Sonja Hodak & Mirela Holy, 2012.

Witchcraft Communication Strategies

with the publisher Naklada Ljevak



Before we begin:

Interview with the Vampire – Sorry, We Meant Witches


Instead of boring blurbs about the authors, we bring you objective, not-in-the-least arranged interviews. The authors interviewed each other.

1.The Witches’ Journey Begins

An introduction, where we explain whence this book and where we’re heading; why a witch of your own is useful, and do you too need a communications strategy – i.e. magic


Why are the authors so daringly courageous?


The possible answers are: a) they know what they are talking about; b) it amuses them; c) they want to attract other people who know what they are doing and want to have fun; d) they secretly hope someone equally daring with a good, consistently implemented strategy contacts them and teaches them something, not to mention the promised kisses; e) all of the above. You pick an answer.

What we want to emphasise is this: there is nothing more important in business than communications. And there is nothing less intelligent in business than ignoring that fact. Whether you are a baker, accountant, funeral director, tourist worker, arms dealer, or a dam builder – it all begins and ends with communications. Usually it begins with communication inside one’s own head: brain centres juggle and analyse an idea. Then the idea migrates to other heads: the author infects his near and dear ones (family, friends, business partners and colleagues) who then keep deriving that idea.

If it catches on on some microlevel, the idea becomes a nucleus which slowly emerges a form, construction, growing parts, and turns into a living organism. If your name is Bill Gates, you’ve just walked a few steps from the garage to the billionaire’s club. Everyone else takes a little longer.

In any of these steps or business development phases, literally one wrong word or awkward sentence may spell your doom. There is no term, image, category, object… that looks the same inside two different minds. If someone mentions bread, someone will imagine corn bread, and another wheat bread; the first will envision a hard, crunchy crust, while the other will already feel the soft, foamy structure of bread too rich with yeast… In order to reach an acceptable level of comprehension of one’s ideas, business plans, process creation, and everything else not relevant enough to name at this point, one must keep communicating, and that at the most specific way possible. If you merely mention bread to your colleagues, they will each develop the common idea with their own concepts of bread. However, if you should tell them you are talking about a round 400 gram loaf of corn bread with a rough, hard crust; you’ve just made certain everyone’s mental image is the same. The more specific and clear the category, the easier it is to understand.

This gets us to clarity. Clarity is one of the two basic features of successful communications in any community: there is no difference here among a group of kids, a factory division, a political party, a community of selfish, grumpy men or an association of abandoned, unkempt women.


The Witches’ Journey Begins


Part I


The authors of this book will kiss both your left and right cheek (if you don’t understand which cheeks, please stop reading now; this is not the book for you) if you have implemented a consistent and constant communications strategy, with all relevant target groups, meeting your goals, for five years straight (or longer). This is a serious offer; the kissing may be done in public, if needed (our only demands are a hygienic optimum and a freshly depilated area). The offer excludes multinational companies and companies bought by multinational companies, as they do in fact implement such strategies, but most often imported from the headquarters at a steep cost, entered into the spreadsheets as Transfer of Knowledge.


Part II


The other crucial feature of successful communications in a given circle or community is repetition. And then some more repetition. It’s incredible how much repetition is needed to get the message through to the consciousness of the chosen target group even though a vast majority of people can memorise a given message on the first try. The problem, however, is not memorisation itself; that’s often quite easy. The problems are as follows: messages nowadays fade quickly, and their contents often serve no further purpose. The simple explanation is that people with overworked and overloaded brains, flooded daily with terabits of information, can’t, won’t, or don’t know how to store messages you want them to. So you’re left with one thing: repetition. Here, let us say that again: repetition.

Before getting to clarity and repetition, of course, it would be prudent to define what exactly it is that you want to communicate, and then communicate consistently – we’ll repeat that once again, for our slower readers: consistently. We’ll deal with that in further chapters of this book, but just to be on the safe side, we wanted to highlight the most important bit right at the beginning, and that bit is consistency. Are we getting through? Even if you’re lying, God forbid (oh, no, we’re certain there’s none of that in the real world; this is for illustration purposes only), lie consistently.

