PR shock tactics – agrarian edition

To: Greek Farmers Union, Agrinion Chapter

From: ¡Revolución! Communications 

Re: “Project Jihad”

Nice work, guys.

The youtube video of your little conceptual performance at the barricades has gone viral.

First of all, great homage to the ISIS PR machine. Those guys are at the cutting edge (see what I did there?) and you have used their visual vocabulary to great effect: nothing says “holy war” like orange jumpsuits and big knives, and the face masks add a whole new dimension of creepy. Really amps it up on the French-style milk/whitewash-spilling, right? That stuff is just so derivative and passé… Also, I think you’ll agree it’s good to take the heat off that little “incident” the other day: giving stage instructions on-camera at a “spontaneous” protest is “breaking the fourth wall”, you need an educated audience to appreciate the Brechtian reference and not cry “media set-up” like the local heathens.

Second, I know you’ve been getting a lot of heat about this being “offensive”. Now here’s the genius: who are you really offending? Sure, a few hundred thousand women and children risking life and limb to get away from that kind of situation might find it traumatic. But guess what? They don’t have a say on your pensions or your tax regime, so you can offend away! It’s not like you mentioned the Civil War or anything… Is it proportionate? Hell, no. But hyperbole is the name of the game. All publicity is good publicity. The outraged urban elites having conniptions about this on social media are just doing your work for you.

Now you need to keep up the pressure. This was great for getting some advance publicity, but you need to start thinking about the main event.

I will be very disappointed if next week in Syntagma Square I don’t see, in addition to the ninja footwork and the regional beefcake, a nice plump burning effigy in a silk tie and pocket square. At the very least.

 


About ¡Revolución! Communications

If you want to put your views across to a minister or senior government official and you don’t have (a) a lobbying and entertainment budget, (b) a secret “commissions” slush fund, or (c) a relative in the ministry, you need to follow these simple guidelines to get your message across. At ¡Revolución! Communications your mission is our passion.

Read also: our popular briefing Five Steps to Effective Political Communications.

 

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PR shock tactics – agrarian edition

Dear Aunt Cassandra: the yuppies are revolting

PRETTY IN PINK

Dear Aunt Cassandra,

What is it with all the yuppies coming out the woodwork? One day I’m too kool for skool rocking the no-tie look and wiping the floor with the oldsters, the next day I turn up and some preppy d**chebag is chatting up my girl. So what, James Spader, today you’re inviting us to a pool party at daddy’s mansion to humiliate us (as if!), tomorrow you’re done for insider trading. Boom! You’re toast, Duckie the underdog wins the girl (or is it the Andrew McCarthy guy? – must watch “Pretty in Pink” again. Or was I thinking of “The Breakfast Club”? or Ferris Bueller? Yeah I’m definitely Ferris Bueller – dude its been too long since I had a Brat Pack marathon, happy days…). Anyway it’s not like he’s not that cool either – he’s way too old for the floppy hair and he has those weird boggly eyes. And he really is a daddy’s boy. I’m mainly worried that he’ll get an interview with Uncle Wolfgang, and then there goes the summer job at the bank… He’s just the type, neoliberal yuppie scum. “I went to Harvard, dontcha know?” Well check this out, I came tops at Harvard and didn’t even have to pay tuition! 

Then I head downtown to check out the vinyl and it’s wall-to-wall business attire, marching and chanting, like a zombie apocalypse but reeking of Drakkar Noir and Poison. Am I hallucinating, or have the ’80s come back to bite me?

What gives?

Your loving nephew, Alex.

lawyers


 

Dear Alexander,

I wish you wouldn’t use words like “neol*beral”, you know it upsets me when you swear…

Now, be honest with me, are you back on the Ibogaine? Zombie apocalypse in central Athens, indeed… Are you sure it wasn’t the old comrades in their new dress code? There is some pretty ideologically correct neckwear available these days!

As for the other stuff, darling, this isn’t the ’80s and your life isn’t a Brat Pack film. You really need to snap out of it. But while we’re trapped in this unproductive analogy, I should point out that the world has moved on, and James Spader has gone from being the all-purpose Reaganite villain to everyone’s favourite cuddly sex creep. And where is your Andrew McCarthy now? All I’m saying is, you can’t bank on dialectical materialism giving your preppy friend his come-uppance.

It’s a topsy turvy world, my boy. You’re not the underdog anymore. You will just have to deal with it.

Your despairing Aunt Cassandra.

P.S. When you go to Davos next week please don’t crack any jokes about “visiting auntie’s money”, OK? Nobody finds that funny.

