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Ambassadors without diplomatic passport - Jana Adamcová

 I first met Jana Adamcová when we were both working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I remember that this young, energetic woman brought a significant amount of energy and invention into those routine structures. Since 2002 she was the head of the Department of Communication Strategy and some of her tasks were not easy – informing the public about the issue of the European Union, campaign for the referendum concerning the entry of the Czech Republic into the EU and the consequential building of a unified promotion of the Czech Republic abroad, including the so called unified visual style. Its authors received the Czech Grand Design Award in 2006.

The success of her projects can be expressed as follows: the information portal about the EU euroskop.cz became the most successful web server of the state administration. Introducing a free hotline service providing information about the EU was a unique act even within the EU itself. The selection process for a new logo of the Czech Republic was a significant public tender, with many international experts acting as judges. The design of Side2 studio for a colourful logo in the form of bubbles, in the end, won the competition. Another challenge was to unify the official presentation of individual state administration bodies. In the past it had been no exception that each ministry created its own rules for using the national emblem or other symbols and the Czech state administration lacked a unifying element. Jana Adamcová even managed to find and suggest a solution for this problem.

During her work at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jana pointed out the fact that the image of a given country is also achieved by behaviour and therefore she started a “greet your colleague” campaign within the buildings of the ministry. 

During 2003-2004, when she was working at the ministry, she submitted an extensive public opinion poll concerning the Czech Republic, taken not only in the key EU countries but also overseas. The results were surprising. The image of the Czech Republic was out-dated; the reminders of Czechoslovakia prevailed. The colourful and superficially appealing materials, with sunflower design and the pervasive Old Town astronomical clock gave the impression of country producing oil and tower clocks.

In 2007 Adamcová went over to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, where she was the head of the Export Promotion Department. In this position she was responsible for the agenda of development aid in the industrial sector, economic diplomacy, the promotion of Czech companies at international trade fairs and exhibitions and representation of the ministry in the supervisory boards of Czech Export Bank and Export Guarantee and Insurance Corporation. The Czech Republic depends on export and it is important that the state supports exporters and prepares favourable conditions for their development.

Since 2011, Jana Adamcová has been working in the private sector.

What is the current image of the Czech Republic abroad?

The image of the Czech Republic has slightly improved. Unfortunately, this did not happen thanks to activities of the state administration, but due to the fact that the Czech Republic, after joining NATO and the EU, became one of the advanced countries, which helps its image. Otherwise, not much has changed. It is necessary that we work consistently on the image of the Czech Republic over the years to come. The image of the country is the result of the everyday and painstaking work of all the state administration bodies. Unfortunately, we have failed to reach a state where the Ministry of Foreign Affairs becomes a leading and integrating element, having the competence to control other bureaus in terms of this issue. The agenda of country promotion is still scattered and each ministry has its own rules. The promotion of the country is also influenced by the fact that the Czech Republic does not know where it is going and therefore does not know how to present itself.

What should be the ideal image of the Czech Republic abroad?

It should be exactly as we want it to be. The problem is that its image is created spontaneously and everything spontaneous has a hint of amateurism and lack of professionalism in it. What exactly do I mean by spontaneity? No one is planning, nor caring about a strict application of a unified visual style, coordinating the activities of individual subjects involved, such as Czech centres, embassies, companies and even individuals, who often prepare projects interesting in terms of promotion.

All these activities are carried out ad hoc, without a unified concept. Lack of coordination and unprofessional behaviour are the biggest promotional problems along with the management of the country. The political elite should agree on whether we are primarily a country of advanced technology, successful scientists or a nation of subcontractors. Until they discuss which areas of the Czech Republic are important, neither the state administration, nor other public or private entities will know where to center their efforts, finances and strategies to gain the desired synergy on a state level.

