Friday, June 22, 2012

June Winding Down

Research Project Status

Since my last post, more completed surveys trickled in, providing us with a total of more than 1,400 surveys for this project.  Along with the six focus groups, that must place it among the larger employee communication projects conducted.  Thanks to a small group of incredible students from the Poznań University of Economics, all survey data has now been transferred to Excel spreadsheets, and those files forwarded to my colleagues Dr. Jaehee Cho and graduate student Nick Woods at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.  They are transferring the data to high-level statistical software for detailed analysis.  Dr. Cho has already provided descriptive statistics for the first partner company, allowing me to complete the initial report we will provide to company leaders within the next two weeks.  Dr. Cho is now working on an analysis for the second company so I can complete that report as well.

Most of the completed 9-page surveys -- 300 more surveys
have not yet come back from the students entering the
data into the Excel spreadsheet, though I have the
Excel files.

Qualitative and quantitative data have allowed us to provide each participating company with a detailed profile of the communication health within their organizations.  Internal/employee communication is considered by many to be the most important component of an organization’s communication efforts and responsibilities, and this recognition has rapidly risen in recent years. Researchers consistently find a clear association between effective internal communication and management communication competence on the one hand and employee job satisfaction and organizational communication satisfaction on the other. Further, there is strong, research-based support for the claim that internal communication, as an instrument of trust building, contributes significantly to employee commitment and innovation. Employees are the organization’s most consequential stakeholders and are often the most direct connection between the organization and its relevant external constituencies: the communities in which it operates (local, regional, national and global); government agencies and officials that monitor and regulate the organization’s operational activities; media; customers and clients; vendors; investors; etc. An organization will not long survive if it fails to communicate effectively with its employees.

My wife, Robin (far left), and I hosted a pizza party to
thank all the fantastic students who helped by
transferring survey data from the surveys themselves
to Excel spreadsheets -- an incredibly tedious task
involving 1,400+ surveys.  They did a flawless job.

Bucket List

I can now check several items off my bucket list:
  • Sitting on a beautiful summer day in a floating cafe on the bank of the Vistula River sipping a draught Polish pivo.
  • Similarly, sitting on the steps of a 16th century Polish cathedral munching a grilled kiełbasa purchased from an outdoor vendor.
  • On the banks of the Warta River in Poznań at 11 p.m., being in the midst of an attempt to set a new Guiness record for the number of illuminated lanterns released into the night sky.
  • Surrounded by enthusiastic (to put it mildly) football (soccer) fans from Ireland, Croatia, Italy and Poland in the Poznań Fanzone, watching EURO 2012 matches on giant screens.
Let me explain.  On Monday and Tuesday of this week, Robin and I made a brief visit to Toruń, a city about two hours by train from Poznań.  Many say it's the most beautiful city in Poland, and I would not dispute that.  The weather cooperated fully, and we enjoyed seeing sights such as the many magnificent cathedrals, the ruins of what must have been a seriously impressive Teutonic castle, an extensive collection of Gothic art and artifacts in the old City Hall, and the Copernicus Museum (Toruń was the astronomer's hometown).  Toruń is yet another great reason to spend time in Poland.  That accounts for the first two bucket list items.

One corner of the ruins of the Teutonic castle in
Toruń, Poland, on the bank of the Vistula River.

Throughout Toruń, there were many school groups
benefitting from the deep history that is so well
preserved in the city. Here we are inside the Teutonic
castle ruins.

A view of Toruń from the bell tower of St. John's Cathedral.

The ornate interior of one of the Toruń cathedrals.

The breakfast buffet in our Toruń hotel.

Visiting the Copernicus museum (perhaps in the home in
which he lived -- they can't say with certainty) was
especially moving to me as a former U.S. Air Force
navigator.  I used to perform celestial navigation
(before GPS and computers), relying on the concepts
that Copernicus conceived and developed.

The third item on the bucket list involves floating lanterns released from the banks of the Warta River, which flows through Poznań.  This happened last evening from around 10:30 p.m. until 11:45 p.m.  It seems this is an annual event here, with the intent each time to establish a new Guiness record for number of lanterns released.  To be in the midst of thousands of people releasing the lanterns they had purchased for the occasion is a phenomenal experience.  The best way to understand the ethereal beauty of the spectacle is to view a video of last year's event.  Here's a good YouTube link:  From that video you can link to many others of the same event -- mesmerizing. 

