Blogging as part of a national branding communication strategy

I recently found out on Twitter from Ligia Adam about Amanda, an American blogger who visited Romania as part of a CEE organised road trip. If you haven’t read it yet, I strongly encourage you to do so, she writes very nicely about the places and people that impressed her the most in Romania.

Leaving aside her positive impressions about the picturesque landscape, what actually impressed me the most were the comments to her blog – over 120 of them, the majority of which came from foreigners who were saying that, thanks to her travel impressions, they are now considering visiting as well!

From a communications point of view, this seems quite encouraging: Romania can be promoted through a variety of channels, not only traditional, mainstream PR! We already know that personal recommendations word of mouth are now considered to be main reasons for influence in taking a decision to buy a certain product, try a certain service or visit a certain place. The fact that I, a regular online user, read on a blog which I trust, that there is this place called “Romania” which is worth visiting will surely help me make up my mind. Of course, booking a holiday is not entirely dependent on online recommendations, but think about what would happen if at least part those who commented would choose to visit us. And if we think that Amanda is not the only foreign travel blogger who visited Romania, we can start thinking about a tourism strategy which would include a blogging relations component which could prove beneficial on the medium and long term. Here’s one advantage of using digital communication to promote Romania outside the Romanian borders!

Amanda’s article is not the only one of its kind and of course such strategy might have its risks – you couldn’t impose people what to write. But one can embrace the new media, take a leap of faith, invite a few travel bloggers to visit Romania and let them write their own impressions about what they found here, good and bad. No country is perfect. But managed correctly, by people who know and understand social media, such an initiative might prove successful and would support Romania public diplomacy. Foreign bloggers form a special audience, both interesting and in the same time not sufficiently explored in our national tourism strategy. I wonder what Razvan Pascu would think about this?

In contextul in care blogul de fata vrea sa promoveze idei bune si interesante de comunicare online pentru sectorul public, o incurajez pe doamna Grapini (Ministru delegat pentru, printre altele, Turism), Autoritatea Nationala de Turism sau chiar Ministerul de Externe sa fie deschisi la idei noi si sa accepte oportunitatile oferite de mediile sociale pentru promovarea imaginii Romaniei in afara granitelor tarii! Se poate ca, la final de zi, pasii mici si aparent lipsiti de conversie peste noapte sa aduca beneficii neasteptate!

Public diplomacy shined for one day in Romania

At the beginning of last week, more specifically on September 16, I took part in the European Forum for Public Diplomacy, organized in Bucharest at the initiative and under the coordination of Presidential Adviser Mr. Dan Dima and Chief of the Presidential Chancery Mr. Cristan Diaconescu.

The event was the first of this size in the field of public diplomacy in Romania and brought back the discussion over the need to establish a Department/ team of specialists that would be in charge of drafting and managing the country’s public diplomacy.

In the opening, I listened to the speeches of some of the most important and influential people in Romania, explaining the role of public diplomacy in shaping a better future for our country, through the lens of their positions and institutions.

There were also speeches by representatives of the diplomatic corps and business environment in Romania. I was pleasantly surprised by the address of H.E. Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to Bucharest Mr. Marek Szczygieł, which focused on digital diplomacy as a distinct area of public diplomacy. H.E. indicated that the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs is going through a phase of dramatic changes in order to adapt to the most advanced methods of communication and interaction with foreign audiences, like social media, the reason being very simple, “because that is where people are”. The Ambassador presented many of the advantages and challenges of new media that we have also indicated throughout our articles, but H.E. pointed out in the end an interesting perspective, that digital diplomacy represents the future.

For excerpts of the opening speeches, you can access the article published by the media partner of the Forum,

However, in my opinion, the most interesting part of the event was the academic panel, made up of four of the most representative specialists in the field of public diplomacy worldwide Philip Seib, Director of the Institute for Public Diplomacy, University of Southern California (USC), PJ Crowley, Associate Professor at George Washington and former US Department of State spokesman, Nicholas J Cull, Coordinator of Masters Programmes in Public Diplomacy at USC and Sean Aday, Director of the Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication of George Washington University. Their lectures, on various aspects related to public diplomacy, were followed by those of several representatives of the Romanian universities, which mentioned the importance of including public diplomacy as a distinct field of study for its professionalization.

Next I will share with you some of the most important ideas mentioned by the four speakers, which I believe to be relevant also for the creation and management of Romania’s public diplomacy:

– According to Philip Seib:

  • Public diplomacy should not commit to more than it could offer;
  • For an efficient public diplomacy, a first step would be to identify all strengths, among which a country’s citizens are also included, as they can be as ambassadors;
  • Public diplomacy and diplomats need to admit the transformative impact of new media and social media in particular, considering that the people’s expectations in terms of communication have changed dramatically.

