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Global Communications Leaders Share Common Ground in Dublin

CINCINNATI – By Nick Vehr, Vehr Communications and IPREX Americas President

It’s a wrap. The IPREX EMEA Fall meeting is over, and communications leaders from throughout Europe, and including a few of us from the U.S. and China, quickly realized the common ground we share in providing strategic communications services to an incredibly wide range of clients.

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While we discussed many issues of concern and interest to communications agency owners, there was little doubt that the American presidential election dominated conversations as part of the formal program and at the coffee breaks and dinners.

While sparing readers tVehr Communications_Global communications leaders share common ground in Dublinhe blow-by-blow, it is clear that for many of our European partners the only thing surpassing what I sensed as a certain lack of enthusiasm for Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy, is outright fear over the possibility of Mr. Trump’s election. As one participant summarized from his European perspective, “the American election is now between a bad choice and a dangerous choice.”

From this American’s perspective, however, what was more interesting was acknowledgement by our European colleagues that the conditions that exist in America to enable the Trump candidacy also currently exist throughout Europe.

Vehr Communications_Global communications leaders share common ground in DublinBREXIT – the June 2016 vote by citizens of the U.K. to leave the European Union – was cited by many at the meeting as a nod to isolationism, extreme nationalism, anti-immigration (anti-Islamism) and crude populism. Of course, many in America view much of the same as fueling the Trump candidacy. But it doesn’t end in the U.K.

This year, elections in Italy and Spain feature many of the -isms driving the popularity of formerly unpopular political candidates and movements. In 2017, more of the same is expected in the Netherlands, France and Germany.

In each case, our group of professional communicators concluded that a certain dangerous distance has grown, and is growing, between citizens and those who govern them. In our terms, we view it as an erosion of trust. Not surprisingly, we consider this to be the result of a series of failures in communications around governmental policies.

As you might imagine, Europeans all view this very seriously as their continent has been shaped by two global world wars that many feel were fueled by similar -isms. And, they are at the doorstep of one of the most troubled regions of the world – the Middle East – that is now fueling a refugee crisis throughout continental Europe and the world.

It is fair to say that, as an American, it was a rather sobering meeting.

Of course, it was wonderful to see old colleagues and meet new ones. It was inspiring to learn about the innovation and entrepreneurism of many of our European partners. It was also nice to be in Dublin on the same weekend that the All-Ireland Gaelic Football championship game was played (and Dublin won). As an old American footballer, I marveled at this sport, crudely described as a cross between soccer and rugby, but harder, faster and more physical. From what I saw, that captured it well.

As the IPREX Americas President, I’ll be chairing in New Orleans next month at the meeting of the Americas partners. The meeting begins November 10 – two days after Election Day. I know that we will be joined by a handful of partners from Europe and Asia. I can guarantee we’ll have an interesting discussion, again, about American presidential politics. By then, perhaps, we’ll actually know what we’re talking about.