The fourth bucket list item refers to the Fanzone here in Poznań, which I described in my previous blog post.  Robin and I have reveled in the infectious fan enthusiasm surrounding EURO 2012.  Poland, unfortunately, did not go through to the second round, but the young team acquitted themselves impressively.  The Fanzone continues to function here, but most of the international fans have moved on.  It was quite a week nevertheless as tens of thousands of fans, primarily from Ireland, Croatia and Italy, flocked to the city. 

Supporters of various EURO 2012 teams gather in the
Fanzone to watch a match.

In addition to the largest screen, smaller screens elsewhere
in the Fanzone permitted fans to be seated during the

Outside the Fanzone, many additional fans enjoyed the matches
and time between in the many outdoor cafes and bars,
especially in the Stary Rynek (Old Market Square).

The Fanzone included an enclosed VIP area.

Quite a few fans purchased the recyclable folding chairs --
the design that won the contest I reported on in an
earlier blog entry.


Report on the Weather and Upcoming Activities

As a final note, I know my friends back in Charlotte and elsewhere in the U.S. are enduring unusually hot temperatures.  I can assure you that is not the case here.  We've had just two or three days in the last three weeks that were genuinely pleasant.  For the past several days, for example, the temperature as seldom risen above the 50's (Fahrenheit), with a combination of steady rain, drizzle, mist, or simply bleak grayness.  Here's hoping for a significant improvement in the days ahead.

In a couple weeks, we will travel to Lake Bled, Slovenia, to attend BledCom 2012 (, among the most important annual public relations conferences.  I will serve on a panel during the symposium along with my colleague Dr. Ryszard Ławniczak of the Poznań University of Econonomics.  Many Europeans say Lake Bled is the most beautiful spot in all Europe. 

Later in July, we will travel for several days to Gdańsk, Poland, on the Baltic Sea.  We will be meeting, at least for one day, one of my childhood friends (who happens to be of Polish descent) and his wife as they stop in Gdańsk during a Baltic cruise. 

In the meantime, I will be working diligently on the reports for our research partner companies as we are slated to present our reports formally to company leaders within the next two weeks.

That brings you up to date.  Please leave your comments on my blog below -- I very much appreciate hearing from you.  Dziękuję i do widzenia!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Data Gathering Complete

Research Project Reaches Milepost

The past three weeks have flown by for a variety of reasons.  I'm pleased to report that Jacek, Martyna and I have completed the data gathering process here in Poznań.  We have conducted six focus groups, three each at two companies in the Poznań area that agreed to partner with us in the project.  The focus groups yielded a rich trove of qualitative data that is assisting us immensely in preparing our analysis and recommendation reports for each of the two companies.  Each focus group included at least 10 employees, and each focus group was comprised of participants from different segments of the workforce.  Discussion was lively and highly useful, reflecting the leadership skill of my Polish research team colleagues as well as the eagerness of employees of the two companies to contribute to constructive improvements in communication structures and procedures.

With each of the companies, we followed the focus groups with a 9-page employee survey.  Despite its dauntning length, employees were quite cooperative, and the respective HR departments were fully supportive of our effort.  Consequently, we collected 1,140 completed surveys -- an extraordinarily high number for a research project of this nature.  It gives us a high degree of confidence that our results will be meaningful and valid.  We are now in the process of entering the data from the paper-and-pencil surveys into Excel spreadsheets.  Each survey contains 103 individual items, so I've calculated that we will have entered nearly 140,000 data points when we're finished!  I will send completed spreadsheets electronically to colleagues Dr. Jaehee Cho and graduate assistant Nick Woods at my home university, UNC Charlotte.  From the spreadsheets, data will be transferred to two statistical analysis software programs (SPSS and AMOS) for thorough "crunching."  The results, I think, will provide grist for several significant research papers in the coming months.

Events in Warsaw

During the week of May 20, I traveled on two days to Warsaw and back -- roughly three hours by train each way.  On Wednesday, my purpose was to present a guest lecture at the University of Warsaw's School of Journalism and Political Science.  My lecture was at the invitation of Dr. Jerzey Olędzki, a leading figure in European public relations scholarship.  More than 50 students attended my presentation on the emerging functions and roles of public relations within the context of evolving social, political, economic and cultural contexts.  The students were, as always, attentive and engaging.  These opportunities to exchange ideas with the great students here has been a great joy of this Fulbright experience.

