Editorial: Charm offensive can't hide political failings

Last week PRWeek revealed that Israel was planning a major PR and advertising campaign to challenge 'distorted' perceptions in Western media.

And this week it emerges that Vladimir Putin is seeking to improve Russia's image among foreign investors.

These countries are not alone. Countries at the edge of the EU, such as Turkey and Romania, are taking serious PR advice on how to be accepted into the European club. Meanwhile, Pakistan and the former 'tax havens' of the Virgin and Cayman islands consider campaigns to place them on the right side of the war on terrorism.

The area of 'nation branding' is a rich new vein for PR consultants to tap, as long as they have the knowledge and gravitas to advise at a governmental level.

National leaders are clearly recognising what business leaders have known for some time - if people think well of you, it is much easier to do what you want to do.

Of course, attracting tourists has long been the strategy of emerging and established economies alike. But we're not just talking about soft leisure campaigns here. Many nations are now using heavyweight financial shops to foster lucrative inward investment. The perception they crave within the Western financial community is 'a safe place to do business'.

Some PR experts believe this new-found interest in 'nation PR' is driven by a global realignment. Until the 1980s, nation states tended to align with either East or West. But in the Bush era, you're either 'with the West' or 'among the others'. US, and increasingly European, foreign policy ensures there are significant economic incentives for those in the former camp.

But while this is an intriguing market, one suspects that many nations are at a nascent stage of their thinking. Unlike some of the better corporations, many have yet to realise that a PR campaign can only succeed against a background of genuine reform.

News analysis, p18.

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