 

Images: Title: PRETTY IN PINK • Pers: SPADER, JAMES / RINGWALD, MOLLY • Year: 1986 • Dir: DEUTCH, HOWARD • Ref: PRE016AP • Credit: [ PARAMOUNT / THE KOBAL COLLECTION ]; AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis via ajc.com

 

Dear Aunt Cassandra: the yuppies are revolting

Black December, red pen

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ATHENS TECHNICAL SCHOOL (TEI): COURSEWORK COVER SHEET *

Department: Business Administration

Module: Introduction to Marketing

Grading period: Winter Semester 2015

Submitted by: Nikos Romanos, Panayiotis Argyros

Project: Write the copy for a marketing campaign to introduce “Black Friday” into the Greek retail calendar. “Black Friday” is a 24-hour period of sales held the day after Thanksgiving in the United States, but now extended to online retailers and traditional retail venues outside the U.S. where Thanksgiving is not celebrated. It has become common for shoppers to camp overnight outside the retail venues to queue for cheap consumer goods. Violence, injuries and even deaths have occasionally resulted from poor crowd control.

Grade: B-

Detailed Comments: Some sparky stuff in here, but 2,571 words is really excessive. You need to work to a 250 word limit – maximum! In my markup, I have suggested ways to improve and shorten your copy. Detailed comments follow.

Concept: I LOVE your idea of a month day of revolution, and I also love how you are able blend it with an anapologetically nostalgic appeal (“let us remember”): you’re saying “it’s new and radical but also familiar and comforting”. I can immediately see the cross-platform potential of spontaneous street actions: “direct action groups”, “public interventions” (flashmobs in downtown Athens and in the shopping malls, a social media campaign, we can Astro-turf the hell out of this one). Paint the town red, explosions of colour against the grey concrete! Very “Apple Mackintosh 1984”, classic!

Style: You have got the authentic touches here, you really seem to have studied your Bakunin, and absorbed that rich yet stilted language. You have a kind of vintage, steampunk thing going on. But we need to remember our audience. I think here we need to focus on the dynamic elements: “Youth!” “Spontaneity!” “Impetuous!” “Revolution!” “Explosive!” Short sentences! Punchy!

Content: I have picked out some of my favourite quotes which I think really capture the spirit:

“We are living the beginning of the end of the world as we know it” – I love this, it really highlights to momentousness of the occasion (and it would be momentous, in a country where “never on Sunday” is still a slogan in the retail space).

“Black December Friday is more than just a date” – I paraphrase slightly, but again, MOMENTOUS!

“The only possible alliance is with the world of probabilities” – a world of probabilities: how optimistic, how ASPIRATIONAL!

You really have a gift for evoking the joy of shopping: “the consumption of bliss”, “the windows of abundance” – really had me reaching for my credit card there.

I suggest you avoid describing violence and oppression directly. The tyranny of the current retail calendar can be implied quite powerfully using visual cues. Study how that Apple ad does it: they reference George Orwell and show riot police on American TV, during the Super Bowl. No-one bats an eyelid, no-one ends up in jail! That’s cojones!

Also: you quote several “alternative” poets to illustrate your points. In a multi-media context we can do this with musical cues. Nirvana would be my go-to music for this type of message: grungy yet “safe” for consumers; instant appeal for Generation X demographic, rebels with a healthy disposable income.

Logistics: I suspect a month of steep discounts would be too much even for a healthy retail client, hence I suggest we stick to the original “Black Friday”, but I give you points for thinking big.

Conclusion: Please don’t be discouraged by the red ink or the grade, this is one of the most promising pieces of work I have seen this semester. When you become available for work, I will be delighted to introduce you to my good friends at ¡Revolución! Communications, who are always on the lookout for talent – they have an interesting client list and your experience will be relevant.

 


* All external links are 100% genuine, everything in between in a fabrication.

The original text used in this exercise is a proclamation issued on the 11th November 2015 by Nikos Romanos and Panayiotis Argyros from prison, calling for a “Black December” of mayhem, vandalism and bomb attacks. The original Greek text can be found here, and translation was done for expediency by Google Translate – the surreal mash-up of nihilism, exuberance and half-digested jargon is mostly preserved. A time-bomb which detonated in the early hours of Tuesday 24th November outside the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises in central Athens, causing significant material damage, may or may not have been linked to this proclamation. The Christmas lights were lit 50 metres away in Syntagma Square that same evening by the Mayor of Athens.

