‘We all have a role in building the nation brand’ – Magapatona-Sangaret

Address by Chief Marketing Officer of Brand South Africa, Ms Linda Magapatona-Sangaret to the Annual Conference of the Public Relations Institute of Southern Africa (PRISA) Thursday 18 August 2016 Southern Sun Elangeni, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal

It is an honour to be amongst some of the country’s best marketing and communications professionals at the 2016 annual Conference of the Public Relations Institute of Southern Africa (PRISA).

As we sit here we, as professionals of the marketing and communication discipline, find ourselves in a very competitive and demanding business environment. The theme under which this Conference is being held, “Advance, Rise, Grow,” is very apt in this environment and has implications for us all – not just our Chief Executive Officers.

Most importantly, this theme encourages many opportunities for innovation in our business environments, and also in our field.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I thought that I would use this opportunity to discuss with you some elements around a relatively new field of study and about which I am passionate, that of nation branding and building a strong globally competitive nation brand.

Brand South Africa is the agency mandated to develop a compelling nation brand identity which positions the country positively.

Practitioners in our field will be aware of why a positive brand identity is important, particularly in this contemporary age where brands compete with each for share of voice and more importantly, consumer attention.

Positive perceptions and a strong reputation is the key currency of brands. This is also becoming increasingly important in a shifting communication landscape where negative perceptions can gain significant traction on social media platforms in a relatively short period of time. It is sometimes almost impossible for your brand to recover from such an onslaught.

Positive attitudes and perceptions are a pre-condition to people choosing to visit, or migrate, to the country or to invest in a particular country.

In this regard, the discipline of nation branding is particularly beneficial to developing nations. Various theorists have concluded that programmes to build strong nation brands should be part of the holistic economic programme of the country. This ensures that the country is elevated in the ranks of the global attention economy. Once a nation is part of the attention economy it is easier to attract tourists, investment, skills and positive coverage.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Practitioners of the discipline of marketing and communications will be all too aware that the strongest messages and exciting creative solutions are not sufficient to ensure positive perceptions of a brand, if these do not match reality.

This is all the more challenging with a nation brand when each citizen is a shareholder of the brand identity and equally a consumer. The behaviour of each citizen impacts on how the nation brand is perceived.

To ensure that each citizen is aware of the impact they may have on the reputation of the South African nation brand and how it is perceived, Brand South Africa has developed and is implementing its flagship domestic programme, Play Your Part. As the name suggests, it is a call on citizens to play their part to build South Africa’s reputation. It is a call for citizens to be aware of their impact on how the country is perceived.

In the long term, we are confident that when all citizens become aware of their role in the nation brand building project, our behaviour will begin to match the messages we communicate both domestically and internationally.

In this way, our place and ranking in the attention economy will also increase and South Africa will continue to be a sought after destination, for a variety of reasons. The South African nation brand will be able to effectively demonstrate its ability to make turn aspirations into reality while continually striving and moving to new heights.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would also like to emphasize that, outside of what Brand South Africa does to build the country brand and image, a lot of work being done to position South Africa as a globally competitive destination by many roleplayers within the country. In this regard, our National Development Plan is currently our guiding framework to creating a socially and economically equitable country.

Since the best communication and marketing programmes and campaigns rest on both reality and aspiration, a socially cohesive and economically strong nation brand, will go a long way towards assisting us to collectively position South Africa positively.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As I prepared to address you today, I remembered the words of the Roman poet, Horace, who so eloquently said: “Adversity reveals genius, prosperity conceals it.” This finds popular expression in the phrase, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”

Positioning South Africa positively is something which matters to us all, it is something that we each have a vested interest in. I have no doubt that our collective desire to see our country stand out positively in the attention economy will stimulate our creative juices and therein, we will find new ways of creating value for our industry. The message that we communicate about our nation brand, its people and its prospects for the future, will be stronger for the passion we have to do what we do best.

Let the theme of this conference, Advance-Rise-Grow, inspire us on this journey.

I thank you.