Ever wondered who was behind the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service’s hilarious updates aimed at tourists? Meet Jadran and Christian!
On the 16th of August, 2017, the popular Dubrovnik local publication DuList caught up with Christian Nikolic and Jadran Kapovic, the PR wizards behind the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service’s sarcastic, endlessly witty social media posts. Christian is from Kula Norinska (Metkovic), and currently resides in Stubica, and Jadran is from Opuzen.
Every one of your posts is eagerly awaited. Let us know, for starters, how do you come up with the hashtags that bring such smiles to the faces of both locals and tourists?
We are constantly following social events and stuff that is happening, and some things can be [already] assumed. Let’s say, judging from experiences throughout the past few years, we can assume that many people will dehydrate, that someone will get stuck on a mountain, etc, that’s how it is with our guests. We came up with the #deartourists campaign to send as much information as possible out to the widest number of people. The rest is either spontaneous or simple – us two talk, think what comes to our minds, send it to the Commission for selection and then decide whether to send it out as a message or not.
As we talk right now, there are several search and rescue operations going on. Is the situation with search and rescue worse this year, or?
We’ve had a few very serious incidents and, while we’re talking, there are several searches in progress. Honestly, it seems to us that this is not a much worse year or season, it’s just that such things didn’t used to be the subject of media coverage as much as they are today. There are two reasons – a lot more in general has been going to the media, and not just regarding our communication. Everyone has smartphones where in just a few minutes, their message goes off ”into the wild”. The fact is that more and more people are coming to Croatia and more and more of them have the money to buy different types of equipment. They think that if they’re are fully trained in alpinistic things, that they can just go where they want.
Christian, you used to work in an advertising agency – How much does that help in spreading this type of communication?
Yes, since I’ve been with HGSS, I’ve been interested in communication with the media and the public and how to go about it. In fact, we found out that people weren’t even visiting our website! We do a great job, and no one knows about it. People don’t even know that we’re volunteers, nor how many of us there are, nothing about us, and we have a website and we think, well that’s it. In the end it turned out that the only ones who visited our website were journalists, who had absolutely nothing to write about to be able to complete a daily report. That’s real! We’ve probably found the best channel, and the best way to communicate what we really want to say to go out [to the masses].
And the idea just came to you, or?
The idea didn’t just suddenly come to us. Six or seven years ago, we started to analyse things and see how we could communicate, and by what means. We got the ”green light” from the head of the board and the entire executive board who simply told us that it can ”do no harm”. We opened a Facebook account, a Twitter account and a YouTube channel. Through all three channels, we started communicating, and on the YouTube channel there are some very good recordings of old incidents and exercises. You have a snapshot of the real action. We put all of it out there purely to show people what we’re doing, because we’re funded from the state budget and local self-government, so we have to explain to people what is behind the story – volunteerism!
And so the modernisation began! In combination with humour you’ve created a great thing.
Humour is the best way to reach as many people as possible. There will always be someone who will go and climb Biokovo in flip-flops. The human brain is a weird thing, and the psyche is even weirder. We don’t know if that man in flip-flops is running away from his wife just for the sake of not listening to her, and we certainly can’t do anything about that, but what we can do is inform the public so that people can begin to understand how what we do is problematic. However, human stupidity is [like] a universal thing – unlimited. This can’t be prevented, but what we can honestly tell you is that we do not want to go into action, that is, if it means we’re going to be gone for two or three days. Not only that, the reason is that you have people working in companies who can’t get time off because their bosses won’t allow them to. It’s not easy for them, and if some roof fitter or plumber has to go somewhere to complete a search and rescue mission, it’s not that easy for him. We are volunteers and we want to help.
And yet the messages still go out…
Still. Our style of communication is natural. We grew up with Alan Ford and Monty Python, rock ‘n’ roll. So my way of communicating is like that, with colleagues and friends, there is also cynicism, but also the channelling of frustration. Humour keeps us together through all the actions. On the other hand, according to the rules of the profession – if we talk about public relations – the underlying thing is that when you communicate with someone you have to find a good channel and a good way of communication to do so, [good] language and for the message to be clear. We are people of sound, and we are recognised by our cynicism and black humour. We live in the country we live and when News Bar (satirical news site) becomes a reality… (laughter).
Nowadays, most people are non-stop present on the Internet, and information must be quick, easy and attract attention in some way or another. And in the sea of dry announcements and information, this is one of the ways to attract people’s attention and get a point across in each message. It’s not a matter of joking around, but we’re going to try somehow to get these important messages to people. If at least one man changed his perception of security in nature and security in general because of us, then we did a good job.
We, as tourists, when we go out, we’re going to know not to climb mountains in flip-flops, or…?
There are people who do have a brain and [even] use it, and then there are those who don’t use it. Both in and outside of Croatia. If I come to a country where this or that is forbidden and I’m going to do it, then it’s my arrogance. If you ride without a helmet at 200kmh, it is very likely that you will have an accident, namely, at that speed, if a bug flies into your head you’ll fall off the bike. Human stupidity is an infinite universe and just to show that we understand – our people do it [too]. But what tourists see here, we see every day. The divinity of our coast and the walls above the sea, and Sveti Ilija is actually like a wall above the sea, Biokovo, Velebit…
Actually, you have a lot of work because of the beauty of our country, but also the privilege of being, doing and volunteering in it?
That’s the beauty of our country. Yes, HGSS has this privilege, we are one of the few who really know the country completely. We’ve been all over. After all, I was also a volunteer during the Homeland War, I joined in with the defense of the country, and now in safe times I also help people. In HGSS there are a lot of Homeland War volunteers and veterans. We continue to help through this way.
As far as this [type of] work is concerned, Slavonia is not the same as Gorski Kotar, Lika… We have everything. When you travel through Croatia, from Ilok to Prevlaka, every six kilometers you have a different situation. And how then will you avoid one tourist coming and attempting Biokovo? Or a drunken young tourist who will come from Orebic and conclude that Korcula is right there [isn’t far away]. A pedalo to Brač?!
Translated from DuList.hr