Nikos Romanos is serving a 16-year prison term for armed robbery. He was a key witness when his teenage friend, Alexis Grigoropoulos was shot dead by a policeman in the Athens neighbourhood of Exarcheia in December 2008, an incident which resulted in extensive rioting in the centre of Athens. After the incident, Romanos went underground, believed to be hiding with various anti-authoritarian groups, until he was arrested in the course of an armed bank robbery in northern Greece in February 2013. He is also suspected of involvement in a number of non-fatal terror attacks. While in prison, he sat his university entry exams and gained a place to study Business Administration at the Technical School (TEI) of Athens. In 2014 he went on hunger strike to demand permission to attend classes on day release rather than by remote study.  His demand was not met. Sympathetic views hold that Romanos is torn between a genuine desire to learn and his ties to anarcho-terrorist groups in prison. This latest proclamation suggests that any rehabilitation effort is losing ground. This post imagines a more optimistic scenario in which the text has been misinterpreted, and where it is in fact a testament to the redemptive power of Business Studies.

Panayiotis Argyros is a member of the anarcho-terrorist group Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire (Συνωμοσία των Πυρήνων της Φωτιάς, or SPF), one of the latest generation of domestic urban guerilla groups which have been active in Greece since the 1970s. SPF have been responsible for a number of terror attacks and attempted attacks involving time-bombs and parcel-bombs against political and business targets since 2008. Argyros was arrested in November 2010 after a parcel bomb addressed to then French President Nicolas Sarkozy detonated in the hands of a courier company employee causing his injury. He is serving a 25-year term for his involvement in the organisation and a number of bombing attacks on political and business targets. Recently, a former Citizen Protection Minister in the previous Syriza/ANEL government initiated a judicial investigation by alleging that senior Syriza officials were being lobbied by imprisoned members of the SPF group, and that his life was under threat as a result of his non-cooperation.

Images: Daniel Acker: Bloomberg; seleo.gr via stoxos.gr

 

 

 

Black December, red pen

Five steps to effective political communications

bullet

If you want to put your views across to a minister or senior government official and you don’t have (a) a lobbying and entertainment budget, (b) a secret “commissions” slush fund, or (c) a relative in the ministry, you need to follow these simple guidelines to get your message across. At ¡Revolución! Communications your mission is our passion.

Commit to a brand identity. Many underestimate branding as a superficial exercise and an unnecessary expense. However, have a browse through a good branding handbook relevant to your business, and you will see that every revolutionary success story is underpinned by a great brand.

Be brief and to the point. Ministers and senior officials are busy people, and most of their correspondence ends up in a pile to be read by some junior flunky. No-one will read a turgid 40-page manifesto with your sophomoric musings on Marx or Bakunin unless you plant a bomb. At ¡Revolución! Communications we believe that non-violent forms of expression can be just as effective. A few well-chosen words, suitably framed, are all you need to get your point across. A slight verbal tick (e.g. brackets or random capitals) might help to suggest that you are slightly unhinged, but don’t go overboard.

Pick a distinctive logo. We are big fans of the red star. Some say it is over-used but we think it has an elegant timeless simplicity. It says “I’m a left-of-centre revolutionary” but without too many specifics (for this reason we advise against the hammer and sickle which lost its freshness long ago).

Spend some time picking a signature. You may wish to preserve some mystery around your identity. This may be necessary for security purposes, but it is also a useful way of implying that you are a movement rather than a lone nutter. We recommend this revolutionary name generator as a starting point. NB: It is essential that you check that your chosen name isn’t already in use – you wouldn’t want some young punk taking credit for your righteous actions.

Say it with a gift. Always accompany your letter with discreet gift that helps you to communicate your message. Make sure you comply with your own corporate gift policy and that of the recipient. As a rule, it is good to pick something inexpensive so as not require an entry in the gifts register. In your case, we recommend something punchy – like a bullet (not to be confused with bullet points, remember “powerpoint is evil”). Also: as with words, so with bullets. One is enough to make your point. This is not a Cretan wedding.

Image: Letter received yesterday by the Greek Deputy Finance Minister in charge of taxation, accompanied by a single bullet. The letter reads: “TRYFON ALEXIADIS, COLLECTOR OF THE WERMACHT… UNTIL THE HOUR <0> YOU WILL UNDERSTAND WHAT FEAR MEANS, YOU AND YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS… RED FACTION.” A similar letter, also accompanied by a bullet, was received last week by the Chair of the the advisory committee on pensions, the so-called “Committee of Wise Men”. Taxation and pension reform are two of the key areas where the government is pushing forward with further austerity policies as part of the latest bailout agreement.

