Public Diplomacy vs Nation Branding

We often tend to use Public Diplomacy (PD) interchangeably with Nation Branding. While there are definitely certain overlaps, a clear distinction does exist between both the practice areas. That's why I found Daryl Copeland recent post on the CPD Blog: PUBLIC DIPLOMACY, BRANDING, AND THE IMAGE OF NATIONS, PART II: MORE OF THE SAME, OR DIFFERENT? very interesting. In this very well written post, Daryl explains some fundamental distinctions between PD and nation branding and aptly states that,
"If public diplomacy is thought of as a nations’ book, then a nation’s brand is something like its cover, designed to appeal viscerally to the consumers of international policy by encouraging potential buyers to open the book (or visit the country, buy the product, or support the international policy objective). But because the market evolves quickly, the cover’s design may need attention even before the book requires revision and a new edition can be released."
He explains that PD is characterized by meaningful dialogue and relationship building and not based on "information dominance" or "message dumping." An alternative policy instrument in the hands of governments today, PD is central to managing international issues through consistent engagement, in which, communicating a point of view is as important as listening to a point of view. PD can be one of the approaches for nation branding and consists within itself  host of activities focused on communications, stakeholder engagement, collaboration and influencing public opinion. With such an approach PD seems to be the application of public affairs and strategic communications to the practice of international relations (as I always maintained in this blog). Daryl also tends to agree when he says that PD has more in common with public relations as a practice. This was also underlined in the Report of the Defense Science Board (US Department of Defense, 2004) in which it clearly stated that,

"In an age of global media, the internet revolution and powerful non-state actors - an age in which almost everything governments do and say is understood through mediating filters of news frames, culture, memory, and language - no major strategy, policy, or diplomatic initiative can succeed without public support. Fulbright scholarships, youth exchanges, embassy press briefings, official websites in language versions, and televised interviews with ambassadors and military commanders are examples of public diplomacy."
To cite an example in the context of India, "Incredible India" , is more of a nation branding campaign while the distinguished lecture series organized by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) is more of a PD exercise. PD as a practice has recently been growing and one of the primary reason is the media proliferation and information revolution (This was however was overlooked in the reasons given for a PD resurgence in the above mentioned blog post.).That's the reason why strategic communications form the core of PD.

Suggestions/Critiques welcome.

-- Madhur


Efe Sevin said... [Reply to comment]

Hi Madhur,

This is Efe. I am currently at American University writing my doctoral dissertation on power and public diplomacy. Thank you for the nice post. I have a couple of points to add, if you don't mind.

Let me start with a disclaimer. I am yet to understand the relation between public diplomacy and nation branding (and international relations/communication) myself.

Nation branding is, I would say, a misleading name. It automatically makes people think about logos, slogans, visuals, ads - everything based on a mere exposure understanding. Unfortunately, most of the nation branding campaigns out there are carried out by marketing firms and solely rely on message dumping.

Yet, a proper nation branding understanding includes inputs from internal and external audiences. It aims to create an identity for a given nation / region / city / place. (Simon Anholt, for instance, argues that 2% of nation branding is communication).

Shortly, I argue that nation branding is a development exercise (and then you are expected to share the outcomes of the development move). It is not really the cover of a book in that sense, but is the book and the drafts you wrote before the final copy.

What do you think?


Madhurjya said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you for your comments Efe. As a professional communicator myself I believe brand building process happens over time in several stages. Creating an identity for a nation is a mix of conscious and unconscious efforts steeped in history and politics etc. I am not too sure how much of it can be controlled. You are absolutely right that for marketing firms is not any more than message dumping. PD on the other hand seems more of a method and a force multiplier for generating 'influence' and has the scope to be more dynamic than 'nation branding'.
Good to connect with you. Hope to continue this conversation.

-- Madhur

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