Q1. You have recently published a book on the topic of public diplomacy. Could you explain the differences between public diplomacy and cultural diplomacy in the context of nation branding?
Cultural diplomacy is a part of public diplomacy and so is branding. I have colleagues who say that branding is the most important, and to brand a country you need public diplomacy and cultural diplomacy. I am in favor of seeing public diplomacy as the main part, and other factors playing sub-roles, but I understand both sides and the priorities of nation branding and it has to do with what we are working with.
Q2. In your speech, you said that nation branding needs to be a long-term exercise or a prolonged effort. You used the example of Britain and the Tory and Labor governments. Does a change of government mean a change in approach of ‘nation-branding’, or do governments prefer a model of consistency?
It should not only be in the hands of the government as it also has to with the economy, tourism, and cultural exchanges around the world which equates to great value especially when you are working for organizations within the United Nations such as myself. It shouldn’t be a matter for only governments, but for other organizations as well. NGOs play an enormous role today, and cultural diplomacy was already existent because of these NGOs even before 9/11 and because of them, it has grown rapidly. Back in the 60s and 70s, foreign policy was done only through ministers and ambassadors, and the public was not involved, and much of it was done secretly and kept from the public. That why it is impossible for governments today to stop or change this direction in nation branding or public diplomacy because NGOs are so prominent today.
Q3. In terms of trying to attract people, not only for tourism, but also to live or invest, there is a duality between the effectiveness of a campaign versus the perpetuation of certain national stereotypes. So what is your opinion on how to make a nation brand effective, but at the same time painting a realistic picture of a nation?
Governments should never take nation branding as an entire interest. They should create forums or offices that deal exclusively with branding, but it should only be a certain focus of a governments’ activities in relation to its other affairs. Every country has many different aspects to its makeup, so you can’t capture all of it with just one slogan or design and that’s why it is so hard for places like France and the UK to have one formula for nation branding. You and I have different visions of these countries, for example you may like the food or the people of France, but may not feel the same way about the UK. So a government should not concentrate only on nation branding, but maybe provide an exchange for students, because nation branding is a tool for diplomacy, but not the most important thing.
Q4. You talked about cross-border branding. When it comes to states that share a border there is a shared history and preconceptions will exist. How hard is it to ‘brand’ yourself to your neighbour when such preconceptions exist?
It does have its limits. Just look at Israel and Palestine, how could they ever find a common identity? It’s almost impossible. To build cross border cultural relations you need to have ideal conditions such as Denmark and Sweden or even Denmark and Germany. Twenty years ago, it may not have been possible so you need to have good relations between both states for anything to develop and sometimes, you simply have to wait for the right moment.