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DIPLOMACY ДИПЛОМАЦИЯ

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NATION BRANDING EFFORTS

NATION BRANDING EFFORTS OF POST-SOCIALIST COUNTRIES... Nation branding efforts of post-socialist countries within the framework of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union Alena Lakova-Iltcheva After the fall of the Berlin Wall Europe witnessed the appearance of 28 states that emerged out of the eight former communist countries in Central and Eastern Europe – countries that since then have been experiencing a considerable change in their political and economic models, countries known to be in transition to democracy and free market. Their international image has been severely damaged by the stamp of the communist past, and their identities have been socially stigmatized by other socio-politically more dominant European countries. Nation branding strategies of post-communist countries members of the European Union during their Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU) presents a particular interest to this study for three main reasons: those countries have suffered a historical stigma and have a damaged image; they have demonstrated their will and ability to become a part of a bigger socio-political, economic and cultural identity – the European one; and have displayed their identity and nation brand on the stage of the European international media attention in the spotlight of the EU Presidency, a crucial moment of facing other countries’ reactions to their image. The analysis of those strategies is based not only on purely nation branding (Simon Anholt, 2003, 2007) and public diplomacy literature: Melissen (2005, 2011), Szondi (2008), Zaharna (2011), but also on Erving Goffman’s dramaturgical theories (Goffman, 1959), claiming that nation identity is socially and psychologically constructed inside and outside the nation, on individual and group level, in interaction between the people, the state and its publics. To study the complexity of the process of image construction and nation branding, I will examine a brief review of notions and ideas, from the public diplomacy/nation branding conceptual convergence to Goffman’s notions of self-presentation, virtual and social identity and stigmatization (Goffman, 1963); and apply them to particular cases of post-socialist countries that have already presided or will preside the Council of the European Union. The term new public diplomacy (Melissen, 2005) illustrates the switch between the traditional public diplomacy, which consists of a government-to-government communication flow and/or a one-way governmental communication towards the foreign publics, and the new way to deal with public diplomacy – through dialogical engagement and networking initiatives between different stakeholders and decision-makers. A government’s new public diplomacy strategies can be divided into state-initiated statecentric initiatives engaging stakeholders from the non-governmental, the academic, the research and the business sectors into a constructive dialogue on issues of common interest; and public-based public-centered initiatives where the receivers of the message have an active role in public diplomacy content creation and management (Zaharna, 2015). This last phenomenon can also be traced in research literature as digital diplomacy where everyone with an Internet access can publicly share opinions, represent a country or a nation in online discussions and contribute to its image construction. DIPLOMACY 18/2016 123

NATION BRANDING EFFORTS OF POST-SOCIALIST COUNTRIES... According to Zaharna (2011) public diplomacy actions can vary in their degree of stakeholder participation from purely information dissemination tactics to interactive and complex ways to achieve public engagement. Examples of the first paradigm are the governmental use of print, radio, television, and Internet for information campaigns and media relations; and of the second – relational initiatives and relation-building campaigns, network initiatives and nation branding actions. Beyond its definition, history and strategic dimensions, the concept of new public diplomacy is also analyzed in its socio-linguistic dimension – public diplomacy as the discourse shared within a nation, a narrative with commonly accepted societal norms. It is this narrative that creates a space for a common construction of the discursive identity of a nation; and that brings together the stakeholders to achieve the national communication goals that usually aim at the improvement of the country’s international influence, economic benefits, security and/or cultural values export (Davis Cross, 2013). The narrative depends directly on the particularities of a nation’s identity – the more it responds to the authentic national characteristics ‘from the inside’, the more credible it will look ‘from the outside’ – for the foreign publics. In their theoretical insights both Zaharna and Davis Cross suggest that public diplomacy is not only about sending out information (or creating narratives) but also about the receiving end’s interpretation of the information and participation in the communication process. In other words – foreign publics participate as well in the process of national identity building and selfpresentation of a nation, as they are the external correctors of the narrative, according to its credibility and level of international acceptance. Public diplomacy, as discussed, is multifaceted and can be analyzed from the theoretical viewpoint of diverse disciplines – international relations, communication and media studies, cultural studies and sociology. Marketing can also bring another perspective and this is where public diplomacy neighbors and intervenes with nation branding. If in public diplomacy a country’s image and identity is perceived as the result of a complex networking and negotiation process between multilevel stakeholders, nation branding analyses a country as a product that can be sold to consumers (individuals, structures and organisations) abroad (Anholt, 2007). According to Keller (2008) the main components of the brand identity are the name, the logo, the slogan or the catchphrase, the URLs, the symbols, the characters, the spokespeople, the jingles, the packages, and the signatures. Anholt builds upon this conceptualization suggesting that the branding of a national identity can be seen as a threelegged stool (ibid) that stays on the legs of a good strategy, substance and symbolic actions. The strategy relates to the analysis and understanding of who the nation is and what its brand stands for; the substance is the implementation of the strategy by the use of actual innovations, reforms, and investments in the political, economic, legal, social and educational areas, to obtain the anticipated results. The symbolic actions are also a part of the substance but have a particular meaning. They are especially suggestive, remarkable, memorable, picturesque, newsworthy, topical, poetic, touching, surprising or dramatic (ibid), they are at the same time a part of the national narrative and a way of expressing it. A new element brought to the national identity building and international communication is that those processes can be traceable and measurable. According to Anholt, a country, when analyzed as a product, could form its own competitive identity, formed by six elements: tourism, brands, policy, investment, culture and people (Anholt, 2008). Conceptually separated in categories, the competitive identity of a nation can be measured and compared to others – e.g. the Anholt-GfK Roper Nation Brands IndexTM (NBI) (Simonanholt.com, 2015) is a list of 50 124 ДИПЛОМАЦИЯ 18/2016

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