Last year, Foresight marked 20 years of operations in strategic communications advisory in the private and public sectors. As the company moves boldly into its third decade, Founder and CEO Alexandros Costopoulos talks to T.C. Lowrie about the changing impact of communications, the role of reputation, and his hopes for the future.
First things first. Foresight has recently marked two decades of successful operations in Greece and the broader region. Tell us a bit about the company’s background.
Foresight’s story began in 1998 in Washington DC. Our idea was to combine international experience, expertise and tactical thinking with strategic insights and key intelligence analysis to support private and public organizations, corporations and NGOs in the broader region of Southeast Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean. Since day one, the goal has been to deliver real and substantial solutions that enhance our clients’ ability to maneuver effectively in today’s highly volatile environment.
With over twenty years in business, we have developed strong expertise in effectively interfacing with decisionmakers and opinion shapers in order to achieve the desired attitudes and perceptions toward our clients and their objectives. We have built a reputation for developing client-specific strategies and tactics in areas such as public affairs, reputation management, lobbying, and civil society engagement.
Reputation has become a critical element in safeguarding gravitas and credibility, enhancing influence and advancing prospects
At the same time, our deep understanding and expertise of Washington’s playbook and dynamics—having worked for many years with key public and private institutions and organizations on the other side of the Atlantic—allows us to offer our clients sophisticated political assessments and access to power centers that can empower their endeavors in Washington DC and across the United States.
Indicatively, can you give us some examples of programs that you have worked on?
Strategies we’ve developed have been used in efforts to restore the international credibility of Greece, confront sensitive issues such as anti-Americanism, empower entrepreneurship and investment potential in Cyprus and Serbia, strengthen the international economic relations of Ukraine, and develop entrepreneurship empowerment programs that propelled economies and repowered societies.
I am proud that Foresight has been trusted by leading corporations, institutions and esteemed C-suite executives from the United States, Europe and Greece, whether to launch a policy or an initiative, create a public awareness campaign, engage in new markets, or confront an issue.
New tech and new platforms are driving rapid changes in communications. Looking at strategic communications today compared to twenty years ago, what do you find are some of the key differences?
The main shift has been in the direction of communication. In the past, communication was largely top-down and one way. It was well-written and polished, but it was more of an interruption than a conversation. The pyramid of influence with elites at the top and mass audiences at the bottom is a thing of the past. Strategic communications today is about credibility and spontaneity. Today, technological advances and changes in the way people behave are reshaping communication to something closer to what we’ve always pursued: horizontal genuine conversations that are built on authenticity and trust while reflecting real-life actions and issues.
As a veteran communications strategist, what are your thoughts on the importance of reputation?
It is clear today, that communication has acquired a dominant role in our lives with a profound impact on our ability to navigate our vision through government and regulatory policies, political costs, public concerns, conflicted special interests, and immense economic challenges. Traditional patterns have been eradicated, wide advances in technology have dramatically shifted how we think, act and communicate, and a new culture of highly engaging audiences has emerged along with a constant barrage of information and misinformation across channels.
Strategic communications today is about trust and Authenticity
In such a unique environment, and across the spectrum of companies, brands, organizations and individuals (whether C-suite executives, politicians or public figures), reputation has become a critical element in safeguarding gravitas and credibility, enhancing influence and advancing prospects.
What are some of the main pitfalls of this rapidly changing communications landscape?
I would say that the biggest pitfall has been the collapse of credibility and the unconditional surrender to the social media charge. We have reached a point where critical thinking is crucial in order to tackle the ability of anyone with a photo editing app and a smartphone to misinform and manipulate public opinion in a snap, sometimes even unintentionally.
We have the tools to reframe the conversation about Greece, capitalize on all our advantages and forge a renewed role, geopolitically and economically
Social media and self-publishing platforms, along with various other digital tools, are an amazingly positive evolution in communication, allowing new opportunities for creativity, collaboration and engagement beyond borders or other barriers. AI is rapidly bringing even more advancements that will redefine the way we work, learn and think. It is therefore imperative to apply much needed safety barriers that will protect these remarkable advancements from the rapidly prevailing democratization of misinformation that creates a chaotic new arena of constant fighting for the truth and common sense.
Foresight is one of the region’s key players in strategic communications, particularly in its expertise on all things Greece. As the country leaves behind the dark period of economic recession and works to reposition itself on the world stage, are you hopeful for what lies ahead?
I am positive that we can do better if we leave behind obsolete ideas and embrace a new mindset. We’ve had more than enough inspiration, and we certainly have the narrative to rebuild our credibility and work our way out of this crisis. Now we must realize that we exist and compete in a global arena; whether we seek investments, tourists, clients or buyers for our products, our target audience will judge our expertise, reliability and results vis-à-vis many other alternatives. We have the tools to reframe the conversation about Greece, capitalize on all our advantages, invest boldly on our talents and potential, reach out to our friends, partners, philhellenes and diaspora all over the globe, and forge a renewed role, geopolitically and economically. It is time to move forward with action.