Myriam Gómez, the Executive Director of Fundación Imagen de Chile, which promotes Chile overseas, talks about the significance of country branding in today’s competitive world, the need to develop an inclusive, cross-sector policy to join forces between the public sector, private sector and civil society in promoting the country, and the importance of sending a unified message about the different aspects of Chile’s national identity to a broader international audience.
What are your priorities as Executive Director of the Fundación Imagen de Chile?
In order to enhance the image of Chile, one of the key factors is to increase its visibility, as it is still relatively unknown to the global audience. For this reason, we have devised specific strategies to systematically position Chile’s brand on an ongoing basis.
First of all, the country’s brand has to be adopted as an inclusive, cross-sector policy, so it is represented in all key sectors in charge of international promotion. Secondly, we need to align the actions of the public and private sectors in order to convey a unified message about Chile to the world, a message that represents different aspects of our identity and to which all Chileans relate. Thirdly, we have to define the activities that help us reach a wider international audience with greater impact. We can achieve these goals by working with strategic partners, developing our collaboration with the private sector and civil society, increasing our presence in the international media, reinforcing our communication strategy on digital platforms, and marketing the Chile brand effectively at important events with high international visibility.
It is also important to understand that the country brand is a public good, and therefore every Chilean is responsible for promoting and strengthening it. That’s why this year one of our top priorities will be to encourage Chileans to be part of our strategy of positioning our country brand internationally. It is necessary for Chileans to be aware of the importance of having a solid image as a country and the role we each have in promoting Chile around the world.
Chile has always been viewed a serious, stable country with strong institutions. Aside from good macroeconomic performance, what would you say are Chile’s main attributes?
Indeed, Chile is well known for its more rational characteristics, such as seriousness, stability and good governance. We are praised for having solid and reliable institutions and the ease of doing business is Chile is highly rated. We are considered an attractive investment destination and a great port of entry to the region and other markets. We must continually show the world that we remain a serious, strong and trustworthy partner. These qualities are very important and representative, but they are not sufficient in today’s highly competitive world. So we face the tremendous challenge of projecting other aspects of our national identity that are less well-known to the world, for example, our pursuit of cooperation and progress, our desire to build a more just and equitable society, our solidarity, our culture and many other qualities.
It is also very important to publicize Chile’s great geographical diversity. In the north, we have the driest desert in the world, and in the south we have Patagonia; we have the ocean and mountains, which makes Chile an attractive tourist destination with impressive and diverse landscapes.
Another characteristic is our capacity to face adversity with a positive spirit. We have repeatedly shown that we are capable of exceeding our own limits, which is remarkable. Lastly, it is important to emphasize that we are developing and modernizing while maintaining our traditional values, our roots and the importance family life. For example, most Chileans who study or work abroad miss their country and look forward to returning home.
When it comes to country branding, Chile has had prominent cultural ambassadors on the international stage like Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral. Who are Chile’s ambassadors today?
Other than these two cultural icons who gave Chile worldwide visibility, today we have notable figures in many fields. For example, in sports there are many Chileans, such as Alexis Sanchez, Manuel Pellegrini, Arturo Vidal and Claudio Bravo, who are at the top of world-class soccer leagues. Their excellent performance has helped project some of the qualities that characterize Chile. This is particularly true of Alexis Sanchez, who has been praised for his “fighting warrior spirit,” a quality linked to his Chilean origins or, as his teammates say, to his “Chilean mentality of never giving up.”
We are also making outstanding contributions to culture, notably the recent success of Chilean cinema with films like “Violeta Went to Heaven” or “No”, which was nominated for an Oscar. And Chile is the birthplace of world-famous writers such as Isabel Allende and our “anti-poet” Nicanor Parra, to mention just a few.
Other famous Chileans have developed initiatives that have been emulated elsewhere. For example, Mario Kreutzberger, also known as Don Francisco, is an extraordinary ambassador of the Chile brand who has promoted the Teletón on an international scale. The Teletón is a unique institution that has helped to provide care to a great number of disabled children. Another wonderful example is Benito Baranda, a leader in the fight against child poverty through his organization América Solidaria, which was founded in Chile in 2002 and now operates in 13 countries in Latin America, helping more than 33,000 persons each year. These are very powerful examples of initiatives that started in Chile and have become models for promoting regional integration, demonstrating our commitment to inclusive international cooperation and development with equality.
And of course another great ambassador for Chile’s brand is our President Michelle Bachelet. Because of her compelling personal background and experience in institutions such as UN Women, she has a positive international reputation. According to our surveys, President Bachelet is the most popular Chilean figure in the international media.
