Author Archives: Colin

Polish Prime Minister needs a lesson in Marketing

Oh dear, oh dear – just when I was starting to have some faith in Donald Tusk and his Governments ability to attract foreign investment and share the good things about Poland with the International community he goes and trips up. Mr Tusk was quoted in Time magazine as shining a particularly negative light on all things Poland – his quote follows. Tusk should take lessons from the mayor of Wroclaw who is also referenced below and shows the true character of Poland’s re-birth to the outside world:

Tusk’s quote:

“We have no oil and gas,” he says. “We don’t have high tech. Our centers of development, are far, far behind others. We will never be an extraordinary tourist attraction. Poland is quite a mediocre country in some regards. The only natural resource that we have, and with which we can compete, is freedom.”

Which country is he living in? Clearly not Poland – at least with respect to tourism and high tech. As for mediocre, tut, tut, tut Mr Tusk – Poland is far from mediocre…

The article goes on to refer to Wroclaw, “Poland’s fourth largest city, situated on the Oder River close to the German border, was neglected under communism, its Gothic architecture blackened by coal dust and its shop shelves bare. Nowadays, the elegant old market square in the city center, once the site of a few scruffy museums, is lined with designer shops, sushi bars and restaurants. Companies from LG Philips (LCD screens) to Google (service support) have poured $5 billion into the local economy in the past five years, creating 200,000 jobs in a city of just 650,000. The mayor’s office reviewed 560 investment projects last year alone. Since 2002, unemployment dropped from 14% to under 5%. Mayor Rafal Dutkiewicz credits low production costs, a good location near the autobahns to Western Europe and a deep pool of educated young workers”.

Now that’s more like the Poland I know and Mr Tusk should be promoting. Mr Tusk in the words of someone famous – “You made a real foobah!!!”

Here’s a link to the full article in Time magazine

Poland’s brand ‘Creative Tension’

Whilst researching Poland‘s recent history for inclusion in my book I discovered that in 2004/5 the Polish Government embarked on a multi million zloty investment into a brand campaign. The idea was to identify a brand which would differentiate Poland from other nations and project its national characteristics attractively and effectively.

The essential idea behind a brand needs to do 4 things. 1) It needs to work on an emotional as well as a rational level, essentially it must appeal to people’s hearts as well as their heads. 2) It must be relevant to all of the brand’s stakeholders. 3) It must be distinctive – set you apart from your competitors. And 4) It must be true, avoid clichés, and outline a concept that is recognised as realistic and inspirational by all target audiences.

After recruiting an outside source (i.e. a third party from the UK) to develop the brand, the brand development group began by investigating perceptions of Poland amongst its most significant audiences in the outside world. They carried out studies in the major European nations and also talked to people in Russia and the US. (Yep that would certainly cost quite a few dollars and help understand any one of points 1 through 4 above)

And here’s what they found – Perceptions of Poland in Western Europe were hazy, confused and negative; Poland was seen as poor, grey, boring and inhabited by peasants. There were background images of Solidarity, Pope John Paul, anti-semitism, Chopin and war time heroism. So that’s the external stakeholders perspective then – very positive

The research then moved to within Poland, where the views of older people clashed considerably with younger. The older Polish people were typically pessimistic and anxious, and the younger Polish people, tended to be more optimistic and relaxed. Sounds about right!

After further research inside the country the brand identity started to take shape and apparently everyone in the Government who could vote on it said it was a realistic reflection of the “dualities and contradictions in the Polish character”

The brand was born “Creative Tension”

To accompany the brand the ‘specialists’ wrote the following statement:

Poland draws its personality, power and perpetual motion from a wealth of apparently opposing characteristics. For example: Poland is part of the West and also understands the East; Polish people are passionate and idealistic and also practical and resourceful; the Polish character is ambitious and also down to earth.

These tensions create a restlessness unsatisfied with the status quo, and a boisterousness that is always stimulating and often astonishing. This creative tension is why Poland produces so many entrepreneurs, artists and sportspeople. It’s why Poland is constantly changing and evolving, sometimes tumultuously. And it’s why Poles have always tried to achieve the seemingly impossible – and often succeeded.

This core idea of “creative tension” accepts Poland as it is. It moves perceptions in the direction we wish them to go, yet at the same time has the ability to justify and explain some of the apparently negative aspects of Poland’s reputation.

It is essential for the self-confidence and self-esteem of Poland for the nation to be seen for what it is and what it is becoming. In other words, it makes Poland credible.”

Remember the instruction was to find a brand which would project Poland’s national characteristics “attractively and effectively” – can you honestly say Creative Tension is attractive and effective….

