Conference · Berlin · 30 August 2007
In August, international branding and public diplomacy experts met in Berlin at the opening conference of the Association for Place Branding & Public Diplomacy. In a series of panels, they talked about the relation between brands and nation states and about the public relations of nation states in a global 25/7 media environment.
Sebastian Turner, chief executive officer of Scholz & Friends AG opened the conference with a provocative thesis. He stated that it is a mistake to believe that nation states could learn something from brands, as the cohesiveness of nation states is unmatched by brands. Still, the British marketing expert Wally Olins pointed out that place branding and public diplomay pose serious challenges to modern nation states.
Nation states, Olins sais, do either have a very complex image or no image at all. Moreover, our personal views of a state are often distorted or plain wrong since national images only change very slowly. This is partly because the impulse of an image change have to come from the citizens themselves. The football world championship in Germany in 2006 is an example for such a change of image: "The worldcup may not have changed the world's view of Germany (...) but it certainly changed Germany's view of Germany."
According to Olins, an effective image campaign has to have three pillars: clear messages, emotions, and a unique idea of the specific characteristics of the country in question. The perception of a country, however, only changes when all activities that are part of the change process are coordinated by a central authority. The privat sector is of central importance for this change process: "There has been a focus in this disscussion (...) on the public sector. The public sector is only one of the forces that influence these changes. Much more important really are the activities of the private sector."
Prof. Dr. Ingo Balderjahn (University of Potsdam) too stressed that is is much more difficult to establish a country brand than a product or a company brand. Even though some elements of brand management – like brand names and logos – can be applied to countries as well, such measures can only spark interest in a country. A sustainable country image can only be reached by personal experience which is very hard to controll. Balderjahn also pointed out that the core of a country image lies in it's identity and not in its image, which always describes the perception of others.
In his speech, Peter van Ham, Director of the Global Governance Programme at the Clingendael Institute in Den Haag, warned of conceptionale boundaries between place branding and public diplomacy. He asked whether there is really a distinction between propaganda and place branding or between propaganda and public diplomacy. Instead, he argued that all these different forms of communication are part of a spectrum that ranges from psychological warfare and to soft power. How a specific action is perceived by others often lies in the eye of the beholder, van Ham added.
According to van Ham, public diplomacy is as old as statecraft itself, but new manifestations of public diplomacy, new technologies, and alterations of our value system completely changed the face of public diplomacy that now differs distinctly from traditional diplomacy. This leads to the fact that today, almost all major states regard public diplomacy as a part of their foreign policy.
Still, van Ham stressed that "much remains to be explored and I am very happy to be on board of a group that is willing to do that and I think that is why the establishment of the Association for Place Branding & Public Diplomacy is such a very good and useful idea."
Michael Reiffenstuell of the Federal Foreign Office also emphasized the challenges that place branding and public diplomacy pose to traditional foreign policy. The plurality of new actors and instruments in foreign policy makes it even more difficult to controll each measure. In the past, the public relations of the foreign office consisted only of the dispatch of press releases; today, however, the building of relations to different target groups is in the foreground of public diplomacy and foreign offices use polls, focus groups and journalist briefings to achieve this goal.
The conference clearly identified two themes in place branding and public diplomacy: first, the importance of soft power and of ordinary people and their actions for the formation of a country's image; second the influence of new technologies on place branding and public diplomacy. The Association of Place Branding & Public Diplomacy will of course closely follow both issues in the future.
|17.00-17.15||Welcome by Dr. Henry Werner, (Chair of the Association for Place Branding and Public Diplomacy) and Anna Schwan, Association for Place Branding and Public Diplomacy|
|17.15-18.00||Nations as Brands: On the significance of Place Branding by Wally Olins, Saffron Brand Consultants
Commentator: Prof. Dr. Ingo Balderjahn, Universität Potsdam
|18.00-18.45||Winning hearts and minds: How Public Diplomacy aims to convince by Prof. Dr. Peter van Ham, Clingendael Diplomatic Studies Programme
Commentator: Michael Reiffenstuel, Federal Foreign Office
|19.00-19.45||A golden Future? What strategic communication can hope to achive Panel discussion with Prof. Jeff Peck, Georgetown University / Leo Baeck Summer University, and Dr. Rolf Hoffmann, Fulbright Kommission and with the speakers of the prrevious sessions.|
The evening will be moderated by Johannes Altmeyer (editor, politik&kommunikation) and Terry Martin
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