The example of our daily bread is easily imaginable. Communicating a message to a certain group in order to improve your business is a bit trickier. In this case it’s not about communicating a single category; it’s about sending very specific messages through a well-developed theme in order to elicit a specific response, most commonly from a large number of people. This is why the story has to be developed in context, and when the brain trust agrees on the story, all that remains is turning the story into a plan or a strategy. Experience teaches us that if the plan/strategy isn’t written down, and tasks given to specific people, with deadlines and benchmarks, the plan is not going to work. Communications strategies are designed to prevent just that eventuality: wasting the effort of thinking up and transmitting just the right message.

It’s true that even the best strategies can remain unimplemented, while – what is worse – the business may still communicate effectively and be recognised in the social, business and consumer circles. What follows is a real-life example from our practice. For several years, one of the clients of the PR agency we worked for was a company producing consumer goods. At first they completely ignored communications; instead they focused on developing their business and products, employment, and market expansion. They did all right, blissfully ignorant of PR and what can be done with it. Then, at one point, they decided to work on their communications – when they realised their competitors were doing even better: they were better recognised and more present in the media; their key people enjoyed a high social status and a good local reputation; and they attracted high-quality workforce. This company wasn’t all too keen on a finely developed strategy; instead they decided on hiring some professional help with certain projects and events, with pronounced reasoning “let’s try it and see where it takes us”. It had started out slowly, but well: several years later, they had a well-known name, recognised brands, well-accepted leaders, and a steadily increasing income. How did they manage to succeed without any sort of a master plan? The answer is brutally simple: they muscled their way up. The company had pushed its merchandise; the PR agency did everything possible to spread the good word. At one point it seemed the company’s reputation had seriously outgrown reality. To put it as simply as possible: we had fucked up.

At that point there was already an established practice of devising yearly communications strategies and marketing plans, with significant amounts of money invested in various activities: events, sponsorships, media, public appearances, financing certain organisations… Yet documents and proposals were produced, but not implemented (yes, do feel free to ask what we were doing there – tearing our hair, that’s what). Everything went haphazardly; we reacted instead of acting; here and there we’d managed to get that train back on track, but in the next instant it would go haywire again. It was a just reflection of the company’s internal state: when the muscles tired, the company began to fail, too. One wrong move led to another; one loan became three; one lie grew into another, bigger. Thus the company lost its partners and its reputation; nobody wanted to work there any more. In a matter of months almost 20 years of growth and development went down the drain. A sad but educational story: even the most promising creation will collapse without proper planning, and lying to people never really works – you’re only fooling yourself. Croatian economy abounds with anecdotes like this one, just like any other transition country.


Part III


The final answer to questions whether you need a communications strategy, and what kind, is completely individual. In our humble opinion, you do need it. Now, that is very easily countered: “We’ve gone this many years without a communications strategy, we make a tidy profit, our workers are content and we are well respected in the community.” However, how true is that, exactly? How long do you think it will last? Just for the sake of mental exercise, try to imagine what it would have been like if you had followed some kind of a strategic communications plan and try to admit to yourself all the errors you’ve committed along the way. A great deal of those would not have happened if somebody had been taking care of those matters. And now try to imagine all the things you could have done along the way, but didn’t. While some of your competitors did.

Surely you remember the interesting, well thought out tactics played by your competition. Surely you remember being sick of it and offering sour grapes to your colleagues: oh, that was a dilettante move; it didn’t even touch us; losers… We know it hurt, here and there (no need to admit it out loud; just admit it to yourself), and there is no reason for that. There are always solutions, often within reach (you’re holding one in your hands right now, in case you haven’t noticed yet).

What kind of strategy do you need? Even if you hire the best experts money can buy, they won’t have the answer without your exact data and business plans. Oh, yes: that includes a whole lot of information not in any document. You know what we’re talking about. All right, that’s all highly classified information. Can you give it to someone in the outside world and believe it safe? That’s a tough question. Still, it’s no tougher than many of the previous questions which are always best answered in the usual, well-tested way: combine all available information about people with whom you consider working with the gut feeling you get during preliminary talks. Of course, there is no guarantee of success in choosing an expert no matter the chosen method, just as there isn’t one for anything of the sort in the world.

