Maxim Behar: The Meaningful Messages to Europe must Come from Sofia
The Bulgarian PR expert Maxim Behar shares his thoughts and insights on the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU in 2018:
"In the next year, Bulgaria has the unique chance to show Europe what it has to offer as positives and forever to reverse the momentum that has been working against the Bulgarian brand since the early 1990s.
I do not even need to mention how dramatically bad is perceived everything Bulgarian, or more precisely, almost everything happening in our country in the last twenty years from the Western world. There are many reasons, but the most important of these is the total inability and unwillingness of the state bureaucracy to build a system to show Bulgaria's true face to the world. In fact, to escape from the terribly muddled beliefs that the only thing we have to show is our mountains and rivers, peaks and forests, folk traditions and smiling girls with folk costumes.
This is already known to everyone, and this is not modern Bulgaria.
In fact, things are pretty simple, and if there are several priorities, everything will come in place.
The most important thing is to present great online products - innovative, fresh, interactive, which, without saying too much, can show what our brilliant software companies can do. Pages, apps, tabs ... everything that can say indirectly to the world "We here in Bulgaria are full of ideas and we have folks who know how to implement them." If these products have a broad European reach so that they can be used for years to come by all countries, this will be an amazing advertisement for Bulgaria.
Even before the start of the presidency, Bulgaria must have a short, easy-to-remember and long-term slogan, so that only a quick look would drop all potential prejudices that have been building up over the years.
Five years ago I have patented, but I also have repeatedly used, in various international conferences, the Bulgaria - Dream Area slogan, which we translated quite clumsily in Bulgarian as "Bulgaria - a country of dreams", but the English version was much more important to us. I offered a number of Bulgarian governments to sell it to the state for the price of one euro, but they always showed me somehow that this is not important. However, now it is important, even fateful. And if Bulgaria - Dream Area is not so attractive to those who are at the center of preparations for the presidency, they will certainly have to come up with something better. It has to be memorable, to be repeated a lot, and used for years to come.
It would be a huge mistake if we were to focus on mass meetings such as forums, conferences, as well as all the formalities, such as visits, ministerial meetings or simple walkabouts of Brussels officials. It would be useful, memorable and attractive if people like Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos or Guy Kawasaki come to Bulgaria and talk to huge audiences, for example in the Arena Armeets, free of charge for visitors, with the state bearing the cost of these meetings from their budget for the Presidency.
It would be pointless to polish the streets and to refurbish colossal monuments from time long gone like the National Palace of Culture, just to invite to them useless Brussels clerks with "glassy eyes" to tell us fairy tales. It is better to use these resources first of all to get the right place and at the right time in the best possible way on the map of Europe and in the world media, and secondly, the Bulgarians to learn uniquely interesting things from uniquely interesting people.
One of the most important projects is to include in the branding of Bulgaria both superstars and recognizable Bulgarians such as Grigor Dimitrov, Hristo Stoichkov, Ralitsa Vassileva, Irina Bokova and many others as well as Bulgarians in good positions in world and local organizations such as Veni Markovski, Chris Karadzhov, Maria Kasimova, Irina Asiova, Violeta Simeonova, bankers, businessmen. On the one hand, it is much easier to identify Bulgaria as these people's homeland (the history with John Atanasoff is a prime example in this respect) and, on the other hand, some of them could certainly be perfect ambassadors for the ideas of the Presidency in the countries where they work, or among the media that have an interest in them.
Finally, let's "put on the table" of Europe an interesting project that will be remembered as "the Bulgarian contribution". What will this project look like - with so many fresh and ambitious brains in Bulgaria, it will hardly be difficult to come up. However, it needs be practical, simple and important to everyone, not just for a narrow circle of politicians. Something like Solomon and Gergana Passy's proposal fifteen years ago to the European Commission on an universal mobile phone charger, which soon after became a reality. It must be an original and innovative idea. We have a lot of time to figure it out.
Here it is. If everything described above is done quickly and professionally, we will not have wasted our time. And it is actually the most valuable thing.
For all of us.
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