Following my lecture, I was interviewed by a journalist who maintains a blog on public relations in Poland and by a reporter for the university's television station.  Here's a link to the video clip:

Freitag is interviewed for the University of Warsaw
television station following his guest lecture.

On Friday, I returned to Warsaw for two events.  The first was a Fulbright recognition reception at the home of U.S. Ambassador to Poland Lee Feinstein.  It was clear the ambassador is a staunch supporter of the Fulbright scholar exchange program, evidenced by his hosting of about 50 Fulbrighters for the 2-hour event.  Fulbrighters present included U.S. scholars like me who are about to complete their appointments to Poland, as well as U.S. students completing Fulbright appointments as teaching assistants or to conduct research related to their theses or dissertations.  The majority of Fulbrighters, though, were those Polish students and scholars about to embark on appointments to U.S. universities and colleges.  Ambassador Feinstein, assisted by members of the Polish Fulbright Commission and its Board of Directors, acknowledged each Fulbrighter individually, presenting certificates to each.  Lunch and informal discussion followed the ceremony.  The second event was a meeting of U.S. Fulbrighters at the offices of the Polish Fulbright Commission.  It was the last meeting for those of us who have served here in Poland during this academic year.

Ambassador Feinstein (at lectern) addresses Fulbrighters
at his residence in Warsaw.  Members of the Polish Fulbright
Commission and its Board of Directors are to the Ambassador's

Polish and U.S. Fulbrighters enjoy informal conversation
following the official remarks and presentation of

Seasonal Progress in Poznań

The calendar says June, but the weather in Poznań the past week simply does not correlate with the month.  Today (June 4), we have slate gray skies, temperatures peaking in the 50s and a chilly, light rain.  Good for the asparagus I suppose, but not the pleasant early summer weather we were all hoping for.  Still, my wife, Robin, and I continue to delight in our time here.  It has been an interesting experience -- living in a 600 sq.ft. apartment and not having a vehicle.  That probably sounds like a challenge to U.S. readers, and it is.  But you know what?  It's just fine.  Even having only a dormitory-size refrigerator and a toaster oven to complement the cooktop is a situation we have found perfectly workable.  The heat to our apartment building was turned off effective May 1, and we have no air conditioning should the temperatures reach that level, but we're coping comfortably.  It's been interesting to see how simply we can live.

For example, not having a vehicle for our six months here has meant we have become highly skilled at the use of public transportation.  During our first weeks here, we were constantly referring to the city map to make the right connections.  These days, we know instinctively how to get where we're going and can even calculate the most efficient combination of buses and trams when there are options to consider.  Each week, we purchase a 7-day ticket for about $10 each -- good for all buses and trams in the Poznań area.  I never think about needing gas or finding a place to park -- there's a good deal of freedom in that.  I will miss that.

A Special Visit

For the past 10 days, Robin and I were blessed by having our daughter, Katie, and granddaughter, Alexis, visiting with us from Charlotte, North Carolina.  Even with a 600 sq.ft. apartment, and the space requirements of a 1-year-old just learning to walk, we had a fantastic time.  Katie's husband, Nathan, could not get the time off from work to join us as well, but that might have been something of a space squeeze even for veterans of European living.  This morning, we had to say goodbye to Katie and Alexis at the Poznań airport, but we will retain many wonderful memories of their visit. 

Robin and Alan introduce 1-year-old granddaughter, Alexis,
to the beauties of Poznań.  This was taken during a recent
warm day at Malta Lake, just a 15-minute tram ride from
our apartment. 

The Cool Students at the Poznań University of Economics

I'm pleased to share a video link with you that illustrates why I so much enjoy my interaction with the students at my host university here in Poland.  The video shows students who are about to complete the last term of the last year of their master's degree program here.  They have reported to the lecture hall to take the last scheduled exam for their degree.  Their enthusiastic performance is a plea to the professor to cancel the exam.  They have woven in the theme of Euro 2012, the European soccer championship tournament that begins this week, with several matches scheduled for here in Poznań.  The song the students sing is the Euro 2012 theme song, with lyrics changed to reflect their hope that the professor will agree to their proposal.  I'm afraid I don't know how it came out.  Watch the video, and perhaps you'll start to appreciate what I say about the incredible spirit I find here in Poland.  Here's the link:

The Weeks Ahead

My attention for the coming weeks will be focused on completing the reports for the two companies that partnered with us on the employee communication research project.  The aim is to complete and formally present the reports to each company by the end of June.  We're on track, so I'm optimistic. 