What a bizarre brand and summary – sure I agree the research certainly highlighted some of the characteristic traits of this ‘interesting and varied country’. Creative is a word that can be used to sum up some of the nuances of Poland but ‘Tension’?

Tension typically is associated with mild hostility or as one dictionary defines it “Barely controlled hostility or a strained relationship between people or groups: the dangerous tension between opposing military powers. The continuing, and essential, tension between two of the three branches of government, judicial and legislative”

Now I understand —- the government were in fact being honest (strange thing) they wanted to be known on the international stage for the problems that persist between President, Prime Minister and the Opposition (often a coalition member).

But seriously would the people of Poland truly want a brand identity of ‘Creative Tension’? I invite Polandian readers to submit suggestions for a Brand which would differentiate Poland from other nations and project its national characteristics attractively and effectively.

Polish Energy Gridlock

In principle I always maintain a positive mind (my research in Positive Psychology helps:-)) so forgive me if I sound somewhat negative about the state of the Polish Electricity sector (Grid and Power Stations). Over at Dat Blog I have been nagging for some time about a) the need for investment in the energy sector (both grid and stations), b) a sensible clean energy bill and c) privatisation of assets.

In January and February Polish electricity reserves was at an absolute minimum level, close to crisis point. At the time the naysayers said a black-out would happen soon, well one such black-out did happen yesterday in the town of Szczecin (population 420,000). Banks closed, shops closed, hospitals on generators and a whole host of other problems brought the area to a gridlock. Of course the industry blamed the weather!!! but come on how bad is the grid? Well it’s pretty bad – single lines that get cut if the wind sneezes, some of our less well off neighboring countries have a better grid infrastructure (admittedly not as old and they learnt from Poland’s mistakes!).

Last week several big wigs in the industry (including President’s of the main PSE Operator, Power Stations, etc) put their names to a report available here in Polish (PDF). The report indicates heightened concern over a potential blackout in the summer months caused by the aforementioned poor investments, Emission cuts, etc. etc. A blackout in the Summer months is likely because the characteristics of Poland’s energy use have changed, whilst we experienced a relatively mild winter, yet came close to a blackout, the summer months are likely to see increased use of air-conditioning caused by the growth of new office facilities, change in weather pattern, growth in new homes with AC, etc.

The Government is starting to listen and last week indicated a willingness to pursue a Nuclear Energy Station strategy with a potential time line for being operational in 12 years!! by which time Poland’s expected energy needs will be double the current production capacity.

What’s the answer? a) simply put – the reserves need to be built now (the capacity is there), b) consumers (includes businesses) need an awareness campaign by the government on conserving usage c) a high level plan needs to be put in place to improve the grid infrastructure across the country and d) accelerate the privatisation to provide the industry with essential funds for updating power stations.

I am optimistic, the major cities will not lose power but the poor buggers in the small towns and villages, slightly off the grid, will be heating their stew on gas stoves and reading by candlelight, doing their bit for green conservation….

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Polish Government Head stuck in a ‘Coal Mine’

The Polish Government approach to Energy seems a tipsy turvy world of contradiction, unfortunately with most of the contradiction being quite negative. I appreciate the current Government is grappling with many issues and problems created by the woefully bad management of the last government but energy seems to be one area the current government are flapping around in a quite messy way.

First I find the fact that the the Japanese and Polish governments have reached a basic agreement under which Japan will purchase a portion of Poland’s greenhouse gas emission quotas staggering – Poland can ill afford to sell its quotas. Poland is one of the world’s worst greenhouse producing countries – this step seems to me to be ill timed and with little commercial sense – any profit produced in the short term must be invested in green initiatives but the profit is small against the capital needed and in the long term will end up costing the Polish tax payer more – a contradictory and somewhat confusing commercial proposition.

The Japanese Environment Minister Ichiro Kamoshita and his Polish counterpart, Maciej Nowicki, concluded the agreement at the three-day meeting of the Group of 20 nations at which ministers of the world’s top greenhouse gas emitters discussed issues including climate change, clean energy and sustainable development.

The two governments are scheduled to exchange an official document on emissions trading soon. The volume of transactions will be discussed later, but Nowicki said the Polish government may sell several million tons worth of carbon credits!!! It will be very interesting to see what the real numbers are and the commercial sense behind this.

Second – as I have written before the investment into Energy is lagging significantly and in January/February Poland came close to a black-out situation. To maintain economic growth Poland has to ensure the continuity of its energy supplies – the Governments way of doing this is to import more coal – yes that’s right I said ‘import’ more coal.

Whilst Coal production keeps falling, importers are thriving and Polish mines are losing money! Poland is the EU biggest coal producer, but they still imported 5.8m tons of coal last year.Since 2004, imports have grown by 3.4m tons whilst production has dropped by 11.7m tons .

