This week’s readings about nation branding were particularly striking after working with our small group to research and write about Chile’s public diplomacy programs. My portion of the research focused on Fundacion Imagen de Chile, an autonomous organization the Chilean federal government created to coordinate and drive the country’s nation branding campaign.
Much of the discussion in academic articles about the organization focused around a similar question: was the Fundacion a public diplomacy program, or did its focus on nation-branding eliminate it from being classified as that type of diplomacy? As Gyorgi Szondi touches on in his article, “Public Diplomacy and Nation Branding: Conceptual Similarities and Differences,” the boundaries between the two areas are growing less rigid by the day.
Szondi explains that there are some differences between the two areas: public diplomacy focuses on engaging foreign publics in an ongoing dialogue, while nation-branding tends to be almost like a monologue — the image of one country speaking to another’s population. However, as is regularly pointed out in this field, nation branding has much in common with PR and marketing. While those industries may have been more one-sided in the past, with brand marketers creating content based on their concepts of what will persuade targeted populations, any layman remotely familiar with company brands on Twitter can tell you that marketing is quickly becoming centered around an ongoing dialogue with its client base.
I see the future of nation branding going in a similar direction. As countries begin, particularly those with more democratic societies, it can be difficult enough to ensure that all participating parties (companies, government agencies, etc.) are all on the same page regarding the type of brand the country will promote. It must be even more challenging for a country with a new nation branding campaign to determine what types of concepts, methods, and language will communicate to foreign publics the first country wishes to convey. I see countries engaging more with foreign publics — not just to increase visibility for their own country, but to also determine how their foreign policies are viewed by the foreign populations they imact.
Increased dialogue will hopefully lead to a more thorough understanding of countries’ varying priorities.