Category Archives: Region Branding

Online Reputation Management for Governments: in the national interest or out of the dictator’s playbook?

According to media commentary, the flourishing business of online reputation management (ORM) straddles an ethical divide between protecting against falsifications and perpetrating them.  Its techniques inhabit several ethical shades of gray, from reputation monitoring, defamation clean-up and positive content promotion to SEO manipulation, negative review removal and astroturfing practices.  But if ORM poses ethical concerns in relation to its use by private businesses and individuals, how then should its use by governments be regarded?

Thor Halvorssen, president of the New York-based Human Rights Foundation, argues that ‘reputation management’ can be a euphemism of the worst sort.  “In many cases across Africa, it often means whitewashing the human rights violations of despotic regimes with fluff journalism and, just as easily, serving as personal PR agents for rulers and their corrupt family members”.  It can also work to drown out criticism, branding dissidents and critics as criminals, terrorists or extremists… Read more at DiploFoundation

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[Propaganda poster in Beijing reinforcing the CCP’s official ‘harmonious society’ narrative. From the Line 21 Project collection]

The Fiji Airways Re-launch & the Decline of Region Branding

Fiji Airways

The success of Air Pacific’s relaunch as Fiji Airways speaks loudly to the declining use of the Pacific as a brand.

In 1971, Fiji Airways made the strategic decision to forsake the Fiji brand and rebrand as Air Pacific. In 2012, after over four decades of operation as Air Pacific, the airline reversed history, boldly effecting a total rebrand and returning to its former name. A year on and the Fiji Airways redux is proving an overwhelming success, but rebrands never come cheap nor without overwhelming risk. So, what led the airline to forsake its 40 year-old regional brand in favor of a new national identity?

At over five and a half thousand miles from either Los Angeles or Beijing, Fiji is separated from almost everywhere by the massive expanse of the Pacific Ocean and its sparse confetti of micro-states. Peripherality and economies of scale have been limiting factors in the development of the Pacific’s islands. Although the region’s major industry is tourism, for example, international air traffic tends to fly over rather than to it. In geographic terms it is a super-region, yet in human terms it is a minnow, often expressed as an after-thought (‘Asia-Pacific’) or as a marker to its more ‘important’ littoral neighbors (‘Pacific Rim’). Not surprisingly, place branding discourse on the region tends to be limited to obscure references in development assistance, ethnographic and environmental reportage.

Even under the best of circumstances, the challenges facing the formation of a region brand are immense. Marcus Andersen (2009), in his study of region branding in the Baltic Sea Region (BSR), identifies two major challenges: diversity “in terms of the multiple national identities and many potential stakeholders”, and the absence of a central decision-making authority. The BSR, he observes, lacks many of the prerequisites for building a brand, such as a political structure, common culture, common history, and linguistic affinity. The Pacific is no exception, yet in its case the challenges are amplified by the incoherence the region derives from the asymmetry of its geographic and human footprints. – Read on at The Public Diplomat