Branding Canada

May 26, 2011

I’ve just finished reading Evan Potter’s Branding Canada and I’d highly recommend it.  It’s one of the few book length studies of a  country’s public diplomacy and it’s particularly valuable because that country isn’t the US.  The scope is comprehensive.  It looks at the history of Canadian PD back to efforts to promote immigration a over a century ago – silent films did not include images of the Canadian winter.  It looks at the full range of external promotional activities including trade and tourism promotion and it looks at PD both as national level activity and something that happens at embassy levels – there are interesting case studies of local campaigns.  There is particular attention to the role of PD in Canada’s relationship with the US.

Potter’s basic diagnosis of Canada’s PD problem is positive opinion based on low visibility.  This means that long established images of Canada shape the way that others engage with it lack of attention makes it difficult to change that image.  The position of Quebec both assists and hampers Canadian efforts.  One hand it builds connections with the Francophone world  and contributes to images of multiculturalism and federalism – it makes Canada more interesting but it sometimes cuts across efforts to promote an image of Canada.

Public Diplomacy activities are fragmented and lack resources. Potter’s recommendations will be familiar – the development of a comprehensive public diplomacy strategy and organizations that can coordinate the full range of activities.

Potter, E.H. (2009) Branding Canada: Projecting Canada’s Soft Power Through Public Diplomacy. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

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