As always, thanks for reading, and do widzenia!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Research Gets Underway

At Last -- Data Coming In!

Yesterday, graduate assistant Martyna Dziubek, Dr. Jacek Trębecki and I traveled to our first partner company in Poland to begin gathering data for our research project on employee communication.  Two focus groups (one in Polish, one in English) moderated by Martyna and monitored by Dr. Trębecki, plus the administration of a pre-test of the survey instrument, marked the beginning of an ambitious schedule of data collection in the next 3-4 weeks.  We will return to this first company on Friday and again on Tuesday for one more focus group and to conduct a survey of the nearly 300 employees (must cover all three shifts). 

We maintain as confidential the identity of our partner companies, but I can say this first partner is an industrial manufacturer about 1 1/2-hour's drive from Poznań.  It's representative of the Polish economic profile.  At its core, it's a factory, but the tour we took of the plant revealed it to be a high-tech operation.  Raw materials are turned into finished product with incredible efficiency by highly complex, automated machines.  Operating and monitoring those machines is a technically skilled workforce using touch-screen computers to control the intricate processes.  With just under 300 employees now, the manager expects to grow to 350 by the end of the year.  Within two years, he predicts the plant will quadruple its current output.  The challenge, he says, is recruiting and retaining qualified employees.  He already operates an ambitous training program because workers with the exact skills he needs are very difficult to find; he says the general approach is to hire workers with related skills, then re-equip them through comprehensive training to fill the positions he needs. 

Also reflective of Poland's economic health was the trip to the partner company: First, there was the struggle through traffic to get out of the city, then a swift journey on a new and well-designed expressway.  Finally, a 20-minute ride on a pleasant country highway, past family-owned farms with workers busy seeing to spring duties.  These aspects represent several components of Poland's approach.  The highways demonstrate the commitment to the development of infrastructure.  The traffic in the city represents the challenges of a growing economy within the constrictions of established patterns.  The family farms represent a retention of individual enterprise and quality food products.  The company itself, set in a planned industrial park in a picturesque small town on a lovely river, typifies modest but muscular industrial growth.  It's a very encouraging tableau. 

Even with the preliminary data we acquired yesterday, we're beginning to see patterns that suggest a profile of communication issues that will require exploring.  For example, this is a foreign-owned company, so some management team members are from the headquarters country.  As a result, there are obvious cultural differences to deal with such as language and customs, but there are important, more subtle cultural differences emerging such as perceptions of the decision-making process.  I think the research approach we've taken -- surveys for generalizable quantitative data and focus groups for context and narrative -- will serve us well.  I'm confident we're going to provide useful advice and counsel to our partner companies, and we'll add to our understanding of employee communication dynamics in Central and Eastern Europe.

Holiday Week

Last week included two national holidays, so many Poles turned it into an entire week.  The weather cooperated magnificently, so I took a bit of time as well to visit a couple nearby parks.  This is one of the best aspects of our time here -- we don't have a car, but a few minutes' walk to a tram line can quickly lead to some of the most beautiful city parks I've seen anywhere.  One is Malta Lake, just a 10-minute tram ride away.  Robin and I rented bicycles from a lakeside vendor and circumnavigated the lake -- about 5 km.  We also followed paths that lead into adjacent woods and more park amenities.  Here are some photos:

A bit hard to see, but there are two "skullers" rowing on the lake.
Malta Lake is the scene for many international rowing

In the foreground, a dog enjoys a dip on a warm day.

Visible in the background is a nearby amusement park.
There are also a number of restaurants, snack vendors,
paddleboat rental shops, rides and more.

A water park offers indoor and outdoor pools, saunas,
slides and other features.  On this beautiful day, the
outdoor pool was popular.

Skullers get ready to put into the lake.

Yes, the old man can still ride.  And yes, I know it's
a girl's bike. 
 A 15-minute tram ride in the opposite direction, to the west side of the city, takes us to a long, meandering park with abundant hiking trails, pleasant benches for reading or gazing, ponds, a stream, a large lake, and a few cafes.  This is a great spot for an evening stroll.

A popular area for cyclists.

