Public Diplomacy and Global Communication 2014c

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The Significance of Tourism Destination Branding: Branding Bulgaria

The gurus of nation branding are considered to be Wally Olins and Simon Anholt. They focus on nation branding simply because in a globalised world such as ours the competition between states for foreign direct investment (FDI), tourism and exports constantly increases. According to them nation branding is all about the image of a country across the world. Bulgaria in specific is highly dependent on its image as a tourist destination.

The actuality of the problem concerning the positioning of the foreign tourism market is justified, first, by the fact that tourism at present, provides a significant proportion of the foreign exchange earnings of Bulgaria, secondly, from the existing resource conditions for its further development. Hence this is one of the many good reasons to make an extra effort to build a more stable and recognizable brand of Bulgaria as a tourist destination.

The image of the destinations is influenced directly by the country’s national brand. Marketing of tourist destinations includes a set of activities to satisfy the consumers’ interest and demand. Marketing of a destination must engage with the complicated task of uniting heterogeneous product, which is offered by a large number of economic entities with different scales.In today’s highly competitive world, tourist destinations are fighting for every tourist, through the offering of attractive tourism products, prices, service, entertainment, security, and image perception to current and potential tourists.

With a unique and poorly known culture, ancient historical monuments, a varied climate, geographical positioning, offering multiple and varied tourist products, Bulgaria is an attractive tourist destination with potential for development. That’s why the future tourist Bulgarian position, following the strategic actions taken in recent years, must rely on four competing factors – the history, art and culture, traditions, and cuisine -showing its most powerful features: Uniqueness of the cultural and historical heritage; Regional tour leadership; Geographical position; Spa and seaside resorts; Price-quality ratio.

The country largely relies on natural resources as a source of formation and development of the tourism sector. The comparison in this respect with some major competitors shows the following. Bulgaria is among the European countries with the lowest indicators regarding the repeated visit of foreign tourists and on the recommendation of the country of their acquaintances. This is clear from a study done in the framework of the project “promotion of quality and sustainable development of tourist enterprises of the Bulgarian Ministry of Economy, Energy and Tourism.

Survey of 108 foreign tourists in Bulgaria found that only 21% plan to visit the country at an average rate for Europe 48%. Less than half of respondents (43%) have declared that they will recommend his compatriots to Bulgaria as a tourist destination, with Euro norm by 71%. [1]

The main type of tourism, with which it is associated, according to the “Bulgarian Sea Union Brandt Bulgaria”, foreign tourists are much less familiar with the other hiking opportunities available in the country. From the information presented in this work, the following conclusions can be:  1. Bulgaria has a positive image among Bulgarian and foreign tourists; 2. Lacking a unified and consistent image of the country through which it emphatically to be distinguished from the other competing tourist destinations;  3. the country is generally perceived as a peaceful destination, with beautiful scenery, good food with good conditions for SPA/Wellness and alternative tourism, good properties.  4. Destination that offers good conditions for sea and mountain-skiing tourism;  5. Inexpensive destination

Whilst World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) predicts that by 2017, Bulgarian will attract over 16 million visitors a year-more than twice the number recorded in 2009, these projections are indicative of larger investment opportunities, not only in traditional areas such as hotels, restaurants, beach and ski resorts, but also alternative opportunities for tourism in the country. WTTC’s opinion shows that the development of alternative forms of tourism in Bulgaria, are opportunities to attract foreign tourists, as well as the creation of diverse tourism products in order to expand the market and the provision of alternative forms of tourism[2].

According to a survey of Holiday Barometer for 2012, which is done annually by British post, Bulgarian was in fourth place in the world as a country with the best quality of the tourist product at an affordable price. According to the survey, tourism in Bulgaria is no longer divided into summer and winter, and is part of the global health, Spa, ECO and golf tourism[3]. However, a very small portion of foreign tourists associate the country country with a rich historical heritage, and hence with the possibilities for exploring the famous cultural attractions.

