State of the na­tion at nar­ra­tive ‘17

Alex Malouf re­ports back from an Egypt sum­mit where the fo­cus was firmly on na­tion brand­ing at home and abroad.

Campaign Middle East - - FRONT PAGE -

Sev­eral hun­dred of the great and the good from Egypt’s busi­ness, mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions in­dus­tries came t ogether t his Oc­to­ber for the sec­ond Nar­ra­tive Sum­mit in Cairo. With an agenda that was squarely fo­cused on how Egypt could im­prove its brand im­age both at home and abroad, dozens of na­tional and in­ter­na­tional ex­perts spoke about how the coun­try could re-es­tab­lish it­self as a lead­ing des­ti­na­tion for trade, in­vest­ment and tourism.

The big theme among the Egyp­tian speak­ers was the need to lever­age the no­tion of brand build­ing to sup­port the coun­try’s trans­for­ma­tion. “We must use the tools used by other coun­tries to cre­ate change, pro­mote a dis­tinc­tive self-im­age and foster an in­ter­na­tional rep­u­ta­tion that serves the na­tion’s in­ter­ests in a pos­i­tive and ef­fec­tive way,” said Hany Mah­moud, chair­man of Voda­fone Egypt, dur­ing his key­note.

Speak­ing from a for­eign per­spec­tive, a host of ex­perts listed their views on Egypt’s brand story, in­clud­ing a strong aware­ness of the coun­try – thanks to its promi­nent role in the Bi­ble as well as its an­cient his­tory – on top of its cul­tural of­fer­ings.

Su­nil John, founder and CEO of Asda’a Bur­son-Marsteller, spoke of his ad­mi­ra­tion for the re­cent ‘Where It All Be­gins’ tourism cam­paign (he de­scribed the work as “clever, so­phis­ti­cated and, cru­cial for a des­ti­na­tion brand, based on truth”), but stressed that more needed to be done if Egypt were to be po­si­tioned as a na­tion brand ca­pa­ble of com­pet­ing glob­ally, with a par­tic­u­lar fo­cus on six key pil­lars: in­vest­ment, ex­ports, gover­nance, in­vest­ment and im­mi­gra­tion, cul­ture and her­itage, peo­ple, and tourism. For him, more work needed to be done on the first five na­tion-brand­ing pil­lars.

“There is much more to do if Egypt is to cap­i­talise on its many strengths. Ac­cord­ing to Brand Fi­nance, Egypt’s brand value and rank­ing has ac­tu­ally slipped over the past year, from 55th to 57th, even as the econ­omy and tourism re­cover, said John.

Speak­ing about the event and the rea­sons be­hind Nar­ra­tive, Lamia Kamel, man­ag­ing direc­tor of CC Plus and the main or­gan­iser, ex­plained why she felt it was time Egypt tack­led the is­sue of cre­at­ing a stronger, more pos­i­tive im­age for the coun­try.

“Na­tion brand­ing is an idea,” she said. “Be­neath this idea are projects that form the essence of na­tion brand­ing, which will be han­dled either by pri­vate firms or by gov­ern­ment. But the idea of how to build a na­tion’s im­age must be in­ter­preted and en­forced by ev­ery­one in the na­tion. No one is ex­cluded from craft­ing and im­ple­ment­ing this nar­ra­tive, which PR should lead on. We need to come to­gether to craft a pow­er­ful mes­sage about our na­tional iden­tity, our brand, and then cap­i­talise on our key pil­lars: in­vest­ment, ex­ports, tal­ents, tourism, en­trepreneur­ship, and na­tional promi­nence. And we need to tell this mes­sage, not oth­ers.”

While there was a pal­pa­ble sense of en­ergy and optimism about Egypt among many at­ten­dees, oth­ers were less sure about the coun­try’s di­rec­tion. One young mar­ket­ing ex­ec­u­tive ex­pressed her de­sire to achieve more, but in an­other coun­try. “As soon as I get an op­por­tu­nity, I’ll head to Dubai,” she said. “I’m a proud Egyp­tian, but I can do more there than I can here.”

A key learn­ing for na­tional brand builders is the need to cre­ate and curate con­tent ef­fec­tively on­line. Cit­ing the ex­am­ple of Dubai and its ef­forts to build a global brand, Kailash Nagdev, CEO for MENA and South Asia at YouGov, spoke about how Egypt’s mar­keters need to craft con­tent them­selves, to ef­fec­tively tell the coun­try’s story, rather than let the story be told pri­mar­ily by for­eign tourists. Alex Malouf is vice-chair EMENA for the In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Busi­ness Com­mu­ni­ca­tors.

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