Branding nations: Using PR to boost tourism, evolve cultural image
The domain of public relations is not limited to corporate and commercial spheres. In recent years, the popularity of nation branding has exploded — that is, the application of public relations strategies to entire nations.
Governments have been working with public relations firms in the last decade to analyze and rework their brand as a nation in order to pursue particular interests, just as a public relations firm may work on the branding of a certain product.
Lee Hudson Teslik for the Council on Foreign Relations writes that nation branding is also implemented for “luring foreign investment, facilitating trade, improving private-sector competitiveness, or even securing geopolitical influence.” Nations attempt to use branding strategies to influence international relations and to shift the socioeconomic status.
The Information Age has changed international relations, and the world economy drastically, making a phenomenon like nation branding possible. In his case study, “The Importance of Nation Brand,” Hwajung Kim writes, “the new economy is knowledge-based and acquired through institutions that are shaped by culture; therefore, the cultural wealth of nations is one of the key elements to the New Economy.”
Indeed, the cultural wealth of nations has a potent impact on contenders in the brave new world of modernity’s international economy. Thus far, some nations have fended better than others in branding and capitalizing on their cultural wealth.
African nations, on the other hand, have not done so well. Before even working on their national images, African nations need to direct their branding efforts toward differentiation to let the world know that Africa is a continent and home to a wide range of cultures, nations, and peoples. Africa can use nation branding to dissolve misconceptions of the continent.
Though some critics frown upon nation branding “as an unauthentic attempt to promote a simplified concept of a nation,” African nations can poise themselves to take advantage of developments in this field and work against the stereotypes and biases that have come to define the continent.
Do you think that there’s anything inherently wrong with applying public relations strategies to nations? Share your thoughts below in the comments section or on Twitter @ryanlawlessness.