grantees. Scholar exchanges programs are suggested to be implemented in order to overcome the barriers in communication processes in the international arena.

    Hey, we can shoot high quality promo videos!

    A friend of my recently sent me this video… Well, in fact, she sent the link with critical comments. Though I liked it!

    Istanbul is selected as one of the three European Capitals of Culture in 2010 and the below video is prepared by Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality. The re-occuring theme of hospitality (everyone welcoming you) gets a little bit disturbing after the 50th person.

    All we have are scenes from Istanbul, only city images. You can see some people but cannot hear anything. (Thinking about a long term branding process, I argue that we need people “talking” “sharing their ideas”.)

    People walking around, trams, ships on the sea, the bridges, religious diversity… All great themes to be shown.

    Is it possible to make this video better? I believe so,

  • Add something about science and technology. (Research facility, universities etc.)
  • Add something about contribution to current culture. (A concert, an art exhibition, a recent architectural work)
  • Add something about business and business places. (Yes, it is related with the culture.)
  • Cut down the number of mosques. (There are way too many…They could be just included in the religious diversity section).
  • Definitely change the intro music.
  • We have see again way too many houses (mansions) by the Bosphorus.
  • Enough with the SUBWAY! If your city has more than 500.000, you have to have SUBWAYS! (plural – subwayS). Istanbul’s subway is quite new – which means the city is behind the transportation technology, let’s say, by 100 years. It has no historical value. There is only one line – nothing to be proud of in transportation terms. It is just a subway.
  • Lastly, officials need to be more careful about distribution channels. I know it is difficult to control the flow of information in the age of Web 2.0 – but this is what happens if you don’t. The following are the key words from the youtube video: (Bold ones are unnecessary, and italic ones are “weird”)

    Turkey turkish liverpool alanya marmaris paris amsterdam manchester germany greek bellydance tarkan hilton madrid dj sex
  • Nation Branding Index Loves Turkey!

    Recently, I ran into this beautiful, optimistic, and Turkey loving report. This report is modified for Switzerland and uses Nation Branding Index 2008 results – in other words, it is based on scientific data.

    Some highlights from the reports:

  • The panel study took place in 20 countries.

    Western Europe/North America: U.S., Canada, U.K., Germany, France, Italy, Sweden
    Central and Eastern Europe: Russia, Poland, Turkey
    Asia-Pacific: Japan, China, India, South Korea, Australia
    Latin America: Argentina, Brazil, Mexico
    Middle East/Africa: Egypt, South Africa

  • Turkey ranks 36th in overall ranking – out of 50 countries listed.
  • 38th in Exports!
  • 37th in Governance! A short explanation here. According to GfK’s website governance measures public opinion regarding the level of national government competency and fairness and describes individuals’ beliefs about each country’s government, as well as its perceived commitment to global issues such as democracy, justice, poverty and the environment. – No further comment.
  • 28th in Culture!
  • 37th in People! – Hey! This is not fair! I thought we were educated, friendly and open – minded.
  • 31st in Tourism! – So, I believe the people from those 20 countries are not interested in seeing an emperor riding a horse towards a subway train! (why the hack do you use a subway in tourism commercial anyway!)
  • 36th in Immigration/Investment. – Hey, respondents “be fresh, be cool”. Well, as I have used this slogan towards my target audience, Turkey will rank top 10 in 2009.
  • More comments will follow after I discuss the issue with my mermaid friends.

    Nation Branding: Turkey

    Currently, I am working on my thesis proposal, I spend hours and hours on the internet, trying to find branding theories and case studies. To my surprise, I ran into a case study from Turkey (link is in Turkish). I have gone through the website, there are many prominent social figures involved in the project. Basing my claims on the presentation they have, many talented work on the project for two years and came up with a highly structured branding plan for Turkey…

    The Association for Public Relations was supporting this project, I believe this is why at the end of the day, the project produced four main branding “slogans” for Turkey (to be delivered to EU audience):

    • Turkey is a young power for you
    • Be fresh, be cool
    • It is time to get together
    • It is time to make business

    Although, these are acceptable messages; if we are going for a national brand – we need more than just an image of a “good” business partner.

    Eventually, an esteemed Turkish national brand will indirectly affect the business. However, if the brand is defined on business, it will be extremely difficult to expand the effects of a good brand to political and social areas.

    Perfect recipe for me:

    There is a need for branding in Turkey. I am a strong advocate of grass-roots public diplomacy attempts. I believe individuals can create a “change”. All my research is focused on nation branding, implementing marketing principles to political communication and public diplomacy. I am enthusiastic about these subject and I can take risks! For the first time in my life, I will do my best to start a project by myself without an institutional sponsor!


    For a similar project for Israel, please take a look at this link.

    I will keep posting about my progress!

    Why should you pay a grad student to visit your country?

    I believe, my posts thus far are enough to explain the focus of this blog (as well as my respect for Dr. Nancy Snow and Dr. Philip M. Taylor). I will try to write about political communication, – specifically public diplomacy.

    Two weeks ago, I was in Washington D.C. to participate in a Fulbright conference. Also I am looking forward to my very first publication. Hopefully, my article – More Than A Touristic Visit: Scholar Exchanges As A Communication Method In Public Diplomacy-* – will be published by April 2009. In other words, I have been spending nearly all my time thinking about the effectiveness of scholar exchanges. Does it really make sense to pay a graduate student thousands of dollars to study in your country?

    Simply put, I claim that governments should “pay” graduate students and/or faculty members to continue their studies/researches in their country.

    MiamiThis group picture is from my Fulbright “Gateway Orientation” in Miami Dade College. There were over 20 countries represented. For three wonderful days, we discussed cultural differences, intercultural communication and American culture – how to adapt to the society. – So,

  • How is all this related to public diplomacy?
  • How is all this related to the image of the United States in international arena?
  • Scholars are given the chance to “experience” the American life and culture first hand.
  • Scholars are (or have the potential to be) influential figures in their societies, hence they will be “ambassadors” of American image.
  • Scholars share their cultures, points of views and expertise with the United States during their stay.
  • Let’s hear it from Senator Fulbright: “…..These programs can increase the mutual and global cultural awareness and eventually contribute to the world peace, just like any other successful diplomacy attempts. J. William Fulbright espoused this principle in his speech on June, 26th 1986 by saying that “I’m sure that President Johnson would never have pursued the war in Vietnam if he’d ever had a Fulbright to Japan, or say Bangkok, or had any feeling for what these people are like and why they acted the way they did. He was completely ignorant.”

    *Here is the abstract of my paper:

    This paper discusses the concept of Public Diplomacy and the effectiveness of a specific Public Diplomacy tool: Scholar Exchanges as a tool of Public Diplomacy. The foreign Fulbright Program of the United States Government is introduced as a case study and for further interpreting the perceptions of the program, a survey is ran among 59 current grantees. Scholar exchanges programs are suggested to be implemented in order to overcome the barriers in communication processes in the international arena.