Call for Chapters: Book Project on Internationalization of Cities

I will be co-editing a book, tentatively entitled From Branding to Diplomacy: Cities in the International Arena,  with Sohaela Amiri of Pardee RAND Graduate School on the internationalization of cities.

One of the areas I wanted to expand on as part of my research on  cities and communication  has been how cities – our homes – have been spending time and resources to be active in the ‘outside’ world. Let that be through city diplomacy or city diplomacy, our hometowns now have new identities. We are looking for chapters that investigates these new identities, the new roles and functions undertaking by cities, and the ways to study them.

Below, you can find a more formal call (or download the call in PDF format here).

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Deadline for abstract submission is November 1st.

Continue reading


I think Sweden just won #Eurovision 2017

I know Portugal won the Eurovision Song Contest, but Sweden won the Eurovision. As I am obsessed (not only with Eurovision but also) with nation branding and perception, I look at the results from a branding perspective. And I will argue that Sweden – not Portugal, not even the host country Ukraine – won the Eurovision.


“Celebrate Diversity” was the ‘theme’ at Kyiv (Photo from

Continue reading

Another Analysis of Turkish Referendum: A New Turkish Brand?

As  my beloved home country, Turkey, has just voted “yes” on proposed constitutional changes that made current president Recep Tayyip Erdogan pretty much president until 2029* and gave him extensive powers that will (I guess) enable him to enact all the policies he did not have the resources to enact  – despite being in politics since 1983, an elected official from 1994 to 1998, and controlling the executive branch since 2002, controlling the executive branch with little to no opposition from the legislative branch since 2007, with little to no opposition from the judiciary branch since 2010.

But anyway, I digress. Where was I? Yes, Turkish brand. So, what will happen to the Turkish brand? Well, Turkish brand will both benefit from the results and be damaged, almost, beyond repair.


At least they can spell “referendum”

Continue reading

This is the Turkish model, not the end of it

There is a Twitter ban in Turkey. A democratic country blocked access to the microblogging site, 10 days before the most important election of the decade! This move brings the question is whether the ban signals the end of the Turkish model – as a democratic country with a predominantly Muslim population – for the region or not. I say, this ban clearly shows what the Turkish model is. We think about Turkey as a country that combines the Western values with a different religious belief. I argue the model was always about using Western institutions to justify the influence of religion on society and politics. Here is how:


“Shoot that blue bird”

Continue reading

Turkey (not) in Eurovision: Symbolic Actions and Branding

Last Saturday, countries from across the European continent came together for the 58th time, for the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest in Malmö, Sweden….but not Turkey!

Turkey explicitly expressed its concerns about the fairness of the contest – a concern that has not been voiced by any other country before. Therefore, Turkish decision is indeed a symbolic action that has implications for its reputation (or brand) as part of the European society.

As seen in the video above, it is quite difficult to take Eurovision seriously and discuss its fairness. But Turkey did it. What was Turkey thinking?

Continue reading

Anholt on Turkey

Simon Anholt announced that Turkey should focus on its ‘nation brand’, a couple of weeks ago in an interview with a Turkish daily newspaper. Back then, as the Turkayfe team, we used the news on our newsletter, and put his statements in some of our materials. More recently, picked up the news , and we are running through a second cycle of viral distribution. In the first cycle, I refrained from commenting on Anholt’s views – mostly because we used the interview to support our project – Turkayfe. Yet, I believe I can put my two cents in during the second cycle.

I want this sofa (Image from

Let me first extract main points from his interview. The points below are directly taken from Hurriyet Daily News article:

Turkish government must develop policies to improve the “brand” of the nation:

Now, on one hand, this is an important statement. It is nothing new, fairly obvious to anyone who has any idea of international arena in the 21st century. But, Anholt used this statement in a national newspaper (actually English version of a Turkish newspaper). On the other hand, he puts the responsibility of brand-making, if you will, to the governments. As we know from his various books and speeches, he supports the idea of all-exclusive, (i.e. public-private partnerships) brand creations. However, it seems like the governments have a leading role in his conceptualization of nation-brand. I assume, it is because he equates nation brand with what a country does. Yet, we should stop and think about moral and ethical implications of making governments the primary responsible party for nations’ brands.

