Since December 2021, our country is holding the presidency of a group of 20 countries with the world’s largest economies known as the G20. The climax will be the Summit (High-Level Conference) which will be attended by the twenty relevant Heads of Government in Bali next November.
Of course, the relevant government agencies of the Republic of Indonesia will be busy with this big event. The public relations (PR) of each ministry, institution and business entity involved will experience an extraordinary surge of activity in 2022.
This article will link Indonesia’s position as the G20 Presidency with a larger and longer-term concept, namely nation branding. As a relatively new discipline, it is not surprising that there is still much confusion about this concept. Not to mention the fact that many professional and scientific fields are covered, from Communications, Politics, Diplomacy and International Relations. Scientific writings, also in Indonesia, have discussed quite a lot of nation branding from the various scientific branches mentioned above.
A provisional conclusion among Indonesian academics is that much attention has been paid to nation branding. As far as I know, the most recent is a doctoral dissertation from Dr. Trie Damayanti, Head of the Public Relations Study Program, Faculty of Communication, Padjadjaran University, who was defended at the Doctoral Promotion Session on November 30, 2021. Researchers and university lecturers have also written many articles in scientific journals. However, it seems that not much attention has been paid by the government or business circles, including communication consultants in Indonesia.
I hope to inspire the Indonesian government and business circles to implement nation branding in Indonesia through this article. The G20 Presidency in the hands of Indonesia needs to be used for more basic purposes by taking advantage of this momentum, where the countries with the strongest economies in the world will set their sights on our country.
Know the Characteristics
As is often the case in the non-exact field, especially those that have just emerged, as explained above, there is no consensus among scientists on the generally accepted definition of nation branding. However, referring to several scientists’ opinions, several elements included in nation branding can be described.
The details of the characteristics of nation branding below mostly refer to the writings of Juliette Schwak, a lecturer at Tokyo International University, about nation branding in the 2018 Asian Studies Review-Journal.
First is the synergy of the strengths of the public sector with the private sector. Second, it is directed to the domestic and international public. Third, change perceptions. In particular, in countries formerly part of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc. For example, Romania is trying to be known as a digital technology center. And fourth, it has been transformed into a field of study in the branch of media and communication science.
Furthermore, Schwak said, military power as a mechanism to strengthen national authority has been replaced by expertise in winning competitions in the international market where nation branding plays a major role. So, the political nuances in it are evidently apparent.
Learn from South Korea
An example often raised about success in nation branding is South Korea related to the country’s democratization. The year 1987 is considered to be the beginning of the growth of the democratic government of South Korea, which was previously controlled by several military figures successively who ruled in a dictatorship.
At the East Asia Forum on December 25, 2021, a Pusan National University lecturer wrote that after civilians ruled the government with the election of Kim Young-sam as president, pop culture was previously banned because it was considered subversive, actually received full government support. This includes providing incentives for chaebols (conglomerates) to invest in the entertainment world. After the Asian Economic Crisis in 1998, at the urging of the IMF, the chaebols gave up the entertainment business and companies in this field further developed independently.
Another South Korean president, Lee Myung-bak, went a step further by establishing the Nation Branding Council in 2009, reporting directly to him as president. This council aims to elevate South Korea’s global status by means of enhancing the country’s credibility and making it likable on the international scene.
Initially, this council used the services of a well-known British consultant, Simon Anholt, who claimed that he was the one who coined the term “nation branding”. However, because they were not satisfied, they finally appointed the Samsung Economic Research Institute (SERI) think tank to continue their work (source: Juliette Schwak in Asian Studies Review, 12 June 2016).
Now South Korea is active internationally, not only as a country that masters high technology but also plays a role in the global entertainment arena. Everything is not a coincidence, but the fruit of efforts that took a dozen years based on a clear concept and implemented in a planned and sustainable manner resulted in hallyu or the Korean Wave.
After singer Psy took the world by storm with Gangnam Style ten years ago, pop groups of singers known as K-Pop such as BTS and Blackpink emerged. In addition, on television, various Korean dramas or familiarly called Drakor, were born. Recently, the TV series for Netflix entitled Squid Game managed to amaze viewers and become the talk of people in almost all parts of the world.
In applying nation branding, keep in mind that in the end, the formula put forward by two experts in the study of reputation, Doorley & Garcia, also applies. That reputation is formed by a good performance socialized through appropriate communication efforts and is always supported by consistent behavior. This obviously requires a concept, planning, and implementation, all of which are directed towards the same goal and executed consistently for the long term.
Still ringing in our ears are the lyrics of “Malaysia Truly Asia” that accompanied TV commercials a few years ago. In 2014, we followed with “Wonderful Indonesia”. Both are campaigns that primarily support the tourism industry and cannot yet be categorized as nation branding. This is because its limited scope is not part of a broader and more basic concept described above.
Returning to the G20, I hope that the momentum created by the Indonesian Presidency, both domestically and internationally, can be used to launch Indonesia’s nation branding, which will continue beyond the G20 Presidency, which ends at the end of this year.
Chairman & Chief Consultant, Kiroyan Partners
This article has been published in PR Indonesia magazine 82nd Edition, issued on January 2022, pages 46-47.
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