Five steps to effective political communications

Aunt Cassandra’s tough love: How not to pitch for business

tsipras_clinton_web-thumb-large

Dear Alexander,

I hope you don’t mind that I drop the “Che” nonsense now that you’re a grown man with responsibilities. I know you didn’t come to me for advice, but I feel the need to tell you a few unvarnished truths. Your aunt Gianna came and told me she pulled some strings with her friend Mr Clinton at the Lions Club and arranged for you to pitch to him and his friends for business, and I understand it wasn’t the greatest success*. There I go, being diplomatic again! She is so embarrassed, she doesn’t know if she’ll have the nerve to attend their fundraiser tonight.

First of all, let me tell you, I’m amazed he gave you the time of day, especially given your friends’ tradition of having a loud party outside his house in Athens on an annual basis and calling his friends imperialist murderers (if he was a few eggs at Halloween he would understand, but mid-November?). It must say something about your aunt’s skills of persuasion, or maybe Mr Clinton remembers he was once a charming young rascal himself, who knows? What matters is, he didn’t owe you an invitation, you didn’t earn it, and yet by the sounds of it you managed to squander it. Not saying you should tug your forelock, but opportunities like this don’t grow on trees.

Let’s start from the basics. I know you are going to say that English isn’t your first language. You’re very good at excuses but that is not a real one. Your Italian friend Matteo is also deficient in his language skills, but somehow he manages to make it sound charming because he actually has something to say. He doesn’t just sit there fidgeting with his notes, looking shifty. He gives them a run for their money.

Did anyone tell you you were there to pitch for an investment? I’m sure your auntie will have mentioned this, she’s no fool. More to the point, do you actually know the difference between an investment and a loan, or (heaven forbid) a handout? Doesn’t sound like it, to hear your aunt describe it. Now I may just be a housewife but I watched your uncle Aristos build his used car dealership from scratch, so I think I can say I have more experience in business than you do. When the customer looks you in the eye and asks you “will this car still be running in a year?” you don’t giggle nervously and look at your shifty associates. You don’t say “that is a good question” to buy time to think up an answer, oh no. If you can’t answer that question straigthaway you have lost the customer.

Now, to the more advanced stuff. When an investor asks you if your business is sound, you don’t into a long spiel about how your cousins are crooks and layabouts and left the books in a mess, or how the bank manager is on your back for a bad loan. The man gave you an out, he said he knew the business had seen better days, he even gave a wink that the previous management (your cousins) weren’t to be trusted. Now he wants to hear what you are going to do about it. He wants you to look him in they eye and give him a straight story. So, when he asks you what the business is good at, you don’t say “this and that”, you don’t say your employees are talented and deserving. Do you even know what a business plan is? Mr Clinton sounds like he knows the business better than you do, because he actually did his homework. And he’s a proper grown-up. Imagine. I know you were able to wing it at school, but this is for real. Read my lips. He knows it’s a mess, he doesn’t want to hear excuses, he is giving you a chance to redeem yourself.

By the way, I don’t know if you realised what you were saying, but Mr Clinton got you to commit in front of his friends to put some of your own money in the business**. They don’t call him Slick Willy for nothing.

What can I say, my boy? The only blessing is there weren’t more people there to see. You are young, you will have more opportunities, that’s why I’m giving you the tough love. But I would hate to see your father’s business go under because you weren’t man enough to face up to your responsibilities.

One last thing, Alexander. I understand that these days not wearing a tie is OK (Koula says her son who has a fancy job at JP Morgan is allowed to unbutton his shirt on Fridays) but for goodness’ sake remember your upbringing and please don’t slouch!

Much love,

Your aunt Cassandra.


* On the 27th September 2015 Greek PM Alexis Tsipras participated in a Q&A with former President Bill Clinton as part of the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative in New York. The full 30 minute video is available here and is recommended viewing as a companion to this post.

** In the course of the Q&A, Clinton prompted Tsipras to commit to creating a public investment fund for startup businesses. This did not get widely reported, but was clearly intended to be on record.

More synoptic reports can be found here and here.