In November 2014, you hosted the 2nd International Nation Brand Forum in Santiago. What were the most important lessons from that experience?
One of the most important conclusions was that developing a country brand must be an ongoing, long-term process, and as such it has to be part of a government policy. A strong country brand is a source of development and to cultivate it we need a well-articulated strategy carried out effectively through collaboration of the public and private sectors. Beyond the diversity and richness of a country, it is essential to project a unified narrative that reinforces the image we project to international audiences.
Another important conclusion is the need to project our country as part of Latin America. The more we emphasize our unique qualities and strengthen our country brand globally, the more we contribute to the positioning and development of the entire region. Chile is known for its commitment to regional integration and cooperation and those elements must be part of our international image.
Lastly, we realized how important it is to share experiences with other countries. We are all in different stages of developing our country brands. Some are more advanced than others, which provides us with great opportunities to share lessons and best practices, so we can move forward successfully.
The Fundación Imagen de Chile has seen its budget increased 20% this year. Where do you plan to focus these resources?
With support from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who is also the chairperson of our Board of Directors, this year we have an expanded budget, reversing the previous trend. This will allow us to optimize our activities in strategic sectors for country branding by broadening our range of action with partners and developing new collaborations with the private sector. This is in line with one of our key policies for 2015, which is to project a unified message about our country, both in terms of content and graphic design.
At the same time, a bigger budget will allow us to have a stronger presence during major international events in 2015: the Copa America soccer tournament, the FIFA U-17 World Cup, and Expo Milano. These events are extremely important because they allow us to position Chile internationally, strengthen our brand and reach new audiences around the world.
For instance, we developed a strategic partnership for the FIFA U-17 World Cup and Copa America that will allow us to be involved any time Chile appears as part of those events. Beyond the graphic aspects and links to certain Web sites, it is essential to present the cities that are hosting the events through images that truly reflect their spirit, their people and their culture, because that is the real Chile. We have coordinated production of introductory videos for all the cities that will host matches during both tournaments and established distribution plans for every audiovisual piece.
The other event is Expo Milano 2015, an important public-private initiative that will allow us to showcase Chile on an international level for six months through a key characteristic of our country: the food we produce. This event is an excellent example of how successful we can be when all sectors work together. Government authorities, academics, leaders in agriculture, companies and trade associations have all joined forces for Chile’s participation in Expo Milano. The aim is to show the richness and diversity of our country, as reflected, for example, in our culinary offerings, which will include dishes from every region of the country and the contributions of artisanal, medium-size and large food producers.
The U.S. is the world’s leading economy and one of the largest tourist markets. What is your strategy to attract U.S. tourists?
In general terms, tourism as a sector and the private industry related to it play a key role in building a country brand. In this context, the United States is one of our priorities and our foundation is working closely with Turismo Chile and the Undersecretary of Tourism to strengthen promotion of Chile in the U.S. market and encourage travel between the two countries.
Today’s tourists, including those from the U.S., have high expectations, which is why it is important to ensure that we provide them quality service and safety. Chile is home to a diversity of landscapes that amaze thousands of visitors each year. These include the spectacular scenery in Patagonia and the peaks of Torres del Paine (voted the eighth Wonder of the World), the magic and moai statues of Easter Island as well as glaciers and the most arid desert in the world in northern Chile. This natural wealth challenges us to continue improving service quality and promote these destinations and to achieve this, the entire tourism industry must work together. One very positive step we have taken is the establishment of the Advisory Council for Tourism Promotion, headed by Tourism Undersecretary Javiera Montes, where representatives of the public and private sector devise strategies to promote Chile internationally.
What message would you like to convey to our international audience, particularly the U.S. audience, about Chile today?
Chile has a long-standing relationship with the United States with close ties in terms of trade, economy, politics and tourism. It is essential that we continue to deepen this relationship, as we have a great deal in common and numerous opportunities to continue growing together.
Chile is still relatively unknown to the U.S. public, as they tend to see Latin America as a whole, without distinguishing clearly one country from another. Our identity is strongly linked to the products we export, but we have much more to offer. That’s why we are implementing several initiatives to promote other aspects of Chile like our culture and traditions, our cuisine and wines, innovation and technology entrepreneurship, among many others. Chile is a rich and diverse country that offers great opportunities for visitors from the United States seeking new experiences in a context with security, reliability and stability. To strengthen the ties between the two countries, I would like to invite American tourists to come and visit Chile, to see its astonishing natural landscapes and discover the many business and investment opportunities we have to offer.