Saturday 18 Aug 2018 | 04:31 | SYDNEY
Saturday 18 Aug 2018 | 04:31 | SYDNEY

Who the bloody hell are we?


Alex Oliver


1 September 2009 12:47

Last week, Trade Minister Simon Crean announced that 'the Australian Government will spend $20 million over the next four years to deliver a new international brand for Australia.' In his press release, he asserts that 'we need a cohesive brand that captures the essence of Australia and underscores the quality of all that we have to offer in sectors such as trade, investment and education.'

It seems to me that Mr Crean is seeking something which does not, and should not, exist. To try to capture the essence of Australia in one 'cohesive brand' would be to sell ourselves short and trivialise the message, in the same way that the 'Where the bloody hell are you?' campaign did.

To risk flogging a dead horse, the Senate Committee’s 2007 exhaustive report on Australia’s public diplomacy, which I talked about in a previous post, concluded that 'to be effective, Australia's public diplomacy must succeed in projecting messages that give greater breadth and substance to its image'. My emphasis, and note the plural.

DFAT's own public diplomacy handbook refers to the need to build understanding about Australia as:

  • A stable, sophisticated, tolerant and culturally diverse nation.
  • A source of innovative and high quality goods and services.
  • An attractive place to visit.
  • Having first rate educational opportunities.

This is not one message, no matter how carefully crafted. It is many.

A successful public diplomacy strategy is well researched (something the Senate Committee notes we do too little of), well coordinated and carefully targeted. It will be a series of messages, rather than one overall 'brand'. It will consist of diverse activities of many government agencies and even NGOs and businesses, directed through an overarching responsible entity with skilled staff senior enough to make decisions, and which coordinates the various agencies to deliver a comprehensive, cohesive and effective program.

It is to be hoped the $20 million is not a total waste, and that we get something better than we've had in the past. But judging by the Crean announcement, it will still not be the public diplomacy program Australia needs.

Photo by Flickr user Walmink, used under a Creative Commons license.