Image from ekathimerini.com

Aunt Cassandra’s tough love: How not to pitch for business

Dear Aunt Cassandra: Who is the one for me?

coffee

Dear Aunt Cassandra,

I need your help again. I have a tough choice to make. Since I last wrote, a lot has happened. Alexis has decided he is “giving me space to think”. He came to mine and said he was sorry for what he has put me through (he looked really cut up) and he promised that our best days are still ahead of us if I chose him, but then he said  it’s up to me to decide. I know he has stopped hanging out with all the people you warned me about, the creepy throwback, the tomboy bully and of course the wide boy. Except for the fat loser, he says the two of them are “brothas from another mutha” and he wouldn’t betray him no matter what. And he is not that popular anymore, the lower years are dissing him openly – not cool. Meanwhile, I have asked out by an older guy (!). He is a bit old skool, he knows how to treat a girl like a lady, but he also seems to have some right dodgy mates and sometimes he likes to talk like a nightclub bouncer. Everyone else is a bunch of losers, they keep saying we should all get on together, and not take sides. I dunno…

Yours,

Parthenope


Dear Parthenope,

You know me, I’m a bit old fashioned. When it comes to difficult choices I generally ask the φλιτζάνι (coffee cup). So I brewed a nice thick Greek coffee as per the ritual, tipped the cup over to let it it drip while I watched the latest on our pension cuts (I don’t really understand it but I like the drama) and then turned it back up to read the cup. Disappointing. No winding roads, no wedding crowns, no men on horseback. Just mud. I thought I saw a tall dark stranger in your future, but I couldn’t really make him out, except I think his name begins with a “K”.

So I tried the modern method: I called my friends. They are all old like me, they sit at home waiting for the phone to ring, it gives them something to do. It’s not quite as good at predictions as the φλιτζάνι, but it gave us an excuse for a good natter. And what did they say? Well, I can tell you that your friend Alexis and the Older Guy are neck and neck – some of the old birds still think your young friend looks like a παληκάρι who will make good, others prefer a man of experience and some proper foliage on his upper lip. To me, it’s like Justin Bieber vs. Van Morrison. Can’t stand either of them. But each to their own… But then, to my surprise, more and more of them mentioned our Mr “K”. They gave him a name, “Kanenas”. “Nobody”*. I was puzzled. Does this mean “Nobody” is good enough for you? Does it mean you should hold out for the tall dark stranger?

I don’t know, girl. I hold up my hands. All I know is what your uncle Homer said: “Don’t trust anyone who calls himself Nobody. If you started with one good eye, you’ll end up with none.

IMG_0756

* “Nobody” or “None of the above” was the most popular response to the question “Who do you trust most as Prime Minister?“,  or “Who do you trust most to manage the agreement?

Image from diaforetiko.gr

Dear Aunt Cassandra: Who is the one for me?

BREAKING NEWS: ND fired by top campaign advisor

rigillis

To:         Evangelos Meimarakis

From:     James Carville (J.C.)

Date:     01 September 2015

Re:        Campaign advisory contract – cancellation

Call me a stuffed armadillo! Loulis just explained to me about tonight’s little ‘welcome home’ rally at yer old HQ. Are you smokin’ Bayou Baccie? Seriously!! You are SHOWING A FILM celebrating all yer OLD DINOSAURS, and inviting two of the MOST TOXIC POLITICIANS YOUR PARTY HAS EVER FIELDED to be the GUESTS OF HONOR???!!!??!!!??!!?

You done gone and give me one MASSIVE WEDGIE. I been happier to find a fist-sized toe-biter in my café au lait, mon frère! Now I don’t like to swear, but y’all are DUMBER THAN A TUB FULL OF TADPOLES. Dang! What did I tell y’all about NEW FACES, NEW BLOOD, NEW IDEAS??? BURY the past and MOVE ON because all these old gator turds are VOTER POISON!!!!! But DO YOU LISTEN??? HELL NO!

SO WHAT DO YOU DO but GO THROW A BIG FRIGGIN’ PARTY and invite the WHOLE WORLD to see what a bunch of DUMBASSES Y’ALL ARE!!!!

I SWEAR I could git Netanyahu elected Prime Minister IN THE WEST BANK easier than I can git you to do just ONE DANG SMART THANG in this crisis of yours!!!! What you expect me to do?? PISS IN THE WIND AND CALL IT CONFETTI???

So I GIVE UP. QUIT. RESIGN. Going H-O-M-E. Loulis is packing my duffel and hailing a cab downstairs. Four connecting flights and I’m sleeping in my own bunk by Thursday.

Here’s one last beignet to stick up yer Baton Rouge: yer country is more SCREWED UP than a polecat in a paper mill. People are gonna REMEMBER NAMES AND FACES, and they’ll remember a few decades down the road who shirked the call and who STEPPED UP. It’s up to YOU amigos. But hey, it’s your couche couche. Laissez les bon temps rouler.

Image: from Zougla.gr (in case you can’t read the watermark)

BREAKING NEWS: ND fired by top campaign advisor