Although each potential user is surrounded by numerous brands that have a direct and indirect impact of its consumer behaviour, lack of brand appears to be a huge obstacle. The capital of the brand is what you need to effectively manage to bring lasting success of the tourist destination. The brand is the starting point for all marketing decisions and all the communication activities. Creating a brand of destination is the definition and expression of the uniqueness of the destination, it represents not only the creation of a logo, but also the creation of verbal and visual identity, while building the brand includes strategic planning for the positioning on the market and the platform of communication activities. Therefore, the role of tourism destination branding in Bulgaria is very important, not only because it presents the image of the country across the world, but also because an effective branding can lead to economic and cultural development.


[1] (Electronic document: project: “development of the brand” Bulgarian “, product and regional brands and introducing integrated brand management”, the main results of the research in the first phase )

[2] (Electronic document: Travel and Tourism: Economic Impact, Bulgaria. Accessed12.05.2015 )

[3] (Electronic document: Holiday Barometer collects data on prices in different countries around the world and groups those data in analysis for potential tourists compared to the living standards of the particular destination accessed 12.05.2015 )


The Role of Animal Diplomacy in the Political World

Animals have a long history of being used as symbols of power and diplomacy. This work focuses on several examples of animal diplomacy across the world. It is a well-known fact that pet ownership can have positive effect on humans, but is this the case when it comes to politics? Well, it seems that many people believe animals can actually contribute to the development of good international relations.

For instance, ‘Panda Diplomacy’ is very popular worldwide. This type of Chinese diplomacy dates back to the seventh century, when Empress Wu Zetian sent a pair of pandas as a gift to the Japanese emperor. Since the end of the Second World War to the early 1980s, the Republic of China “gave 23 pandas to nine different countries[1]”. One of the most recent examples of ‘Panda Diplomacy’ happened in 2014 when a pair of pandas (Ms. Feng Yi and Mr. Fu Wa) were sent from China to Malaysia on a diplomatic mission. The aim of the mission was “to cement the relationship between the two states and help them get past the considerable trauma caused to that relationship by the missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370”[2]. ‘Panda Diplomacy’ is generally seen as a huge success because of its attractiveness to the public. Pandas are very peaceful animals so perhaps this is the reason so many countries are happy to receive them and accept them as a symbol of good relationship between China and the host state.

Another example of animal diplomacy is the so called ‘Koala Diplomacy’ which took place at the G20 meeting in 2014. Of course the initiative came from Australia which is the motherland for koalas. Interestingly, “most of the world leaders were captured hugging away, even those who had threatened each other verbally weeks and days before. The White House made a dad pun that got 70,000 likes and rising. US and Chinese media ignored the policies and loved the wildlife”[3].

Looking back in 2012 there was another type of animal diplomacy known as ‘Puppy Diplomacy’. The Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez received a puppy (black terrier) from his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. “The puppy was presented as the two countries signed trade agreements worth about $20 billion, including a pact to allow the tapping of new Venezuelan oilfields by the state-controlled Russian oil company Rosneft”[4]. So, once again animal diplomacy proved to have a positive impact. In fact, Vladimir Putin himself has been a target of puppy diplomacy by Bulgaria. In 2010 the Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov gave to Putin a Bulgarian shepherd dog, which later proved to be one of his favourite pets. Indeed this was done while Pr. Putin was in Bulgaria to sign a gas pipeline deal.[5]

These are only a few of the many animal diplomacy examples, but the important thing is that they prove that soft power is important and can have positive impact, especially when animals are involved. Meanwhile the practice of animal diplomacy continues at present and hopefully will continue in future.

