Russian way of branding vs Soft Power

Does Russia has a Branding Strategy? The image of this powerful country in the common imaginary is rather clear and has little to do with what we see a Country Brand. Russia may have a plan to disseminate his ideas in the same way they used to several decades ago. They appear to be living in a new cold war, but in an asymmetric way: developed countries design their Branding Strategic Plans with common coordinates, but Russia has not been able to overcome the concept of propaganda.

If we flew back to the 60s, we would find no major differences in what Russia is doing today and what she did then. Only tools would essentially change.

We cannot forget the brutal social change that Russia had to face since 1989, forced to an almost one step evolution, without a process that allowed its population and structures to assimilate their new scenario.

We can conclude that Russia has no Brand in the terms of modern Branding; its propaganda has been working in a wrong place and when trying to act within its limits, they have failed. Their interference in others´ home affairs (US and France presidential elections, among others), their state-sponsored doping programme…, a way of acting in which traps are a fundamental weapon… together with its iron hand against the rights of gays… have not helped to soften its reputation in the world. We can say that Russia has a highly recognizable image, but not precisely a good one.

Related article: Professor Nye details Russia Information Warfare in this interesting article.


The impossible European brand

When the Malaysian plane was shot down in Ucraine, the European Union failed again to react as it had to. The EU has shown once more that it is not a real country, but an economic and little more meeting of 28.

The United States reacted immediately and Obama spoke loud and clear. Russia was the one to blame for the disaster and maybe there were too many crossed interests in Europe to allow Brussels to shout firmly with one single and unique voice.

While that silent was the only sound arising from the EU, the bodies of dozens of Dutchmen were received in Amsterdam. British Prime Minister was the one to take the EU voice and claim for exemplary actions against Russia. But that was a suspicious voice, in a time of European rivalries of the strongest towards the continental leadership.

This is the last sample of the lack of authority of the EU in the global context. Although the Lisbon Treaty tried to amend this strengthening the head with a new Presidency and created the position of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, nothing has effectively changed.

The result is European foreign policy keeps being the same. Too many different actors with too many different interests.

I can guess that Europe will not be able to shape its own brand, as there is not a shared and uniform reality. The lack of identity and character is enough to turn it in an impossible dream.


Obama, four years later

As any other one, by autumn 2007, I felt Hillary Clinton was the one to take the victory to become the Democrat candidate to the White House. Shortly after, I discovered Obama´s communication power.

Two years after that, he got a significant defeat in the Olympic nomination. Couldn’t anyone have warned him about the reasons that determine an IOC member´s vote? Anyway, as Chicago was the bidding city, he and Mrs Obama did not have any other chance. They had to. Otherwise, it would have been even worse.

Today, four years after his arrival to the top, I must confess I am disappointed, as far as I thought those brilliant communication skills meant a strong ability to deal with the world (yes, the whole world) in such difficult and delicate moment.

Things have changed a lot. Obama does not happen to be the mighty leader he seemed to be. Although he is, by far, the best communicator of all possible candidates, his oratorical skills have not been backed by a real management of the, overall, social situation.

And, for the last 3 months, my disappointment was daily fed receiving Obama´s tweets. Yes, I decided to follow him on twitter, in the hope I would follow an american presidential campaign and do it very close, even having the opportunity to take part from my mobile phone.

What I have been receiving are dozens of tweets like “donate even 5 dollars”, “donate and share a dinner with the President”,… No more persuading messages to keep me believing in his communication power.

I assume twitter is not the perfect stage to manage a convincing speech. And I also assume I am not American. Both assumptions must hide the reason I felt such disappointment.

US brand suffered a lot under George W. Bush. America was no longer admired as it has been for decades. And Obama meant a new air to recover that, both inside and outside the States.

Obama changed that bad perception in some months and America seemed to be back, meaning by America the Land of opportunities, Land of freedom, and the American Dream itself… Four years later, I miss that persuader that made everyone think things would be better. But he still has the advantage of his communication skills, by far the best of all those of American politicians. Just got to the starting point…


Speeches: Branding words

JFKSpeechAmong the multiple tools a country can use in her way to reach a solid brand, we find a particular one: official speeches. So different from most of the rest of the tools, speeches have a different role, a different moment, time, impact and, what is more remarkable, a different audience. But they play both home and away.

Branding with language, impact caused by a particular speech can drill really deep, last a short time, a medium period or, even, become an icon of the branding history of a country.

“Ich bin ein Berliner”, shouted JFK´s speech in Berlin. And it soon became a visual and sound symbol of an era.

The audience he targeted -International Public Opinion- was quite different from the one Obama was aiming at when delivering his memorable speech in Chicago right after his victory.

Speeches are very significant actors for Country Branding. I will add in this blog´s archive the best speeches I have ever heard or read. All of them have a very special meaning, regarding the moment in which they were delivered. And all of those selected and posted here have an exquisite language management: that´s the secret of their impact and success.

America´s Soft Power (from Elvis to you)

The following article is the most quoted one when talking about Public Diplomacy and the role of people in it. I will write on it in my next posts, as I consider this article an accurate guide of how to consider and use Soft Power and the way it can help to launch or support the reputation of a country.

Public Diplomacy begins with you, by Sherry Mueller, president of the nonprofit National Council for International Visitors. From the Christian Science Monitor. 

“President-elect Obama’s intent to help “reboot” America‘s image in the world is most welcome But as the US retools its efforts to reach out beyond governments to foreign audiences, not all is what it seems.

