Turkey Is Flying High

Zehra Güngör was elected President of the International Public Relations Association (IPRA) last year. We spoke with her recently about her upcoming term of office and recognition of Turkey in the international arena.

Can you tell us briefly about the IPRA?
The IPRA is an association that was founded in 1955 by professionals and academics working in the field of public relations all over the world. It is an international network today with close to a thousand members from 100 countries. Betul Mardin and Ceyda Aydede were president of the association before me. The only countries outside of Turkey that have produced presidents are the U.S., the UK and France. This is an indicator of how advanced Turkey is in the field of public relations after the countries that were the architects of it.

What does the presidency mean for you and for Turkey?

I will be the fiftieth president of the 60-year-old IPRA. It is a great honor for me. I have been an officer in the IPRA for eight years. For the last four years I have been a member of the board of directors. But my being elected president of the IPRA is as important for the country of which I am a citizen as it is for me personally. Not only am I there as someone representing my country, the 50th president of a enormous world organization is also going to be from Turkey!

How would you assess Turkey’s position in the world in terms of public relations?
If we look at it from the point of view of the economy and the investments being made in Turkey, then Turkey is flying high at the moment. It is producing international brands, and Turkish Airlines is one of them. Istanbul is a brand in and of itself.

Has Istanbul reached the point  where it is today as the result of a  specific strategy?
Istanbul has a natural infrastructure. On top of that, the international brands that have invested in the tourism and hotel business have attracted more cultured and moneyed visitors to the city. When they come here, they want to dine and be entertained at very good places. There are restaurants and entertainment venues in Istanbul that are way above world standards. Perhaps there are similar places all over the world, but there is something different in Istanbul. Istanbul is a tolerant city. There’s room for everybody here. Above all else there is the Bosphorus. And when you add investment to so much beauty and opportunity, Istanbul becomes a world city.

In addition to all those things,  is there another aspect that further strengthens Istanbul?
Foreign tourists coming to Istanbul want to tour more museums and go to concerts by internationally known artists. I know, for example, people who come running to Istanbul for the Istanbul Music Festival mounted by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV). But even though İKSV events are listed on world art and culture calendars, it is essential to create even more brands in this area. Turkey is a country that has produced brand names in many fields.  

Turkey has really come to the fore in sports too in recent years. Do you think there’s a possibility the 2020 Olympics will be held in Istanbul?
It is said to be a strong candidate, but nothing will be certain until the last moment. A lot more attention has to be given to PR abroad for the Olympics to be held in Turkey. As a European city, Madrid is Istanbul’s main competitor. It could take some of the European delegates’ votes away from Istanbul. From that standpoint, it is essential that Turkey work hard on the issue in Europe especially and get the upper hand over Madrid.

Let’s say Istanbul gets the 2020 Olympics…
It would have to work very hard. If Istanbul gets the 2020 Olympics, that will be a very important step in terms of promoting Turkey internationally. It would significantly increase Turkey’s potential over the next seven years.

During our chat with Zehra Güngör she pointed out that Turkish Airlines is one of the most prominent trademarks Turkey has produced and said that if Turkish Airlines flies to the destination where she is going, she definitely chooses it  for her travels.

A true traveler, Zehra Güngör has visited 77 countries to date. Among her favorite souvenirs of places she has gone are bookmarks and masks. Güngör has upwards of ten thousand bookmarks and close to a hundred masks.

Zehra Güngör received many letters of congratulation when she was elected President of the IPRA for 2014, but three of them are very special to her, she says. The congratulations she received from Rahmi Koç, from European Union Minister and Chief Negotiator Egemen Bağış, and from Istanbul MP Faik Tunay made Güngör especially happy.