People in Germany with an immigrant background are often at a disadvantage in the job market. But at one mid-size public relations firm based in Cologne, multiculturalism is not a weakness but a strength.
The firm's employees have roots in 12 different countries
While Germany's growing population of first- and second generation immigrants is often the subject of tiring debates on integration and cultural pluralism, one Cologne-based public relations firm sees it as just another business opportunity.
Thomas Mueller founded "Die PR-Berater," or "The PR Consultants" in 2004, after he saw an untapped market in Germany's growing cultural diversity. He said he currently employs people with roots in Turkey, Greece, the Netherlands, Portugal, Japan, Korea, China, India, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.
"And of course there are our colleagues from Germany," he told Deutsche Welle. "I myself am a migrant from within Germany. I migrated here from the south, in Swabia."
Mueller said his firm serves two kinds of clients: foreign businesses looking to target German consumers, and German businesses with an interest in residents with non-German roots. Gonca Mucuk-Edis is currently working on one of the latter, a nationwide program to support projects in continuing education for immigrant workers.
Mucuk-Edis, right, said the immigrant market was small but growing
Bilingual and bicultural
Mucuk-Edis was born in Hessen, the daughter of one of many so-called "guest-workers" who came to Germany from Turkey for work. For that reason, she knows both the Turkish language and the cultural idiosyncrasies of Turkish media outlets.
"For example, when we send out a German press release to German media, we also send a fax response form," she said. "In about 80 percent of the cases we get an answer, and when we do, the representatives are almost always at the event we've invited them to. With Turkish-speaking media, maybe two percent of the media representatives give us an answer. But that doesn't mean they won't show up."
According to recent statistical data, about 19 percent of Germany's population of 82 million has a migrant background. Mucuk-Edis said although her firm's market is a minority, it remains largely untapped, and is therefore quickly growing.
"If you really want to cover a broad spectrum, it doesn't work anymore to just market to ethnic Germans," she said. "You're not reaching a large part of the population. And the question is: Can you, as a business with a message to send out, really afford to do that?"
When one visits the office of Die PR-Berater, it's not hard to notice that business is going well. Last year was the firm's most successful yet, and recently the agency moved into an elaborate 19th-century villa.
Mueller founded Die PR-Berater in 2004
But according to Mueller, multiculturalism is not just a business model - it's also a set of beliefs. During a highly controversial debate over the construction of a new mosque in Cologne, he provided pro-bono communication services for the builders.
And apart from business, he said his firm also provides a way for his employees to feel more at home in Germany.
"It's really nice for me to see, and I'm really proud of how the employees here develop a very strong confidence and personal identity," Mueller said. "When they've worked here for a half a year, they're much prouder of their double-identity and their double-roots. They enjoy the fact that their differentness, which elsewhere might be a hindrance, here is seen as an asset."
Author: Christian Siepmann (acb)
Editor: Rob Turner