Turkey has to find ways of making itself “indispensable” to other peoples:

Again – pretty obvious but great to read it in a newspaper. This statement (together with his metaphor of the celestial keyboard) raises questions about Anholt’s understanding of international system. Is he talking about a closely-linked global economy? Or about a Global Village? Global politics? I mean, what is indispensable? So, is a good ‘brand’ something that people cannot live without? Is it just this necessity bound? I like to think a brand more in terms of a network of associations – which cannot be reduced to necessity.

Turkey’s best chance to increase its reputation in the world is “to be the bridge between Europe and Asia, between Islam and other religions:

Well, this has failed so many times in the last few decades, I don’t know what to say about it… It has been used by government officials since the very early days of the Republic – never worked. It usually ended up making Europeans suspicious as ‘we are a Muslim country’ and Muslims suspicious as ‘we are a Westernized country’.

“Nation branding”..[is].. not about communication or promotion, but concrete policies:

Well, no. I highly appreciate Braun & Zenker’s* definition of place brand as a “network of associations in the consumers’ mind based on the visual, verbal, and behavioral expression of a place, which is embodied through the aims, communication, values, and the general culture of the place’s stakeholders and the overall place design”. Therefore nation branding is about communication and promotion. Actually, if we are looking at nation branding as an integrated process of creating and disseminating a brand identity; ‘nation branding’ part is predominantly communication. Turkey has to change the expressions of the country, through communication as well as concrete policies (and communicating these policies).

One interesting thing about Anholt’s Nation Brand Index and Turkey is that the country is fairly consistent across the six criteria. For instance, Egypt, which shares similar scores with Turkey, has a higher rank in tourism. However in order to talk about the causes for this consistency, one has to accept that NBI’s methodology is valid and reliable. So, I will just say this is an interesting point that might be used as a conversation starter.

In sum, Anholt’s public interviews, speeches, or even books do not provide readers/listeners with ground-breaking information, however, (i) it is great when the most prominent person in the field says these things, and (ii) it is nice to have them in one book. His comments about Turkey are generic, as this is a newspaper interview. His comments about communication and nation branding is based on an assumption that communication is about false information, spins, and manufacturing identities. Yet, ‘branding’ is an attempt to socially and communicatively adjust to living in today’s brand-era. It is a necessity to negotiate what a place means for target audiences with target audiences. It is not about concrete policies, it is about being a part of the global society.

*Braun, E. and Zenker, S. (2010), “Towards an integrated approach for place brand management”,
paper presented at the 50th European Regional Science Association Congress, Jonkoping.

Communication in Nation Branding

Currently, I am reading No Logo by Naomi Klein. As most of you might know, No Logo criticizes the mega/super brands; is also known as one of the most influential anti-globalization books. Well, I am learning a lot of new things about branding and how to create brand identities from a book that highly devalues branding. This week, I wanted to write about what I learned about branding from No Logo (I am sorry, Ms. Klein), and discuss Simon Anholt’s speech below based on communication and branding.

Anholt starts out by telling us to ‘forget about branding’. He claims when it comes to cities/places; promotion is not enough to change the perception. He says he has not been able to see one case study where a city/place/region has demonstrably and measurably increased its reputation through marketing communication…

I have three main ‘issues’ with and one methodological objection to his statement:

1) Promotion and marketing communication are two different terms. Communication in nation/place branding is, and should be, strategic communication. In the strategical conceptualization of the term, promotional activities will stay only as tactics and operations. The entire communication framework is broader than promotion. Therefore, Anholt fails to see the complete communication mechanism in the branding processes. I agree that promotion is not enough to increase reputation, however strategic communication is a prerequisite.