[1] Alleyne R., A history of Panda Diplomacy, the Telegrapg,published 10 January 2011, accessed 09.05.2015

[2] Taylor A., China, Malaysia and the weird world of panda diplomacy, the Washington Post, published 14 May 2014, accessed 09.05.2015

[3] Rimmer S., Koala diplomacy: Australian soft power saves the day at G20, The Conversation, published 17 November 2014, accessed 09.05.2015

[4] Boehler P., Puppy Diplomacy: Venezuela’s Chavez Receives a New Pet from Vladimir Putin, Time, published 29 September 2012, accessed 09.05.2015

[5]Vladimir Putin given a puppy during trip to Bulgaria, The Telegraph, published 16 November 2010, accessed 09.05.2015

Today’s Special: Gastrodiplomacy

Can food be really part of Diplomacy? Well, it appears that even though the terminology is relatively new, the concept dates back to roman times. Gastrodiplomacy is believed by some to be very important. As Palmerston once stated “Dining is the soul of diplomacy.”[1]

Nowadays there many different examples of the effectiveness of gastrodiplomacy, the cases of South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey are to name just a few.

The case of South Korea and kimchi is indeed an interesting one. Kimchi is a Korean side dish made with fermented cabbage. However, in 2005 there was a trade dispute between Korea and China because of confusion as to which country the cabbage originated from. The dispute was resolved in 2012 when “South Korea successfully lobbied the UN Codex Alimentarius Commission to change the English name for “Chinese cabbage” to “kimchi cabbage””[2]. This shows how food can influence international relations. Of course on the other hand, food can have a positive impact by bringing together people and enforcing warm and friendly relations. The example of South Korea highlights the fact that gastrodiplomacy is not limited to national boundaries.[3]

Another fascinating example of gastrodiplomacy is that of Taiwan. According to ‘The Guardian’ newspaper:

“Taiwan’s consulate in London is hoping to make dishes such as “stinky tofu” and oyster omelette the stars of a diplomatic drive to differentiate the country from its giant and sometimes antagonistic neighbour, China, and to end the perception that Taiwan is little more than the mass-production workshop of the world.”[4]

As seen Taiwan knows the importance of gastrodiplomacy and is eagerly investing in order to ensure its success.

Turkey is well known for its delicious Turkish delight; however, this country has much more to offer. One of the latest trends to promote Turkish cuisine is the ‘Turkayfe’ project in America.  Turkayfe is famous with its Turkish coffee truck which aims to contribute to Turkey’s branding attempts. They even have their own website[5] which is very educational and entertaining. It is indeed very interesting and fun way to promote Turkey.

However, lately the centre of attention is the new gastrodiplomacy course available in the American University in Washington DC. As a consequence there are new issues arising such as: Is it right to have gastrodiplomacy courses in universities? Is there any possible future for such field of studies? or Should gastrodiplomacy remain an addition to the actual diplomacy course?

Actually, the gastrodiplomacy course seems to be very interesting and educational. The students from the course look at the history of war and peace, pre-9/11 e.g. the wars in Afghanistan and Vietnam. Parallel with this they get to know the specificity of the cuisine of the corresponding country. This part of the educational process includes visits to restaurants where only traditional food is served. Furthermore, the students of gastro-diplomacy learn how national food can be used as means of communication and influence.

The world and everything in it is constantly changing, consequently new relations and new ways of thinking emerge, and therefore new disciplines such as gastrodiplomacy appear and become more and more important. In the Journal of International Service(2013), Mary Pham concludes that gastrodiplomacy as “the practice of exporting a country’s culinary heritage in an effort to raise national brand awareness, encourage economic investment and trade, and engage on a cultural and personal level with everyday diners, is a potentially lucrative communication tool for nations seeking to distinguish their cultural and culinary assets for future boosts in exports, tourism, and nation brand awareness.”[6] Another person who emphasises on the significance of gastrodiplomacy is Leah Selim, the founder of Global Kitchen, who gave a brilliant TED talk related to this topic.

Gastrodiplomacy is innovative, important and limitless. It is essential to understand its significance and appreciate it.

[1]S. Soffer,The Courtiers of Civilization – study of Diplomacy, State University of New York, 20013,  P.87

[2] Mary Pham, Foods as communication, Journal of International Service (volume 22, November, 2013), p. 3

[3] Id.