In recent years, there has been an avalanche of academic studies, government reports, and think tank analyses that offer various “fixes” for US public diplomacy. In November, it made the Government Accountability Office‘s list of 13 urgent issues. Despite unprecedented attention, however, myths prevail:

elvis grantaconsultingMyth 1The main goal of US public diplomacy is to improve America’s image in the world. That, and countering anti-Americanism are certainly part of it. But the overarching goal is to build a web of human relationships that provides a context for traditional diplomacy – and outcomes commensurate with long-term US interests.

Myth 2Everyone needs to get on the same page. A communications strategy is important. But reciprocity is at the heart of truly successful public diplomacy. We must listen as much as we transmit messages. A brass plaque reading “Telling America’s Story” adorned the building housing the US Information Agency until its oft-lamented demise in 1999. Perhaps it should have read, “Telling America’s Story Is Done Best by Good Listeners.”

Myth 3Public diplomacy is the government’s job. Undeniably, there are appropriate and indispensable roles for government. But unless we accept the fact that each American has a role to play in putting Uncle Sam’s best foot forward, we underutilize our best resource. As “The Ugly American” (a provocative and instructive novel published 50 years ago) put it, “Average Americans, in their natural state … are the best ambassadors a country can have.”

We must do more to encourage individuals to embrace their roles as citizen diplomats, to accept their part in helping to shape foreign relations “one handshake at a time.”

A film on the life of Elvis Presley showed him in his Army uniform, having just arrived in Germany, saying, “What we do here will reflect on America and our way of life.” Clearly, Elvis grasped the concept that every American who interacts with foreigners – whether a business executive, nonprofit leader, tourist, student, athlete, or rock star – has an obligation to consider how his actions reflect on our country.

Public diplomacy architects need to recognize the credibility private-sector partners bring to diplomacy efforts such as the State Department‘s International Visitor Leadership Program. Members of the National Council for International Visitors plan the professional appointments, cultural activities, and home visits for distinguished leaders chosen by US embassies to participate in short-term programs. These members of parliament, journalists, and others influencing decisions that affect US interests learn the most about who we are and what we value from their experiences in cities around the country.

Myth 4The audiences we reach out to are exclusively overseas. The Institute of International Education reported that during the 2007-08 academic year there were 624,000 international students enrolled in colleges and universities throughout the US, and an additional 106,000 international scholars here. Moorhead Kennedy, one of the American diplomats held hostage in Iran in 1979-80, wrote a book titled “The Ayatollah in the Cathedral” in which he made an observation that is still true:

“We have in the foreign student community in this country something that could be a terrible time bomb or a tremendous source of international understanding – both in what they come to know about us and in what American students learn from them. We are training a generation of leaders, and it is terribly important that our foreign students form a part of the community of the universities where they are studying, for their sake, but even more for our own.”

We have to increase active dialogue with foreign nationals in our own country.

Myth 5US public diplomacy is “broken.” In fact, many programs are extremely successful – but woefully underfunded. While public diplomacy depends on active engagement by citizens, not just government agencies, it is a necessary government expenditure. By increasing funding for these programs and supporting the public-private partnerships that have engaged so many Americans as volunteer citizen diplomats, we will reap tremendous benefits for generations to come.”

Qatar and her Public Diplomacy

granta consulting image qatarI want to share this interesting article on Qatar I recently read on the Huffington Post.

By  Philip Seib (Director of the Center on Public Diplomacy at the University of Southern California), read in the HUFFpost Politics.

“Money is a wonderful thing. Qatar has plenty of it and is putting it to use in its expanded public diplomacy. With wealth rather than weaponry, Qatar is becoming a new kind of superpower.

The tiny state’s latest triumph is being named the site of the 2022 World Cup. In the run-up to that event, Qatar plans to build air-conditioned stadiums, a 25-mile bridge to Bahrain, a new city, Lusail, which will be home to 300,000 residents, plus a new array of luxury hotels and other amenities. During the coming decade, Qatar expects to see its population double to more than three million.

Qatar will be able to use the World Cup to become better known to people around the world, a task that has previously been dependent largely on the Al Jazeera television news channels that were born in Qatar, with the generous financial backing of the emir, in 1996. This television empire is expanding, with Al Jazeera Turkish, Al Jazeera Swahili, and Al Jazeera Balkans soon to join its list of channels, and Al Jazeera English has recently received permission from the Indian government to broadcast in that crucial market. Al Jazeera’s channels serve as Qatar’s virtual ambassadors to much of the world, providing an invaluable public diplomacy presence.

In purely business terms, none of these outward-looking ventures will generate profits, at least not immediately, but Qatar – with its vast reserves of natural gas and oil – can afford the outlays needed to raise its global profile and prestige. In its conventional diplomacy, it has hosted peace talks for Lebanon, Sudan, and others, and it is home to important debates and conferences about the world economy and other grand issues.

Saudi Arabia, Qatar’s rival for Middle East leadership, must look on with envy as its little neighbor sets aside the provincialism that has limited Arab influence for generations and instead embraces a pragmatic worldview that balances commitment to ethnic and religious traditions with the business and political realities of being a major international player.

Qatar’s ascendancy, like that of nearby Abu Dhabi, represents a change in the contemporary world order. Small but enormously wealthy states are using their resources to become centers of culture and education as well as finance, and they seem intent on proving that in this new century spending money to enhance intellectual capital is a viable means of wielding global influence.

That is the message implicit in Qatar’s rise. The rest of the world is taking note, and that is another sign that Qatar’s public diplomacy is proving successful.”