Passport, Power, and Measurement: Perfect Trio

If you have been on any kind of social media platform during the last couple of weeks, you must have seen the new “Passport Index” that ranks each and every passport in the world according to their power – or according to how many visa-free travel opportunities they provide to their holder. But my own travel experience (and obsession with proper measurement techniques) make me wonder whether “visa-free travel opportunity” is a suitable way to assess the power of a passport. Is there a better way to capture the power of a passport? (Hint: The answer is yes. This is why I am writing this blog post.)

It is visa free, but do you really want to go?

It is visa free, but do you really want to go?

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Back to blogging

During the last couple of months (well last year), I wasn’t able to blog as regularly as I would like to. As a good doctoral student, I spent all of my time on my dissertation. I finally managed to finish my dissertation and get my degree over the summer. I am currently a faculty member at the Kadir Has University, Department of Public Relations and Information in Istanbul, Turkey.

Below you can find the executive summary of my dissertation. The table of contents can be seen on my Academia page. As I am currently on the market looking for a publisher, I will not be sharing the full text online.

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Theory and Practice in Public Diplomacy: Diplomatic dish-washing

For the last couple of months, I have been working on the latest project of – our online coffeehouse project. The website, which started out as an online “social diplomacy” / place branding project is going offline, and meeting people on the street with “Mobile Turkish Coffee House” project.

Mobile Turkish Coffee House in front of the Turkish Embassy in Washington, DC

Mobile Turkish Coffee House in front of the Turkish Embassy in Washington, DC

Turkayfe.orgstarted out as an idea in May 2009, and the website went live in May 2010. From our very early days, we did our best to learn from our mistakes, and to improve our project. As a doctoral candidate studying public diplomacy, and a dilettante practitioner; I tried to use my practical experience in my academic studies and vice-versa.

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New publication – Thinking about place branding: Ethics of concept

As you might already know, Journal of Place Branding and Public Diplomacy is publishing a special issue on Ethics of Place Making . My article, entitled “Thinking about place branding: Ethics of concept” will be published in this upcoming issue.

Here is the abstract:

This article introduces a critical theory-induced approach to the concept of place branding to expose the ethical drawbacks within the field. The author argues that the dominant approaches and definitions of place branding limit the thinking of scholars to market-driven subjects, such as measurement, effectiveness and strategies. It is difficult even to discuss ethical issues at a conceptual level within these approaches. With an attempt to further investigate these widely ignored issues, place branding is redefi ned through a communicative action framework, and a two-step model of place branding is devised – composed of domestic communicative action (Step 1) and international communicative action (Step 2). Step 1 highlights (i) legitimacy and (ii) inclusion as ethical concerns, whereas Step 2 brings in the question of (iii) consistency between the messages in the domestic and international arena. Critical theory makes it possible to take an analytical look at the mainstream approaches and present ethical issues at the conceptual level. Future studies should aim to integrate this theoretical approach to the practice of place branding.

I will share the link to the publication as soon as it becomes available online.


Here is the article: on the Road: Events in New York and DC

Last year, after the Turkish festival in DC, I wrote about the importance of “creating a real community” for online social diplomacy projects. There is, indeed, an undeniable need for ‘real’ people and connections to support online communication attempts. Therefore, as the team, we are doing our best to reach out to as many people as possible.

This summer, we are hosting two events, one in New York (June 11th) and another in Washington, DC (June 15th) to discuss the past, present, and future of Turkish coffee. So, if you are in town – stop by one of our events, grab a cup of coffee and join the conversation! Looking forward to seeing you all!

New York, Schedule, June 11th

Address: Turkish House, 821 United Nations 8th floor New York City, NY 10017
RSVP Link:
7:00 PM Event start time
7:15 PM Opening remarks
7:30 PM Ercüment Ackman, Capstone Advisor, Georgetown University Real Estate Graduate School – ‘Once Upon a time Turkish Coffee’
7:45 PM Göknur Akçadağ, History Expert Assistant Professor – ‘The American Perspective: Turks in the 19th – 20th centuries’
8:00 PM Gizem Salcigil White and Efe Sevin, Founders of – ‘Digitalizing Coffee Houses – Social Diplomacy Web 2.0 and Turkey’s International Digital Coffee House’
8:30 – 9:30 PM Reception

Washington, DC Schedule, June 15th

Address: Embassy of the Republic of Turkey, 2525 Massachusetts Avenue NW Washington D.C., 20008-2826
RSVP Link:
7:00 PM Event start time
7:15 PM Opening remarks
7:30 PM Ercüment Ackman, Capstone Advisor, Georgetown University Real Estate Graduate School – ‘Once Upon a time Turkish Coffee’
7:45 PM Göknur Akçadağ, History Expert Assistant Professor – ‘The American Perspective: Turks in the 19th – 20th centuries’
8:00 PM Gizem Salcigil White and Efe Sevin, Founders of – ‘Digitalizing Coffee Houses – Social Diplomacy Web 2.0 and Turkey’s International Digital Coffee House’
8:30 – 9:30 PM Reception