Could it be any more perfect?

A popular pastime about anywhere.

A sight I must share is this now rare automobile I spotted recently.  It's a Trabant, or "Trabi" for short.  Before the end of the Cold War, this East German-built car was common in this part of Europe.  Read all about them here:  I was with NATO in Belgium during the first years after the Wall came down (1990-'93), and I recall the highways in western Germany being flooded with Trabis after re-unification on October 1, 1990.  Trabis were not the most mechanically reliable vehicle, to put it delicately, and they rapidly faded from the scene.  So this rare sighting is worth reporting.  It was parked just a few streets from our apartment.

The Trabi, icon of the former times.
Finally, I left readers with this puzzler last time: What are those green spheres visible in the winter trees in the photo below?

What are the mysterious spheres that remain green through
the winter?  That's mistletoe.

Mistletoe, you may be surprised to know, is not a plastic Christmas decoration, but rather a parasitic plant that attaches itself to host trees, sinking its roots into the bark.  It doesn't kill the tree, but does contribute to its poor health. 

That's it for today.  Dziękuję for reading the blog, i do widzenia!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Midway Update

On May 1, I will have been here in Poznań for three months of my 6-month fellowship -- the midway point.  I'm not as far along with my research project as I'd hoped, but we've made good progress in the last couple weeks, with the coming few weeks likely to be quite busy with project activities.  In recent days, I've had several events worth reporting, and I will add a few peripheral updates as well.  Let me start with my efforts to learn Polish.

The Polish Language

I very much enjoy acquiring new language skills, and learning Polish has been a delight, but it's also a great challenge.  I continue to take three hours of formal class lessons each week, and I study on my own as well.  Polish is a beautiful language, and I love hearing it spoken.  Increasingly, I'm able to capture the gist of conversations, television programs, and other sources.  My vocabulary is expanding, but correct usage is extremely difficult.  Let me give you an example of why that is.  In the Polish language, nouns and adjectives can be used in seven distinct cases (nominative, accusative, genitive, instrumental, etc.).  Each case requires the memorization of word endings for both adjectives and nouns, and the changes can be significant.  Additionally, nouns can be feminine, masculine or neuter in their endings, and that affects endings in each of the seven cases.  Moreover, endings vary for singular and plural usage.  To complicate it further, masculine noun endings (and their accompanying adjectives) differ depending on whether the noun refers to an animate or inanimate object in some cases.  And, naturally, there are exceptions.  You can understand why, even with a Ph.D., I still quake before each Polish exam!  Nevertheless, I'm doing alright and can usually make myself understood in everyday situations. 

Meeting with the Rektor and Prorektor

Last Tuesday, thanks to a request from my colleague Dr. Ryszard Ławniczak here, I met with the rektor and prorektor of the Poznań University of Economics (equivalent to chancellor and vice-chancellor at my home university, UNC Charlotte).  Both spoke impeccable English, but appreciated my limited efforts in Polish.  They were most warm in their welcome to me and stressed how much they respect and appreciate the Fulbright program that brought me here.  Both gentlemen are economic scholars and were among the group of economists in Poland who successfully navigated and led the transition from a centrally-planned to a market economy; they truly are among the architects of contemporary Poland.  On behalf of UNC Chancellor Phil Dubois and the UNC Charlotte Office of International Program, I was able to present UNC Charlotte mementos to Rektor Dr. Marian Gorynia and Prorektor Dr. Maciej Żukowski, and they reciprocated.

Dr. Żukowski, Dr. Freitag, Dr. Gorynia and Dr. Ławniczak

Exchanging gifts with Poznań University of Economics Rektor
Dr. Marian Gorynia
Graduate PR Seminar

Also on Tuesday, I met for two hours in a formal seminar with graduate PR students here at the univerisity.  I spoke on the roles of functions of PR in the U.S. and the similarities and differences between U.S. and Polish practice.  I also discussed emerging trends and responsibilities for PR such as public diplomacy, crisis communication, issues management, development communication and corporate social responsibility.  The students challenged me with some thoughtful questions and clearly have a deep understanding of the nuances and subtleties of contemporary PR practice as well as an appreciation for its theoretical underpinnings.  Following the evening seminar, the students kindly invited me to join them for pizza and a beverage at one of the many nearby cozy restaurants, and I could hardly refuse -- a most enjoyable way to conclude!