2) Anholt wants to see a measurable increase in a country’s reputation… Currently, I know two measurement scales in nation branding. One belongs to Anholt and GfK – Nation Brands Index (NBI), and the other one to East-West Communications. I am not really sure whether NBI is methodologically sound, as I have not had access to the documentation. East-West Communications bases its arguments on a simple content-analysis. Long story short, I do not know any place reputation measurement scale. Therefore, it might be very difficult to find a case where a city/place/region has measurably increased its reputation (It is important to note that Anholt distinguishes branding from promotion for tourism or economic development. Therefore those figures cannot be used to measure the success of a branding campaign. Otherwise, we could have easily used Polish Plumber to disprove his argument).

3) Several branding campaigns start ‘re-actively’. In some cases, there is a need for policy advisors to change their policies, to restructure their economies, etc. However, in several other cases, the need for branding/re-branding is sparked by misinformation and misperception. Therefore, in fact, the main of the reputation management (branding/rebranding) is to provide the facts and figures to target audiences. In other words, there are several branding cases where communication is the main component. A project I have been working on, RediscoveRosarito, is such a case study. The main aim of the project is to debunk the myths of danger created by mainstream media.

4) Well, I just want to tweak Anholt’s words. He has not seen any case where communication succeeded. Is there a story of success where communication had no role? If the answer is no, we cannot overlook the importance of communication in branding.

Shortly, what I want to say is, strategic communication is not the only component of a successful branding campaign. However, a campaign that does not appreciate the dominant role of communication in changing perceptions is not very likely to accomplish its objectives.

PS: Before I forget, as far as I can recall, Poland was working with Wally Olins for branding. Did Poland change its mind? And secondly, can any one name one of Anholt’s branding campaigns?

I didn’t say it – Lippmann said: Ethical Concerns in Nation Branding

Walter Lippmann’s Public Opinion theory is one of my guiding theories in my thesis. While discussing the impacts of ‘the real world’ vs. ‘the pictures in our heads’ on nation branding, I felt the urge to differentiate rhetoric explicitly from deception. Shortly speaking, Lippmann claims that we are too lazy, the world is too big, and the couch is too comfortable, so we will not have the opportunity to contact a huge part of the real world. We will hear about events happening in the other parts of the world. We will read newspapers, watch TV, follow tweets (no, Lippmann was not talking about tweeting), and then interpret the information we get in a personal way to create a picture of the world in our heads.

It is called a fictional reality, reported reality, mediated reality, and several other names. In short, we don’t witness events, we witness how they are reported by some others. When we add up our own perceptive criteria on top of this manufactured reality, we end up with ‘our world’ (a.k.a. the picture in our heads). Putnam argues for the decreasing levels of social interaction. In daily parlance, it means the couch is more comfortable than ever. So, less real world, more perceived world through reported information.

Nation branding, in this sense, is providing a narrative to this reported world. Many people don’t know the reality about your nation (see the video below). Nation branding can try to:
– make a nation relevant to people (first step into the picture)
– help people know more about a nation (maintaining your spot)
– tell something else about a nation (repositioning)
– diversity the arguments (creating more spots in the picture)
– keep some issues off-the radar (shifting the discussions)

Persuasiveness, or rhetoric, is important in creating and restoring images in people’s minds. All these communication processes in nation branding take place not in the real world but in the perceived reality. Given the complexity of the real world, and the decreasing levels of social interaction , ideas are formed with the help of the mediated reality. Now after talking about the same issue in my thesis, I felt the urge to say “This research does not, in any way, argue for defamation, deception, or manipulation of the reality. Because of the fact that people’s views about a nation are created in this mediated reality, the author argues that nations should be actively involved in providing their narratives.” Even in keeping issues off-the-radar, the main aim is to avoid being associated with an issue which does not reflect the reality of a nation (i.e. Greece might want to keep discussions over current financial situation off-the-radar by promoting another issue. In long term, Greece and financial crisis should not be associated. Similarly, US tries to divert the attention away from domestic political discussions). The main aim is not to lie, to manipulate reality but to provide your narrative for your own image.

