Sunday, November 1, 2009

Charming countries revisited

My most popular post this year, at least in terms of generating comments, was one on whether countries can launch charm offensives. This surprised me, because I thought that the concept of overhauling a poor reputation through better comms was reasonably well established.

Instead, the idea that a national government can put its reputation in the hands of a PR agency sparked some interesting responses. None perhaps more succinct that Tom Crampton’s remark that, unless the country itself has a reputation worth communicating, any image campaign would amount to ‘lipstick on a pig’.

Building on the debate, I’ve put together a feature for PRWeek UK that looks at this issue in a little more depth. Reputation of a nation puts six ‘countries’ under the spotlight – UK, US, China, India, South Africa and Dubai. Each suffers various problems in terms of how reputation issues are hampering the pursuit of specific goals. For example, China’s well-documented product quality crises continues to dog perceptions of its critically important manufacturing sector.

Each country, I further feel, overcomes the ‘lipstick on a pig’ test. They are hardly pariah states; instead you can argue that the substance of reputational change is largely in place, but more sophisticated storytelling is perhaps required to effect a genuine shift. We did consider the example of Libya in the intro, but despite the country’s progress over the past 10 years, recent events call into question whether any change is more opportunistic than genuine.

We also called in comms experts from each country to run the rule over what kind of specific steps could be taken. Perhaps the biggest frustration is that we could only feature six examples because, quite honestly, there are a host of other countries that would be rather interesting to examine in this manner as well.




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