Graduate PR students invited me for an informal continuation
of our seminar discussion.

EURO 2012 News Conference

Yesterday, my colleague Dr. Jacek Trębecki invited me to attend and observe a news conference related to the upcoming EURO 2012 events.  Poznań will host several matches in Europe's football (soccer for U.S. readers) championship.  Here are websites where you can learn more about this important event for Poznań:;  Poznań will host early round games involving Croatia, Ireland and Italy in mid-June.  The news conference was held to announce the winner of a contest to design a chair, made from recyclable cardboard, to be used in Poznań's "Fan Zone" -- a free, large-screen video viewing area in the heart of the city.  The event was well-planned and conducted, attracting about 20 local and regional media representatives.  Held in a popular Poznań disco that was once a small factory, the setting was well chosen and prepared.  A display of entries provided an appropriate backdrop, and the participation of the captain of Poznań's professional football team added celebrity status.  Later last evening, and again early this morning, I was able to watch coverage of the event on television news programs.

Media representatives await the announcement of the
competition winner.

The winning entry (on the left) is announced.  The simple
design is highly portable, folds flat and easily supports
an adult, as the Poznań football team captain (2nd from
left) demonstrated a moment later.

A display of some of the other entries.

Journalists were able to conduct individual interviews with
winning designers following the formal news conference.

Dr. Jacek Trębecki and his staff with PRElite, his PR firm,
can relax a bit following the successful news conference
they helped plan and conduct.

Spring has Firmly Arrived!

The weather the last few days has been gorgeous, and the forecast is for more of the same.  That's great, because next week marks two of the most important holidays in the Polish year.  Tuesday, May 1, is Labor Day, and Thursday, May 3, is Constitution Day.  Consequently, many Poles will make the entire week a holiday break.  The trees are leafing out, tulips are in full bloom all over the city, and the many city fountains have been turned on.  At the same time, crews appear to be working all over the city, repairing and sprucing up the city in anticipation of the huge influx of people expected in June for the EURO 2012 matches.  The frigid temperatures of February seem a distant memory, and the promise of a lush late spring and summer is being realized.

In Park Cytadela, near our apartment, people have returned
to enjoy the sunshine.  That's a skate and skateboard area
in the distance.

Just like anywhere else, parents enjoy introducing their
children to the park swing, and they proudly snap photos.

Robin in the cafe/restaurant in the center of Park Cytadela.

Workers laying sod on one of the many park-like boulevards
in Poznań.  Renewal efforts are going on everywhere in
the city in anticipation of EURO 2012 visitors.

A Puzzler

I'll leave you with this puzzle to solve.  Before the trees leafed out this spring, visible in many of the trees were spheres of green as you'll see in the photo below.  The material remained green throughout the winter.  Can you guess what it is?  I'll reveal the explanation in my next post.

What are these mysterious green spheres that appeared
throughout the winter in the otherwise bare trees?

That's it for today.  Thanks for reading.  Until next time -- do widzenia!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Research Project Update

Progress -- At Last!

Our research project to examine and profile employee communication characteristics in Poland has experienced significant and unexpected delays.  I like to say, though, that "no data" is data.  In this case, we're learning about employee communication here through the sometimes frustrating efforts we've experienced so far.  Our original hope was to conduct focus groups and a comprehensive employee survey at three companies in Poland -- one each in March, April and May.  It appears that March and April will end with none of those activities having occurred.  However, we have a firm schedule to gather data at our first location during the week of May 7, with two more data collection efforts to follow closely thereafter.  It appears, then, that we will complete data collection by the end of May as hoped, but in a more compressed fashion than originally planned.

When I say "no data" is data, I mean that we can learn something even from missing data.  In this case, we've encountered an unexpected reluctance on the part of companies we've approached.  The idea of examining their employee communication structures and procedures and gauging the effect of those factors on employee job satisfaction gives managers pause.  In my review of literature on the Polish culture and character, I learned that there is a tendency here of wariness toward outsiders, though there's also a counterbalancing openness to the values of Western Europe and the U.S.  Additionally, there is less of a leaning toward individualism here (individualism is the hallmark of U.S. culture), so decisions are made in a much more deliberative manner; when we approach a single company manager to propose our project, we should not have expected an immediate, positive response.  Instead, decisions are often elevated to the next higher level and deliberated at length.  Poles, the literature says, are also somewhat risk-averse, so the idea of dissecting employee communication, perhaps uncovering problem areas, is not something always actively sought. 