– Sean Aday, on the other side, offered these views:

  • For an efficient public diplomacy, there a need to make a clear distinction between the image that we have of ourselves, the image that we believe other have of us, and the actual image that the others have;
  • Public diplomacy is not propaganda;
  • Public diplomacy involves informing, but it is about influencing attitudes;
  • Public diplomacy has to have a strategic goal;
  • In order to face the challenges of digital diplomacy, trainings in the use of social media are a must;
  • The importance of digital diplomacy comes from the possibility of interacting with groups or communities; The internet is not a giant mass of people, it is made up of networks of people that overlap more or less;

– Nicholas J Cull spoke about public diplomacy first and foremost from an academic perspective:

  • Public diplomacy encompasses five key elements: Listening – in order to understand the audiences you want to address; Advocacy – in order to present and explain yourself; Cultural diplomacy – in order to expose foreign citizens to your own culture; Exchanges – in order to facilitate meetings between your citizens and that of foreign countries; International broadcasting – in order to transmit your own views, opinions, ideas, messages abroad, through television, radio and internet;
  • Regarding digital diplomacy, parameters such as the number of likes or followers are deceptive, because the relationship that is built with the audience matters more; If engagement was an important aspect even before, now it is the main target;
  • Classical skills are still relevant;
  • Words are important, but policies are more important.

– Then, PJ Crowley spoke from the perspective of an individual who has practiced public diplomacy at the highest level:

  • Non-state actors play an important part in public diplomacy;
  • Informal groups created online will try to transform their virtual influence into real political power;
  • Hard power will be become more and more costly to use, image wise, while soft power offers broader opportunities for influencing audiences and obtaining legitimacy;
  • Legitimacy is power over opinion; Legitimacy is hard to obtain, easy to loose and costly to replenish;
  • An efficient combination between traditional public diplomacy and social media has the potential to chance perceptions over a country.

In the end, I am happy that this event took place in Romania, that public diplomacy has become a field of interest here and that I had the chance of seeing and listening to all those who went on stage. Moreover, it was a great opportunity to get to know other people interested in public diplomacy, such as the ones that obtained an invitation to the Forum.

Therefore, I look forward with enthusiasm to the next event on public diplomacy or related themes to take place in Bucharest.

N.B. For those of you who missed it, former US Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Foreign Affairs, Mrs. Tara Sonenshine, sent a message for the event, which was published by Romania Libera daily and Prof. Philip Seib wrote an op-ed in Huffington Post about the event and Romania’s public diplomacy.

It is time for Webstock!

Tomorrow, Sept. 27., the sixth edition of the most important conference in Romania dedicated to social media will take place in Bucharest – Webstock. Of course we will also be there, to listed to some of the most influencial and innovative people in online.

The one-day event will include several session on various themese, such as  “Innovation in Communication” or “Blogging & Social Media”, followed by the much awaited Webstock Awards, which will reward the most creative social media projects and campaigns in the last year in Romania.  As we announced some time ago, also competes will big industry names in  the Publishing sections.

For those of you who will not attend Webstock tomorrow, follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates with the most interesting ideas presented during the event. The hashtag will be #webstockro.

The jewel of this year’s Webstock conference

This year’s Webstock Conference was much awaited for the interesting presentations and discussions, but mostly for the Award Ceremony. :) We were also anxiously looking forward to the announcement of the winners, despite our realistic expectations considering the competition in our section. The prizes were given to some of the most interesting and appreciated online campaigns, projects, initiatives or applications launched in the last year…and still, there was only one that caught our attention.

The iPad application SARTISS developed by the Kolectiv Studio agency won first place in the Innovation Section. The app appeared, according to the Director of the Oradea Emergency Clinic Hospital, from the need to improve the communication between a patient’s relatives and the medical staff, especially during emergency situations. And Kolectiv Studio came up with a simple solution – connecting them online.

How does it work? According to the description,  the application has access to the medical facility’s data base and generates a QR code once a patient is admitted, based on which the patient’s relatives can monitor its progress.

Considering that our project,, advocates for the importance of online communication performed by public institutions, as well as for the digitalization of public sector services, including in the medical system, – as we have previously mentioned in our article– we  believe this initiative to be commendable and we hope it will be implemented not only in public medical facilities, but also in the private sector.