Expectations set in the government’s development agenda of establishing globally competitive, export-led economy reflecting one million job opportunities have to be achieved by attracting FDIs, encouraging tourism, attracting and retaining human capital including Sri Lankan overseas migrants.
In such context, the concept of nation branding should be adopted to improve the image and reputation of Sri Lanka which would positively influence on the receipt of foreign direct investment, increase tourist arrivals and attract talented human capital.
What comes to mind?
As a country transforming from three-decades-old war and Tsunami, it’s vital to understand how Sri Lanka is being perceived by the global community and what is the image or picture that comes to their mind instantly when they hear Sri Lanka?
Although the country has struggled with hunger for peace and prosperity from independence, the post-war Sri Lanka has seen improvement in transport infrastructure including expressways and with the dawn of the unity government, there is effort on improving democracy, strengthening the rule of law, fostering reconciliation and rebuilding relationship with the international community. There are also planned mega projects such as Western Region Megapolis and Colombo International Financial City (CIFC).
Perception and reality
With these transformations taking place in the country, it’s also essential to create the world’s correct understanding of present Sri Lanka to represent the current reality, potential and future aspirations.
According to the world’s leading nation branding expert Simon Anholt, the nation brand is the sum of people’s perceptions of a country across six dimensions of national competence, namely tourism, exports, governance, people, culture and heritage, investment and immigration as highlighted in his Brand Hexagon. A national policy
Of course, nation branding is a national policy and is not an exercise of the Tourism authorities alone or just a marketing campaign either. Nation branding is a collaborative effort of the various sectors such as the promotion of tourism, investment, trade, town and country planning, transportation system, law and order, public and cultural diplomacy, etc.
Leadership with clear vision
Strong leadership from the heads of the government with the clear vision on how the brand Sri Lanka to be positioned and to be seen by people around the world in next 5 years, 10 years or more is instrumental in developing strong reputation of our country.
Accordingly, a national branding plan and the national branding strategy could be crafted and thereby successful nation branding campaign could be anchored to position Sri Lanka in the global landscape.
Singapore is a classic example how it has applied the concept of Nation Branding. The visionary leadership of Lee Kuan Yew has transformed this small land with lack of natural resources, political instability and unskilled workforce to world’s strongest nation brand which is now seen as modern, innovative, industrious, knowledge-based, cosmopolitan and stable nation.
Reforms are required in the national policies, strategies, systems, practices and people to create a better real life experience so that the world can witness that the brand promises are delivered which would be helpful to change the perception to better represent realities.
Therefore, the words and actions of the government have to correspond and the relevant government institution should be more cohesive with joined up activities to deliver what is required to build our nations brand.
Every stakeholder particularly government, private sector and citizens have to work towards the common goal and fulfill the commitment independently to improve our reputation.
♦ Establish a Nation’s Brand Steering Committee ideally under the leadership of the. Prime Minister with the objective to build and manage the nation’s brand.
♦ Ensuring an environment that is safe with very low level of crimes and disorder where all societies live in harmony as proud Sri Lankans.
♦ Rule of law and punitive justice against all forms of corruption.
♦ Creating a culture that ensures the benefit of the nation comes first than for the personal gains.
♦ The favourable policies in attracting investment to the country and improve the Sri Lanka’s standing on the Business Competitive Index
♦ Restructuring of public entities to create positive outcomes aligned with nation’s brand expectations.
♦ Development of human capital to meet the desired economic growth momentum and competiveness.
♦ Learn the best practices from other nations which have successfully managed their international reputations by adopting the concept of nation branding.
In parallel to transformations taking place in Sri Lanka with the peaceful environment, the concept of nation branding could be adopted to improve the image and reputation of our nation. This would lead to greater socio-economic prosperity and better quality of life.
(The writer is an Assistant General Manager of a leading organisation. He is a graduate of the Chartered Institute of Marketing of United Kingdom and Wayamba University of Sri Lanka. He can be reached at Zahranlebbe@gmail.com)