Another phenomenon we've discovered is that many firms, even those of considerable size, lack a formal public relations department.  When PR is required in those cases, it is contracted through a PR firm, and the function is often viewed as limited to marketing, publicity and media relations.  Companies that have been willing to discuss this project with us further invariably refer us to the director of human resources; HR, it would seem, is viewed as responsible for employee communication. 

In this respect, these first two months have been illuminating even in their disappointment.  Now, though, I'm pleased to say we have secured partners willing, even eager to move forward with the project.  Last Tuesday, graduate assistant Martyna Dziubek and I met with the HR director for the firm where we will soon collect our first data set.  The HR director was refreshingly and impressively familiar with the nature of employee communication research and fully understood even the subtleties behind our research design.  She clearly recognizes the valuable insights this project will provide, and we're confident she will take seriously our resulting report and recommendations.  Ultimately, I expect the research will contribute to increased employee morale, commitment, trust and productivity.  These qualities then positivley affect profitability, organizational reputation and long-term success.

Upcoming Events

Today in Charlotte, Dr. Jaehee Cho and graduate assistant Nick Woods of our research team are presenting a "work in progress" paper on our research project for the Center for Global Public Relations "Global Research Conference."  For PR practitioners and scholars reading this post, I hope you will consider adding this annual conference to your agenda in the coming years.  It has quickly become one of the premiere events in the field of global public relations.  April is a great time to visit Charlotte as well!  Here's a link for more information on the conference and the Center for Global Public Relations:

I've established relationships with a number of the great undergraduate and graduate students here and will be meeting with several of them in the coming days to discuss their theses and other projects.  I've been doing this for some time now, and it really has been one of the joys of this experience.

On Monday, I will address the Erasmus Student Network Conference here at the Poznań University of Economics.  This is a group of students who have or are participating in the Erasmus education abroad program.  I will be talking on the fundamentals of contemporary PR practice and differences between practice in the U.S. and Poland. 

On Tuesday, Dr. Ryszard Ławniczak here has arranged for me to meet formally with the two rectors of the university -- the top two officers of the institution.  This is a great honor for me.  I will have the opportunity to describe our research project and especially to express my gratitude to them for hosting me here in Poznań at this great university. 

The week of Apr. 30 - May 4 is marked by two national holidays, so I'm told not to expect to accomplish anything on our research project that week.  That's OK, because I have three writing projects I've been working on, and that will give me a chance to wrap those up before data collection begins the following week.  Believe it or not, I also need to complete the syllabi for the classes I'll be teaching back at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in the fall.

Also looking ahead, I hope to present a brief talk on public relations' role in public art for an art-themed Fulbright Day in Wrocław, Poland, on May 10.  Then on Saturday, May 12, I'll be lecturing to students of Poznań's University of Communication and Management.  My topic then will be a profile of contemporary PR practice and its value in achieving organizational goals, as well as emerging trends and areas of responsibility for public relations. 

Parting Photos

Readers tell me they very much enjoy the photos I include in these posts, so I don't want to disappoint!  Here are a few new photos.

This is the Opera House, just a block from my university.
The flowers in the foregroud are panzies in their last days.
The pool and fountain are not yet operative, but I expect
that to occur shortly.  Weather has continued on the chilly
side, but temperatures are on the rise.  Switched from my
winter coat to a light jacket over a sweater since my last
post -- that's progress!

These are the buildings in Poznań that house the Museum of
Musical Instruments.  I spent an enjoyable hour there recently.

The museum houses a fascinating collection of mostly string,
keyboard and percussion instruments.  It has violins dating
to the 14th century.

Some items in the collection are highly unusual, like these
from India and Africa.

My Polish is still quite limited, and all the signs were only
in Polish, but I'm fairly sure this is a piano played on several
occasions in Poznań by Polish composer and pianist
Frederich Chopin.

I'm pleased to say I have officially "arrived!"  A few weeks
 ago, this sign was added to my office door.  Prof. Ryszard
Ławniczak, whose kind invitation led to my Fulbright fellowship,
is not teaching this semester, so I'm occupying his office.
 Thanks for reading, and do widzenia!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Easter in Poland

While much of the U.S. enjoyed a mild winter and an unusually warm spring so far, Poland and much of Europe have remained chilly, and this follows a brutally frigid February.  March provided about a week of spring-like temperatures, but we've returned to a pattern characterized by overcast skies, low temperatures and stiff breezes.  Nevertheless, there are hopeful signs of emerging spring, and everyone here is most anxious to shed the winter coats and gloves.

