By Juergen H. Gangoly, Managing Partner of The Skills Group – Fleishman-Hillard’s affiliate in Austria
Nowadays, it seems as though everyone in Europe is talking about the financial crisis and what it means to them. And, for most of us, the outlook is daunting: jobs are harder to come by, innovation is flailing ― and businesses are struggling to grow.
But there is one hugely significant ― albeit surprising ― silver lining to this rather expansive cloud. For years, NGOs, governments and humanitarian organisations have fought tooth and nail to educate the public about the societal benefits of immigrant communities, expelling the flawed perception of these people as economic burdens and driving home the obvious reality that immigrants are key contributors who give back to societies and economies on a daily basis.
Frankly, it’s been a tough fight. But things are getting better ― and it’s thanks to the economic crisis.
You see, for the first time, firms are looking beyond ‘Joe public’ and towards smaller market segments, like immigrant communities, to keep up-and-running. Now, taking their unique needs and interests into account when devising products and services is no longer just about doing what’s ethically right, it’s absolutely vital for economic survival. And that’s what’s making the difference.
What this means in practice is that all over Europe, big companies, banks, insurance companies, retailers, telcos and car manufacturers – among others – are sitting up and taking notice of how immigrant communities consume, earn and play. What they want and need is to tap into what these groups want ― and communicate with them in the most targeted way possible.
And that’s where we come in.
You see, these companies are our clients. To help them meet their targets we also need to raise our game. It’s no secret that immigrant communities are a black spot for our sector too – empirical data on this group is scarce and, where it does exist, it’s far too broad and sweeping to be really valuable.
Well, all that is beginning to change.
We at The Skills Group, the Austrian FH affiliate, have teamed up with the immigrant lifestyle magazine in Vienna, Biber, and the market research firm Meinungsraum to create EthnOpinion.at: the first opinion research firm in the Austrian German-language area that specialises in surveys of immigrant groups.
What we do isn’t original in itself: a combination of multi-language surveys and in-depth interviews in focus groups. Where we differ from other firms out there is that we specifically tap into immigrant populations in a way that can be fed back into advertising, marketing and PR programmes, and for developing new products and services.
And that’s why we’re able attract and retain prestigious clients from across the public and private spectrum.
This should send a clear message to our sector colleagues: we have the power to simultaneously lower social and cultural barriers, pay our own way and see our clients through these hard times.