Social Diplomacy: This time on the streets…

As you might already know, I am working as the political communication consultant for project. Turkayfe is a Web 2.0 based online platform that invites people to share their experiences about Turkey with the community. Our main is to brand Turkey through people’s perspectives. Instead of using mass media and mass persuasion methods, we aim to reach a brand image through telling stories about the country. We label our attempt as a social diplomacy project. Even though, mainly utilizes online communication methods, it is important not to forget that social diplomacy is inherently a ‘social’ understanding of public diplomacy, and requires face-time with the target audiences.
Last Sunday, we were at the Turkish Festival in Washington, DC. We set up a table for Turkayfe, and made our first contact with the community in Washington, DC. The Turkish expats and students in the United States, as well as American citizens interested in Turkey are two of our main target audiences. Therefore, the festival was a great opportunity for us to connect with the community. You can read more about our impressions here and here.

Shortly speaking, social diplomacy projects taking place at a grassroots level cannot survive through solely online communication technologies. The projects need to ‘solidify’, in other words, the projects should focus on creating a real community around the idea who will eventually contribute to the online communication attempts.

The people in the post photo are (from left to right) Forest and Karalyn (alumni of Bilkent University), Gizem (our founder), and me.

Here are some of my observations after spending one day at the festival and engaging with the community:
– Communication is an important aspect of project management, especially if we are running public/social diplomacy or nation/place branding projects.
– Face-to-face communication enables us to get direct feedback from people about the project.
– Giving a face to the project increases your credibility. You are no longer only a website, you are the people who are running the website.
– Meeting people who are interested in the project, who love to talk about your project definitely increases the motivation of the team members.

This blog post is also posted on

My book on Nation Branding!

Finally, my book on nation branding is published and is for sale. The book is practically based on my thesis research. Controlling the Message: A Strategic Approach to Nation Branding (ISBN: 3838389409) or Controlling the Message ,for short, is an attempt to describe the actual role of communication strategies, tools, and techniques in nation branding processes. As you might know, Simon Anholt has underestimated the role of communication in these processes several times. In fact, if I am not mistaken, in his book Competitive Identity, he even said communication had a 2% impact in nation/place branding. As the title of my book suggests, I do not agree with his views and evaluate the communication strategies of eight different campaigns.

The book has five chapters. During the first chapter, two main theories (Lippmann’s Public Opinion and Benoit’s Image Restoration), as well as several auxiliary theories and models are introduced. The main research method is a cross-case analysis between Japan (Japan Brand – Country of Origin Effect), USA (Mutual understanding through exchanges – Soft power/influence), Greece (A Masterpiece You Can Afford – Tourism), Poland (Polish Plumber – Repositioning), Kosovo (The Young Europeans – Nation Building), Israel (Israel Beyond Conflict – Conflict Resolution), Switzerland (Swissnex – Repositioning), and Iceland (Iceland Naturally – FDI/Business).

The following chapter focuses on current literature on nation branding, public opinion, corporate branding, nation branding models, and political communication. What makes this work different from other studies in nation branding is the fact that it introduces the concept of nation branding as a political communication understanding which is derived from corporate branding.

Chapter 3 aims to define the concept of nation branding through case analysis and analogy with corporate branding concepts. A robust is necessary in order to discuss the communication aspect of the term. This chapter also looks at the relation between national identity and nation brand identity.

Chapter 4, on the other hand, introduces a more practical side of nation branding. Political communication in nation branding is examined in three different parts. Firstly, rhetorical aspects, in other words how messages are formulated, are discussed. This discussion is followed by how messages are coded (i.e. coded through a public diplomacy project, coded through lobbying). Last part looks at the communication platforms (media) that are used to transmit the messages to target audiences.

Chapter 5 introduces how these 8 case studies have strategized their communication campaign. The conclusion part draws lessons from all these case studies and comes up with a new strategic communication framework that can be used both to evaluate current campaigns and to be used in new campaigns.

Here is my table of contents:
-Purpose of Research
-Structure of the Thesis
Chapter 1: Theoretical Framework and Methodology
-Guiding Theories
-Ancillary Theories
Chapter 2: Literature Review
-Nation Branding and Public Opinion
-Nation Branding and Corporate Branding
-Prominent Models in Nation Branding
-Political Communication in Nation Branding
Chapter 3: Definition of Nation Branding
-Conceptual Discussions
-Components of Nation Branding
-Nation Branding vs. Corporate Branding
Chapter 4: Tools and Media in Nation Branding
-Rhetorical Aspects
-Political Communication Tools
Chapter 5: A Strategic Model for Nation Branding Campaigns
-Visions and Missions of Nation Branding Campaigns
-Strategic Models
-Comparative Case Analysis
Conclusion: Lessons Learned from Case Studies
-Policy Recommendations
-Limitations of the Study

I enjoyed working on my thesis and this publication. I believe there is a gap in nation branding research. Scholars and practitioners still continue to overlook the importance of strategic political communication in branding. If you have any questions about the book, do not hesitate to contact me! I hope you will enjoy reading this work!

PS: Here is the link, once again:

PS 2: If you want to write a review of the book, please contact me at I can put you in contact with my publisher.


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