21 Jul 2024 04:33

Advertising & Marketing

Workshop by BBC Explains How Governments Can Consolidate National Brands, Enhance Global Reputation

In a world dominated by the forces of marketing and advertising, even countries and cities are considered global brands today. The phenomenon of nation branding, whereby governments manage their country’s global image, has emerged as a popular and effective commercial practice in recent decades. In fact, nation-branding experts have found that the benefits of a strong national brand are both reputational as well as tangible, as they can increase tourism and foreign investment. 

Richard Pattinson, Senior Vice President, BBC Storyworks, BBC Worldwide, highlighted these themes in a workshop titled “Power of Brand Image and the Economy of Nation Branding,” which was facilitated by BBC Worldwide for Sharjah’s leading government figures at the sixth edition of the International Government Communication Forum (IGCF 2017) at Expo Centre Sharjah.

Pattinson kicked off the session by presenting three case studies that highlight best practices in nation branding. The first example was a video created for DiscoverAmerica.com, an organisation that is encouraging tourism in the United States. The video clip highlights the virtues of various cities in the US through recordings of their residents. The underlying message is that one can only discover America by experiencing it.

The second example was a BBC initiative called “BBC Britain”, which sought to showcase London ahead of the 2012 Olympics. As part of this project, BBC commissioned 150 new stories and launched a new content platform with thought-provoking narratives that captured the nation’s essence. The platform offered a simple and interactive way of exploring the country one story at a time. According to Pattinson, who cited that 73% of users said that the platform changed their perception of the country, the case study also illustrates the power of sporting events in creating a national brand. 

The third example was from Germany, which hosted the FIFA World Cup in 2006, as a case study of positive nationalism. Pattinson explained that the World Cup was one of the first instances in which Germans felt comfortable with overt displays of nationalism. Recalling his experience in Germany prior to the event, he said: “We even drove up to a house that was painted in the German flag colours.”

Be Authentic, Be Consistent

In the final section of the workshop, Pattinson conducted an interactive exercise where the audience was asked to share their perception of three different countries – Singapore, South Africa and Canada – and evaluate their brand images. Participants were given various parameters, including safety, scenery, tolerance and history, and asked to select two positive and two negative indicators for each of the countries.

The results sparked a provocative discussion on the different challenges that governments encounter when managing their global perception. Singapore, for instance, ranked positively for innovation, but negatively for culture. Discussing how the Singaporean government has worked hard to create cultural spaces in the city, Pattinson attributed these efforts as a driving force to enhancing tourism. He said: “In the last decade, tourism has increased from 9 million to 16 million.”

The exercise gave the audience an opportunity to think about the core messages that constitute a country’s brand campaign. Commenting on how governments can overcome negative perceptions, Pattinson said: “You do need to be authentic. If you’ve got a problem, you need to talk about how you’re tackling it.”

Using the example of London, which has a long-standing problem of traffic, he said: “The city has done a lot of things to counter that, but ultimately, it needs to invest in public transport and restrict car access in the centre of the city, which it is now doing.”

He added: “You can only tell audiences things to negate a perception without having substance behind it for a short while. Singapore needed to invest in culture. It can’t just be a plaster that you stick on.”

Speaking about how governments should disseminate their brand messages he said: “It’s really important that the culture of a brand message is set from the top.” Emphasising the importance of consistency, he said: “Only when you’re sick to death of saying something do you know that it’s gotten through to your audience.”

Pattinson also agreed with a comment from one of the participants about transforming weaknesses into opportunities. Speaking about the UK, he said: “Our government is obviously battling an enormous issue with Brexit and is trying to turn a perceived weakness into an opportunity. The idea that there are opportunities to be found in weaknesses is absolutely true.”

Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohamed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, the sixth edition of the International Government Communication Forum (IGCF 2017) was held from March 22 to 23 at Expo Centre Sharjah. Themed ‘Societal Participation…Comprehensive Development’, IGCF 2017 examines how the world’s nations can leverage effective government communication to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that have become the top priority of government programmes, international institutions, media organisations and civil society.

Offering a transparent platform to examine current issues and formulate recommendations to help governments optimise the impact of their communication, IGCF 2017 convened more than 2,500 local and international personalities from the ranks of government officials, experts, thought leaders, and government communication professionals.

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