Easter Celebrations

Easter is an extremely important period in Poland in keeping with its rich Catholic heritage and the strong tradition of faith that defines and shapes its culture.  The two central focuses at this season are church and family.  The many churches in Poznan, overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, offer multiple services/masses on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and, of course, Easter Sunday.  Additionally, concerts of sacred music occur in many places of worship and other venues throughout the season.  On Easter Saturday, people here in Poznan and elsewhere in Poland visit their churhes, bringing baskets of items representing food they will serve at family gatherings on Sunday.  Each item in the basket -- sausage, bread, juice, eggs, and other items -- symbolizes some aspect of Jesus' death and resurrection.  Families bring these baskets to the priests to be blessed in preparation for the meal the following day. 

A family arrives at the local church with its basket of food
to be blessed by their priest.

After the baskets are blessed, families return home to begin
preparation of festive meals that will be shared with
extended family members on Easter Sunday.
Since our arrival here in Poznan, Robin and I have particpated actively in a very interesting English-speaking congregation that meets Sunday mornings in one of the top hotels in the city (the manager, a German, is a member of the congregation).  The Poznan International Church (  is sponsored by a U.S.-based mission board as well as a Polish sister congregation.  Its primary focus is the extensive population of international students who come to Poznan for its excellent medical, dental, business and other universities.  Foreign business people working in Poland also constitute a segment of the congregation.  Poles seeking a more contemporary worship service also participate.  Consequently, a Sunday morning worship service with 75 people attending will likely represent 20-25 countries.  It is truly an amazing experience, and we've made some wonderful new friends with extraordinary backgrounds through our association with the church.  For example, we have enjoyed getting to know our first acquaintance from Turkmenistan!  We all have our faith in common, so cultural and other potential barriers quickly melt away.  Even the praise band, mostly medical students, represents several countries and continents.   
On Easter Sunday, members and visitors of the Poznan
International Church gather in a hotel conference room
for worship.  Families and individuals come from a host
 of countries and represent North America, South America,
Asia and Europe.

An international praise band, primarily medical students, leads
 the congregation in song.

Our Good Friday evening service was a combined event with our sponsoring Polish congregation.  Praise songs and prayers were bi-lingual, and the Polish pastor brought the evening's message, with a young Polish student providing the English translation.  On Easter Sunday afternoon, one of the families in church -- from India -- invited the congregation to a celebratory dinner at their home.  Around 40 people accepted the gracious invitation, each bringing a tasty dish to contribute to the sumptuous table.  With so many nations represented, you can imagine the variety of dishes. 
Church members from a host of nations mingle during the
Easter gathering at the home of one of the member families.

The hosts' daughter offers appetizers to the guests.
Not only were many countries represented, but all age groups
as well!

My wife, Robin (right), preparing a salad while visiting
with our new friend from Turkmenistan.
Other Signs of Spring

Despite cool temperatures, there are indications that we will soon turn the page.  A few days have brought some relief from the chill, and people here seize those opportunities. 

Some of the city's fountains have been turned back on after
a hard winter.  This one is in the Stary Rynek.

Youngsters, eager for better weather, have returned to the
playgrounds.  Interest in soccer, always the dominant sport
here, has become even more feverish as Poznan prepares
to host early matches of Euro 2012.
Grass is beginning to green, and the trees are on the verge
of leafing out.

On one recent pleasant day, Robin and I walked to the Stary Rynek (old market square) to view the striking of noon on the tower clock.  Each day at that time here in Poznan, a bugler stands on the tower balcony and sounds a plaintiff tune.  As the clock strikes, two mechanical goats emerge from the tower and butt each other 12 times before retreating.  This day was warm enough that a small crowd gathered, and I took a short video of the event, but I have not solved the technical barriers to adding a video clip to this blog -- still working it out.  In the meantime, here's a link to a shore YouTube video of the goats:  Incidentally, there are a fair number of nice videos of Poznan on YouTube; there's a link to one on a tab at the top of this blog.
Next week -- an update on our research project and related activities.

Do widzenia!