For example, scientific laboratories will spontaneously continue their research (however beneficial it might be), instead of someone telling them where to go in the future, as in what the industry is going to need from them. A similar situation exists in higher education – no one in the country strategically plans and coordinates, therefore universities cannot know which fields of study they should open and which they should cancel. It is well known which industrial areas are in need of new students and which areas need support in terms of research and development. The country lacks a constructive debate about priorities and the direction of long-term development. Current spontaneity is very resource-intensive, using up both material and human resources. A country can, of course, exist without unified promotion, but it will waste its resources and efforts without reaching the desired long-term effect.  

Which country would make a good role model in terms of representation for us?

I always felt inspired by the Netherlands, which has a very sophisticated system of communication, as well as working with human resources in the state administration. They know exactly what and how to present. The Netherlands is easily recognized in its promotion. The uniqueness of the Czech project of promotion – when I was working on it – was that, unlike most other states that created promotion and visual styles for tourism, commercial opportunities or science separately, our concept of the country promotion was complex.

Can you compare your work in varied environments, such as the communications agency and two key resorts of the state administration?

Ironically, I think that if you are lucky and have good superiors in the state administration, then the clichés about a slow giant seem untrue. If you want, it is possible to enforce many interesting things, which I myself experienced. In my opinion it is meaningless to compare private and state companies. It is only worthwhile to compare big companies, because their methods of operation differs substantially from smaller ones. Companies like Seznam or ČEZ are basically the same giants as the ministries – and it is not possible to change everything overnight in either of them.

Therefore, I do not see any substantial difference between working at a big private company and working at a big state institution, apart from that, in state administration, it is harder to measure results – there is no simple profit model in state administration. I personally do not like the trend of classifying state officials into a few simple performance charts. I found it very humiliating to define, for example, our performance criteria to business diplomats as a mere number of presentation events or number of reports written per month.

But until our political elite gives clear instructions to officials in terms of what results they expect, what areas of business promotion etc., they will build Potemkin villages in the form of charts showing the number of business cards distributed. In my opinion this is beneath the dignity of all educated and sophisticated professionals.

Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers?

Do things your way, don’t let others classify you. In every company or organization there is a huge space for creative thinking and searching for new ways of work. For me, the authenticity of the individual is the most important thing. During our professional careers, we go through many courses including managerial, presentation or communication skills, but we should never allow anyone to steal our personality or our ways of working and thinking.

The second suggestion is related to the notion that professional life does not end at the age of thirty; on the contrary it begins there. The media reality deceives, when it tends to depict young, rich, successful people in their thirties. We used to have a prime minister, who was only 35. This media picture of successful people should never discourage anyone.

People don’t merely need professional maturity and contacts, but especially the time for personality maturing, setting a value system and strengthening their character. The older I get, the more I choose people according to their character, not their CV or media image.

The third recommendation is a general appeal for a decent and relevant discussion concerning our country's future. We need a calm and competent discussion between the private and public sectors, to erase the mutual distrust caused by the last few decades and a clear vision for the future, a vision that current politics fails to provide. I believe that, in this country, most people are good and competent. They only have to learn to discuss and organize themselves, so that they are not overwhelmed by the worse elements who, unfortunately, have stronger confidence and are far more aggressive. I believe in this country and, in my professional and private life, will continue to enforce values based on that belief in the good in us. I hope that there will be an increase in people who share those beliefs.  


Linda Štucbartová graduated from the Institute of International Territorial Studies. After a one year scholarship at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, she obtained a Diplome d’études supérieures from the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva. Between the years 2002 and 2006, she worked in senior positions at the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Since 2006 she has functioned in the private sphere, and lectures at the Anglo-American University, where she was named the Chair of the Department of Diplomacy. In addition to training in negotiation and communication of clients from the private, public and non-profit sector, she regularly collaborates with NGOs in the projects of the International Global Young Leaders Conference and the Women and Leadership Programme. Linda Štucbartová is a member of the Rotary Club Prague International. She currently works for ŠKODA AUTO a.s. as a Learning and Development Specialist. Articles are extracts from her book Velvyslanci i bez diplomatického pasu (Eng. “Ambassadors without a Diplomatic Passport”).

Source: Leaders Magazine - www.leadersmagazine.cz  

 

 
 
 
 
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