The worst you can do is fall for tall tales told by consultants from companies with large, multinational names, who’ll only sell you a tired old copy/pasted document. Even though such companies have many fine experts, it’s the other kind that commonly gets sent to small, poor, transition countries like Croatia. We therefore heartily recommend that you hire locally; you can get the same quality for much less dough than what you’d pay to overly gaudy consultants in designer clothes who keep pushing the name of the dreadfully important and well-known company they’re working for in front of their own name. This (free!) piece of advice – and a few more are bound to sneak in by the end of the book – is our attempt to improve communications quality at least by a mouse hair. Soon we’ll share our private e-mail addresses – just a few pages further on – so you can freely confirm we’ve succeeded, in which case we’ll brag about it to anyone we know and many we don’t. If you should tell us to sod off, you are likely to receive a return hate mail, a voodoo doll with your picture – and our deepest and meekest agreement, if we find your criticism constructive and intelligent.

What do we want, except world peace? We want the corporate world to be more open to information sharing and idea exchange; we want small businesses and craftsmen to understand the world won’t notice them until they start chirping; we want civil servants and courts to stop making their clients beg on their knees to get something done, which tends to result in madmen who go on a rampage and randomly shoot them like rabbits; we want various ministries to work for the citizens, so that you needn’t trip the permanent secretary in some Department of Wasted Time in passing, tackle him into submission, and then kindly ask for the information you had legally requested back when Jesus preached to the apostles; we want civil and professional associations to understand they are not here to act as secret fraternities/sororities or exclusive communities of like-minded individuals, but to share their knowledge with others, partake in the knowledge of others, and accept the fact that nobody knows everything.


Part IV


The quality of public communications in our part of the world is dreadful. Unfortunately, we can witness how slowly communications processes develop, how hard it is to break the bad old habit of withholding information, and how often, regretfully, people withhold information only to hide their own screw-ups. This can be seen in all levels, from the lowest levels of the private/public sector to the highest levels, with powerful chairmen and owners of huge companies, as well as ministers of finance who lie to their citizens – who pay their salaries – about public spending. Or, at best, they do not lie, but merely conceal the information. Oh, sorry, we forgot: is it worse to lie or to conceal?

That last question should also be answered by the owners of certain media and/or their employees, who in the past couple of decades have also failed to be the champions of free speech, defenders of public discourse, knights of truth and justice. Instead of informing the public in a timely manner, they often engaged in premature disinformation – their contribution to the development of communications culture in Croatia. But that’s a subject for a different book…

Aside from our lousy heritage of concealing information, as well as the fact that the media jumped straight from 50 years of soc-communist indoctrination and several years of war-time propaganda into the maws of capitalist media industry (it’s not the public service of the media that’s important; it’s the profit, even if it literally gets people killed) – our world of communications lacks professional individuals who would work in it.

We’ll deal with the media a bit later; let us first comb through the workforce in the communications business. Who does the work? People. Who makes the difference when it needs to be done well? Not the strength of the organisation, not the money in the accounts, not the shiny factories – it’s people. Yet let’s take a look at Croatia or any other transition country: how many university departments teach communications? Of those few, how many have done it for centuries? How many have international references so that they attract even foreign students? Have we reached zero yet? Sounds about right… How many young experts with a degree in communicology manage to get a job in that field? How many develop their specialisations, how many are sent to further their education by their employers? That’s pretty much what the workforce in this sector looks like – in the sector which is supposed to develop communications in this society, not to mention offer some communications solutions that would blow our minds… when did you last see any of that?

The up side of no opportunity, no knowledge and no resources can be a number of wonderful self-taught creative people, but that’s no system; it’s an anti-system, with no guarantee of any kind of progress. Still, the good news is that things are looking up. In mere 30 to 40 years we people from the Balkans – sorry, Mitteleuropa – will learn to communicate in a civilised manner, and before this 21st century ends, we’re bound to find out how to use communications to improve our lives and our businesses.

Before we describe why we, as authors, bit into the idea things could get better, we want to clarify two more issues. First, public relations are not media relations. Second, no communications plan/strategy can be applied to multiple subjects.