Rhetoric is all about persuasion. Yet, first rule of communication, if you cannot support what you say, don’t say. Communication takes place in several platforms, so nation branding messages should be present in all these with the aims of increasing the relevance of a nation and putting pictures in the perception, not of deceiving people. Branding campaigns do not (should not) censor other news sources, but should compete with them in terms of credibility, legitimacy, and efficiency.

Now I pretty much understand why Dr. Nancy Snow insists on saying ‘persuasion with principle’ and ‘truth is the best propaganda’.

Here are the books I talked about:
Lippmann, W. (1922). Public opinion (1st ed.). New York: Free Press Paperbacks.
Putnam, R. (2001). Bowling alone : the collapse and revival of American community (1st ed.). New York: Touchstone.

Here is the video: (WordPress, why are you so difficult to use? Please click on the link below if you want to watch the video)
Nation Of Andorra Not In Africa, Shocked U.S. State Dept. Reports

And my cross-posting announcement:

This blog post is also posted on and

Turkey and Public Diplomacy

As I am supposed to be focusing solely on my thesis nowadays, I am wasting quite some time surfing. I decided to google “public diplomacy turkey” and to read the recent developments. I believe, after Turkish MFA’s two conferences inviting all the ambassadors to meet in Ankara, Turkey decided to introduce new foreign policy strategies. I felt obliged to put my two “kuruş” in.

On Jan 30th, 2010, Turkish PM issued a circular order, underlining the importance of public diplomacy and announcing the new official Public Diplomacy initiative. Institute of Public Diplomacy, was founded by a Turkish think-tank founded (where I was an intern six years ago). Suat Kinikoglu, a member of the Turkish Parliament, has mentioned the importance of communication and public diplomacy several times. He is also the director of Center for Strategic Communication – “a non-governmental organization in order to facilitate strategic communication for Turkey both at home and abroad.” (though I have to say, I am not really comfortable with calling an institution an NGO when the director is an MP and is affiliated with the ruling party).

MFA announced that Turkish public diplomacy efforts will be seen on the internet. Although Turkey didn’t catch the first wave of ‘governments going online’, Deputy Undersecretary’s statements prove that Turkey has understood the importance of public diplomacy and two-way communication in foreign policy.

Last January, the minister and several ambassadors visited Mardin, where they talked with local residents and journalists. The following news article explains how “prominent Turkish ambassadors briefly abandoned the formal world of diplomacy to interact with people at a local coffehouse”. It is good to see that our ambassadors can act in non-traditional environments. Our diplomatic corps are infamous for being elitist, these actions surely will help them to break this bad reputation. Turkey has been also engaged in several student exchange, economic cooperation, and cultural diplomacy activities.

Now it is time for action. We are already a latecomer to the race, but at least, we are explicitly demonstrating our interest for being present in the public diplomacy sphere. I see four important problems: exploitation of the term, lack of strategy, unclear message, and targeting audiences.

Even though we recently learned the term, we love calling everything ‘public diplomacy’, for instance the visit in Mardin. Apart from the fact that Mardin is a city in Turkey, I really cannot justify calling an informal event as public diplomacy. The minister and some ambassadors decided to walk around the town with some journalists during a conference in Mardin. I tried to find similar news articles in foreign media, but I couldn’t find any. Mardin is a fascinating city, is the home of several historical sites (and the world tallest men). But if there is no intention to create any communication bridges between Turkey and target audiences, this kind of public diplomacy attempts, one-way communication strategies are likely to fail. If we keep calling everything public diplomacy, the value of real PD projects will be neglected.

I cannot see a clear strategy in the existing student exchanges and other cultural/economic activities. All projects seem to have short term interest, such as constructing a building, hosting a student, and promoting an artist. If we want to justify the budgets for PD projects – and it is better if we do -, we should have clear quasi-measurable strategy objectives.