 

“For many years, we used to finance from the state budget the process of closing mines. We failed to invest in new fields. That’s why imports grow, and production falls”, Leon Kurczabinski from Katowicki Holding Weglowy coal group said to pb.pl.

Eugeniusz Postolski, the Polish deputy minister of Economy, believes that it was because of many wrong decisions of the management of coal companies that production had fallen by nearly 7m tons in 2007. I’m sorry Mr Postolski but it is because of the delays in privatization and lack of investment that is causing the bad management.

I hope that the Government acts sooner rather than later so that the costs of energy imports do not cause significant downward pressure on the economy – the sooner a nuclear energy policy is introduced the better.

Read more of my trivia at datblog

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Polish Language Problems (Part zzz)

Learning any new language is difficult. It requires time, patience, humour and the ability to be humble and know that you will make mistakes. So far I have picked up quite a few words but only one or two small sentences. One of the problems is I need to visualize a word, so I need to see how to spell it. This is just the start of the problem – try asking someone in Poland to spell a word – they just don’t do it! The other problem is when I do write it down I take one look at what is written and step back in horror – it’s ugly. Finally, I have come up with a strategy. When I encounter words or sentences I want to remember I will look them up in my dictionary, and write them down on some note cards. I will carry these cards everyday and try to study them whenever I have time. To make it easy I will also write down how I see/hear the pronunciation. I am determined to hold a conversation with Babcia as soon as possible….

 

In my book, I woke up this Morning…in Poland!!!, I deal quite a lot with the every day problems associated with a mixed cultural relationship, living in a foreign country, etc. and much of this relates to language. Here’s an extract of one of the first scenes I deal with language in the book..

“The domestic departure lounge at Warsaw Frederic Chopin airport is smaller than a single departure gate at Heathrow, with rows of those seats joined together atypical of airports, there is a small kiosk serving hot snacks, beer, crisps, lottery tickets, pictures of Pope John Paul the 2nd, and tickets for the Wifi hotspot which is apparently available in the lounge.

The lounge is very busy and incredibly hot with standing room only. There are 4 gates with departures for flights all over the country; to Gdansk, Krakow and places like Łodź (pronounced Woodj) and Rzeszow (pronounced Jeshov). I imagine the difficulties I’m sure to encounter trying to pronounce these new letters with all these squiggles, dots and tails on top, through and under them. In total there are 32 letters in the Polish alphabet. The Polish have so many different Z’s I’m going to fall asleep just trying to pronounce them. Words like please (proszę), sorry (przepraszam – in any language this is hard to say for a man but try it in Polish when you’re not a national, its kind of like pshehprahshahm – that’s right its nigh on impossible!). And then there is this is no ‘joke’ (żartujesz) and what about this particular Government Ministries web site http://www.zzpprzymz.pl? I dread to ask what they do. Some words even have 3 z’s in them like lucky which is szczesciarz and if you think that’s difficult, it gets worse. When verbs depend upon something such as ‘will you take’ zabierzesz and for example when you go to the doctors ‘will you take your clothes off?” is ‘rozbierzesz sie?’ and rz is pronounced sjz. So I hope I will never be sick or sorry while I’m in Poland.

So far my language efforts have been okay – I’ve already mastered the basics like Yes – Tak. No which is Nie. I love you (very useful to know) is kocham cie and when you meet someone the usual greeting for good day or hello is dzien dobry which sounds like “gin dobre” which is maybe something to do with Polish drinking habits!

There are no announcements in English so I have to pay particular attention to the screens as queues seem to be forming in many different directions and merging with one another.

‘Pardon’ forgetting I am no longer in France, ‘Sorry, excuse me is this the line for the flight to Katowice?’ I ask a man who is wearing an ill fitted suit and his collar so wide open I’ve no idea why he bothers to leave his tie on.

‘Katowice?’ he asks.

Other people are staring…

‘Tak, yes are you going to Katowice?’ at least I try a little Polish and I think I got the pronunciation of ‘Katovitsa’ right.

He thinks a while, his bottom lip slightly protruded as he slowly raises his finger to the brow of his head, squints and then looks up at the fan swirling around above us. His head moving in unison with the fan as if he has fixed his eye on one spot.

‘Katowice?’ he asks again..

‘Oui, Oui I mean Tak, Tak Katowice?’ I say a little frustrated.

‘Nie’ and he promptly turns away. No one else offers to help!

Then, just to confuse me Katowice drops off the screen of Gate 4.

I wait patiently”.

 

Read more of my twaddle over at DatBlog