Back to the first one. Media relations are just a part of public relations, and definitely not the only one. Therefore, journalist trash is just one of the groups you have to deal with. Since the media that reach us regularly are mass media (underline mass), presence in such media is what a wide audience will perceive, but it needn’t be the most important form of communications. Do makers of launch ramps care about media relations? They hardly need to care about that, but they do care about constant communications with the military elite drafting armament plans, or MPs who pass laws and budgets, or members of the government who can push a certain weapons purchase. Sometimes they’ll care more to communicate in order to pacify pacifists than to deal with the media. If the militant pacifists get off their backs, there is hardly any chance anything bad leaks to the public…

We hinted that one communications plan can’t be applied to multiple users. And that’s true, just as it is also true that everyone needs some kind of a plan. It needn’t always be something grandiose, something so vast an entire forest is felled just to make paper to print out copies for board members. It needs to be specific and get you what you want: reach the target audience. And it doesn’t have to do it in five years. We all know how important and intelligent it is to do long-term thinking, but sometimes you just can’t afford it. There are smaller-scale plans, cheaper tactics, individual projects. Just as there will always be small, medium and large businesses (despite globalisation), there will always be small, medium and large plans. Including communications plans.

Before we start stabbing people in the back with knitting needles – sorry, we mean dealing with theory and practice – we owe you two tiny explanations. The first one is that we are not that kind of witches, the evil ones (at least that’s what we like to think; some people tend to disagree) – it’s just that our near and dear ones call us that in different situations. For instance:

You witch, you! How did you know? – We get that a lot when we bring them a present they had previously only mentioned they wanted – surreptitiously, in passing, barely 17 times altogether.

You know what, if you had lived just a few centuries earlier, they’d have burned you at the stake! – We get that after listening to someone with sufficient patience and concentration for a longer while, and then saying their sentence in their exact words just as they were getting ready to say it themselves.

The conclusion is, of course, that intelligent people were often called witches or warlocks because it makes it easier for morons to deal with them. Still we let ourselves be called witches; it is easier, and a dose of witchcraft will make explaining certain images in this book a bit easier. Finally: when you take a strategy and add some specific knowledge and skills, you can get magic.

The other tiny explanation we want to use to present you this area of communications is why we wrote this book. The book you’re holding in your hands is our attempt (maybe even an intelligent one; time will tell) to use a communications tool to develop an area of creation and adoption of communications strategies and actively participate throughout the process. Furthermore, by promoting this book, we’ll promote the whole trade; trade development will increase the need for new knowledge and new findings; that will increase the need for new books, new education, new plans etc. The nature of business is growth. Yes, it does break occasionally, and right now, in the greatest crisis we’re living in, we believe that it is more apparent than ever that the nature of business is growth.

2. The Devil You Don’t Know

… where you get to find out how common business plans are in Croatia, and why it is important to have a business plan, rather than a general idea and a burning desire to get things moving… and when the kamikaze flies – woohoo!

3.Fear is the Mind-Killer

… where we describe our experience with the other extreme: how the bad experience of transition and the long, noxious period of recession paralyse sensible business projects backed by hard capital

4. Oh, Those “Public Relations”! We’d Rather Protect Privacy…

… where we enlighten you on the ways of life in this age of extreme communication; how information leads to success or failure, and why is a business plan without a communications plan therefore a lousy plan; and finally: not all communication is media communication

5. On Witchcraft and Forging a (Successful) Business-Communications Spell

… where we reveal how to devise a successful business-communications project, starting with the idea, and following through with its development, opinion and market surveys, focus groups, target groups, analyses of trends and future needs, as well as the adequate communications “package” of both the project itself and whatever the project sells

6. The Spell is Ready; How to Cast It?

… where we attempt to advise on communications tailoring and answer what came first – the chicken or the egg. Should you start a business first, and then communicate; should you build a reputation first, and then start a business; or is it best to do both at once?

7. Nothing without Good New Magic

… where you find out how to build a magical relationship with a politician or a journalist; what never to do when communicating; what the hell is crisis communications; how to communicate in the savannah of politics and the quagmire of political parties; is ecology still hot in business. And you get to learn that people are always ready to play.

More about the book: facebook,!