G. Bush in Istanbul for NATO Conference in 2004Modern Istanbul

Turkey’s biggest challenge (and opportunity) is that there are several messages we can communicate due to our historical and cultural roots.One of our favorite messages is being “the bridge between the East and the West”. Visualized by Bush’s speech during the NATO Conference in 2004, we love to claim that we have roots in the Eastern and Western cultures. Although this claim represents the reality to an extent, it sometimes reflects an inconsistent position instead of a unifying/unbiased position. Especially when our government sometimes tries to use our eastern roots as an alternative in EU negotiations, our inclusive approach becomes less persuasive. Another message is presenting the modern side of Turkey. Although it is more appealing to some audiences, it doesn’t reflect the Turkish reality entirely. When you consider the various cultures of Anatolia (some of which have lived in the region years ago, and some of which are still living), we can come up with several different messages. Yet, still the important thing is to come up with consistent messages that reflect the reality instead of highly crafted propagandist messages.

Last but not the least, we should define and prioritize our audiences. Our current foreign policy strategy, Strategic Depth, aims to create a multi-dimensional approach in which Turkey tries to build up strong relations with anyone and everyone. From a communication point of view, it is neither desirable nor feasible.

In short, Turkey has the potential to become a well-known brand and a globally respected actor in international politics. It is time to stop calling everything public diplomacy, to leave our political differences aside, and to come up with PD strategies.

This blog post is also posted on and

Emotional Branding

I will continue writing on my course-related materials and their compatibility with nation and place branding concepts. The videos below are taken from a PBS program. Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure out how to embed PBS videos to my blog (but seriously PBS website! 21st century, people want to post your videos to their blogs! Not all the blogs accept your javascript code), so I decided to go with Youtube versions. PBS video has better quality.

In its shortest form, the main idea is ’emotional branding’. Instead of talking about your product, why don’t you talk about what your product means to people? Why don’t you look for ways to create a sense of belonging? It is important to take a look at why and how this movement towards a spiritual branding started. I had a similar discussion with a marketing professional friend of mine. We are trying to brand products/people/regions/places/nations, but what is the next step? What will happen when, in my case, all the nations in the world have prominent branding campaigns and images? How can we better ‘brand’?

Kevin Roberts is right when he says everything works for branding right now (and when he says beer tastes good unless you live in America). There are not tangible differences between place branding campaigns. Recently we did a study on analyzing the main themes of six different place branding campaigns. Although these destinations were different in terms of geography, culture, and economy; their branding campaigns revolved around similar promises (authentic, safe, unique, hospitable, historic & modern etc). As Anholt’s dominant nation branding model shows, there are not many different promises. In other words, if you want to compete with other nations for limited sources (let it be tourism, investment, political influence), you might resort to emotional branding.

Naomi Klein practically summarizes her book, No Logo, when she talks about super/mega brands. Corporations focus more on branding than on product. Similarly, Douglas Atkin supports the idea that branding is about creating a meaning system or an identity for the product. Hence, place/nation branding might be considered as being about creating a sense of belonging, rather than arousing interest among target audiences or promoting some aspects of a place/nation. If you can create a sense of belonging, you are more likely to better ‘brand’ your place.

I am not trying to create new paradigms with my posts on this blog. What I humbly try to do is to underline some important concepts which are less popular. Emotion branding is again not a novelty. It has been used by a few campaigns. The best examples that came up to my mind were Aruba – 90,000 Friends You Haven’t Met Yet and I amsterdam. Both campaigns focus on creating a community around their places. You visit Aruba, because, well because you belong there. You have friends waiting for you. The major parts of the branding campaign are based on local people, and visitors. Amsterdam, on the other hand, builds up its campaign on “pride, confidence, and dedication”.

In short, everything is branded. All communication channels, media are clogged by similar branding messages. So why don’t you go ahead and try to create a sense of belonging and a community pride for your product/place/person/region/city/nation?

This blog post is also posted on and