In an exclusive presentation given as part of the V Imagen de Chile Meeting, the influential British advisor, creator of the Nation Brands Index, shed light on what should and should not be done for a positive international projection. And he warned: “If you wanted to do one thing to really improve your country’s image, you would start having to behave in a much more cooperative, collaborative, generous way in the international community.”
Honorary professor of political science, author of six books on countries, cultures and globalization, founder of the renowned Nation Brands Index (NBI) that annually measures the global positioning of more than 60 nations, Simon Anholt is one of the leading pioneers in country image development. Advisor to presidents, prime ministers and dozens of governments, his TED Talk, “Which country does the most good for the world?”, is one of the most watched in the platform’s history.
On the second day of the V Imagen de Chile Meeting on March 31, Anholt gave a presentation to an exclusive group of participants on the issues that, for better or worse, affect the projection of a country, as well as the decisions that can lead to success or failure in that area.
“Most of the images of countries, and this applies to some extent to cities and regions as well, reach the world through only six natural channels: government, exports, tourism, immigration, investment and culture,” he stated. On the latter, he observed: “Almost nothing is more important than culture; it’s the way that we identify the soul of a population… If we believe that a country has a lot of culture, and it’s exciting and attractive, and especially if it’s a modern, vibrant culture, then statistically it’s far more likely that we will approve of everything about that country. If you’re also lucky enough to have internationally famous people from your country, they can make a huge difference.”
The researcher talked about the strategies that function positively in constructing an image, and what he recommends discarding.
“After more than 20 years conducting the Nation Brands Index, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is absolutely zero correlation between the amount of money that countries have spent on self-promotion and the creation of a quality country image. The idea that you can run some kind of messaging or propaganda campaign which would improve the image of your country is completely false.”
For Anholt, a sure-fire way to destroy a nation’s reputation is conflict. “An example is Russia; if you really want to harm your image, all you have to do is invade another country. Public opinion will not tolerate conflict or violence.”
On the contrary, when talking about how to develop a positive projection, Anholt put what he defines as “morality” in first place. “Countries are judged by what they do and how they behave, not by what they say… In this sense, (morality) doesn’t have so much to do with whether a country is good or bad, but with how it contributes to the world outside its own borders. Does it just look after its own people and its own territory, or does it actually do something for the world that I live in? For example, because it’s doing something about climate change or pandemics for everybody. That is the key question.”
The influential advisor thus stated: “If you wanted to do one thing to really improve your country’s image, you would start having to behave in a much more cooperative, collaborative, generous way in the international community, obviously without abandoning or neglecting your own domestic interests; but the more you give, the more people will like you. This is the thing that used to be called ‘corporate social responsibility’, and it’s exactly the same principle that applies to countries. The more good you do in society, the more people value your brand.” And he concluded: “In the end, it’s not a campaign, it’s not a project, it’s not a thing you do; it’s a prism on how you make and execute national policy that really forges a quality country image.”