INTERNATIONAL NEWS: Austria PR group counters effect of right-wing image

VIENNA: Hoping to inform outsiders of the current political climate in Austria as well as counteract the effects of recent European Union sanctions, the Austrian PR Society has launched a ’Keep in Touch’ PR push.

VIENNA: Hoping to inform outsiders of the current political climate in Austria as well as counteract the effects of recent European Union sanctions, the Austrian PR Society has launched a ’Keep in Touch’ PR push.

VIENNA: Hoping to inform outsiders of the current political climate

in Austria as well as counteract the effects of recent European Union

sanctions, the Austrian PR Society has launched a ’Keep in Touch’ PR

push.



The US, Israel and 14 EU countries individually decided to freeze

diplomatic relations with Austria earlier this year to protest the

inclusion of the far-right Freedom Party in the country’s newly elected

government. Freedom Party leader Jorg Haider has been widely criticized

for praising Third Reich labor policies and spewing anti-immigrant

rhetoric.



Criticism of the Austrian government has created problems for the

country’s companies and organizations, which have seen relationships

with partners abroad deteriorate.



’Austria has always had a good reputation, and many people here are

concerned with the sanctions,’ said Beate Steiner, president of the

Austrian PR Society. ’We want to show foreign politicians and

businessmen that not all Austrians are Haider supporters.’



The society developed the Keep in Touch site (www.keepintouch.at) in

English, French and German in order to be as far-reaching as

possible.



It offers a discussion forum, essays and an e-mail address for

questions.



’We felt it was important to keep the lines of communication open and

tell people that the sanctions are a political problem that will not

have an effect on industrial and other businesses here,’ Steiner

added.



Many Austrian communications groups - including the International

Advertising Association, PR Group Austria and VIKOM - have thrown their

weight behind the initiative, with members serving on the campaign’s

advisory board.



Because of budgetary constraints, however, the PR effort has not

extended much beyond the Web site.



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