Between 2009 and 2015, Greece went from being seen as a full member of the eurozone to Ground Zero in the Nation Brand Index, the concept of measuring global perceptions of countries across several dimensions like culture, governance, people, export, tourism, investment and immigration.
The impact of the global financial crisis, in combination with deplorable state management by the different political parties, exaggerated austerity measures imposed on the country, intense popular anti-austerity protest and, the demonisation of the country by some populist European media was devastating.
In addition, different European politicians used the Greek crisis to monopolise the debate, changing the subject from job creation and investments to panic-driven austerity. So how rebuild the image of a state in such a deep crisis?
Great brands are mostly built with public relations, not advertising. The role of communications in developing, disseminating and preserving brands is essential. Corporate branding is based on a combination of image, cause and effect, expectations and realities. It can successfully be adapted for nation branding as well.
Nevertheless, PR only works properly if your product is good. If your policies are not good and not in the public interest, you have to change those policies. Good public relations start with sustainable policy, performance and action.
Let’s take a look at two interesting cases:
299 persons die from Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The city is perceived as the center of the global fight against the virus with serious consequences for local business and tourism. While global focus is on fighting SARS, Hong-Kong authorities and the private sector join forces to prepare the post-crisis phase, to promote economic recovery and prepare a post-SARS return to economic grow.
Hong-Kong authorities committed $129 million (€100 million) to a programme seeking to: (a) promote local and international confidence in Hong-Kong; (b) promote business, tourism and local production; (c) attract international business. An international communications plan was created for supporting governments three objectives mentioned here above. The plan turned out to be very successful for restoring the confidence of the international community and in promoting economic recovery, after the elimination of the virus.
The eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in April affects the economic activities in Europe. The whole world feels the consequences of huge volcanic clouds of black ash. Airspace is closed down in major parts of Europe. Images from the volcano erupting together with chaotic queues in international airports can be seen in global media. The volcanic eruption is perceived as an international disaster and has major consequences for the fragile economy of Iceland.
A few weeks after the start of the blasts, the Icelandic government and 80 private companies from the tourism sector started a campaign with a budget of €4.5 million. The objectives were: (a) to decrease the negative effects of the volcanic activity on the tourist industry; (b) to maintain the same level of visitors as in 2009; (c) to enhance Iceland’s image by taking advantage of the global media attention because of the eruption. The successful campaign made use of conventional public relations, advertising and social media.
The message that Iceland was open for business was well received and the target of rescuing tourist summer season 2010 was achieved.
In both cases here above we see that strong private-public partnerships were able to raise the right budget, produce excellent communications and save the economy. So how do we re-brand Greece? Nation brands today are based on the economic, pragmatic and emotional value they deliver to their stakeholders.
Here are seven tips for sustainable nation branding:
1. Find area of specialization
Research and data are important. A comprehensive brand audit is needed for identifying and understanding:
- what are the core pillars (culture, heritage, creativity, etc.) of the country
- what is unique
- who the stakeholders are
- what actions to undertake
- how to identify target segments
2. Make a plan
A long term national approach to communicating Greece throughout the world will be an increasing occurrence. A nation brand plan and strategy should be developed once the brand audit is completed. The plan has to focus on internal and external stakeholders and outline how to deliver value.
3. Communication is a joint responsibility
Nation branding should be a collaborative process between government and the main economic sectors, like agriculture, tourism, maritime sector, etc. An innovative public-private partnership fairly committed to a purposeful brand, seeking to collaborate, empower and make a meaningful difference in the daily life of the citizens, should lead the way.
4. Send out message of unity and recovery
Greece needs to show that it is coming out of the crisis. It is fundamental to send out a message that will link past images to the future. A clear political commitment to act together is one of the cornerstones of achieving success in communicating Greece.
5. Be coherent
Ambiguity is expensive and easily forgotten. Messages to send out should be carefully thought and tailored based on the target audience. It is necessary to make messages clear, concrete, free from jargon and connect them to particular human needs and expectations.
6. Communicate to relevant key stakeholders
A brand implementation is an excellent opportunity to tell the brand story, including the brand positioning and the brand values. Information should reach target audiences through their preferred channels and in their own environment. Using conventional and digital communication tools is essential.
7. Be innovative and creative
Choose engagement. Generate interest by rallying Greece enthusiasts via social media. This can be done by encouraging people and companies to use their networks and sharing interesting material under the umbrella of an ambassador programme.
Guest post by Stavros Papagianneas
With a background including positions such as communication officer at the European Commission and press officer and spokesperson to various diplomatic missions in Brussels, Stavros Papagianneas is currently a managing director of public relations consultancy StP Communications. He is a senior communications expert with more than 20 years’ experience in strategic communications, public affairs, public relations, digital communication, social media and media relations. He has also been a member of the Working Party on Information of the Council of the European Union. He is the author of several articles in EU media like New Europe, L' Echo, Communication Director and Research Europe. He is also the author of the book Powerful Online Communication. How to Position Yourself as a Leader.
Website: www.stpcommunications.com Twitter: @StPapagianneas
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