[4]R. Booth, Taiwan launches ‘gastro-diplomacy’ drive, The Guardian, published  Sunday 8 August 2010, accessed 22.04.15


[6] Mary Pham, Foods as communication, Journal of International Service (volume 22, November, 2013), p.ii

The role of Whistleblowers and the Internet

Generally the state was the main actor which had control over security and defence secrets. However, there have been many concerns about the demand for Freedom of Information. Especially, concerns have been expressed that such activities can be tricky and governments have hidden their illegitimate deeds. There have been many examples of whistleblowing in the modern era.

One of the first well-known whistleblowes is considered to be Deniel Ellsberg. He leacked Pentagon Papers about the US involvement in Vietnam to the New York Times, for which he was accused of treason. A few years later the thecnological evolution and the emergence of the internet meant  thet materials can be transmitted instantly despite the volume. Also the internet has opened up state secrecy through Wikileaks and the Cablegate.  Namely Bradley  (now Chelsea ) Manning  leaked classified information to WikiLeaks through a mouseclick. Some of the information “included 91,000 files from the war in Afghanistan, 392,000 from the Iraq War, 779 files of inmates in the Pentagon’s Guantanamo prison, and a quartet of a million memoranda from the U.S. State Department.”.[1] All of the leaked information shows injustices (corruption, violence, conspiracy) by governments and military services. It is impossible to go through the content of all of these files, but in order to get some insight, here is an example: [2] This is “footage of two US Apache attack helicopters firing on and killing 12 civilians on a street in Baghdad.”[3] As seen there is an excessive use of military power over innocent civilians, which remains unpunished.

Similarly Edward Snowden demonstrated how the social media could spread such information. In 2013 he leaked classified information from the NSA (National Security Agency). The files expose “a number of mass-surveillance programs undertaken by the NSA and GCHQ. The agencies are able to access information stored by major US technology companies, often without individual warrants, as well as mass-intercepting data from the fibre-optic cables which make up the backbone of global phone and internet networks. The agencies have also worked to undermine the security standards upon which the internet, commerce and banking rely.”[4] This raised public concerns about personal freedoms and security. The following interview provides a better understanding of this issue: [5]

In recent years governments have been pushing back freedoms on the internet, turning an invention that was intended to liberate the individual into a tool for surveillance and control. Mostly the authoritarian states have seen cyberspace as the ultimate threat to their source of power, however this trend seems to be spreading rapidly worldwide. The internet has flourished perhaps because of its decentralised governance model and if it is to be governed more homogeneously then it should not be left to governments alone, because transparency and inclusivity is all that matters at the end of the day

References: [1] “This Machine kills secrets”, Andy Greenberg, CPI Group (UK), 2012, p. 14 [2] “Baghdad Airstrike/Collateral Murder, WikiLeaks”, Youtube, viewed 23.01,2015 [3] “Bradley Manning: Whistleblower or traitor?”, Al Jazeera, viewed 23.01.2015 [4] “The NSA files decoded”, The Guardian, viewed 23.02.2015 [5] “NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden”, Youtube, The Guardian, viewed 23.01.2015

Code name:P.O.N.I.S. (Public Opinion and the Intelligence Services)

Public Diplomacy is not just about the public relations of the state, it  also can be practices by non state actors such as the UN, NGOs and forms of citizen diplomacy. However, when Public Diplomacy is combined with intelligence, “the government seeks to harness the political power of an intelligence assessment to justify some policy or action to the public… The central objective of this strategy is to change public opinion.” (1) So even though Public Diplomacy offers greater openess and the employment of soft power principles, when intelligence is involved the concept of propaganda seems to come forward.

The first example of public deception is the secret campaign of ‘Operation Mockingbird’ by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).  Operation Mockingbird was established to influence the domestic and foreign media. Beginning in 1948, Frank Wisner was appointed director of the Office of Special Projects, later renamed to Office of Policy Coordination (OPC). The operation influenced 25 newspapers and wire agencies accepting to act as organs of CIA propaganda. (2)  The following video is giving an iside of the issue of ‘Operation Mockingbird’: Another risk of using the Intelligence service as a tool to inform the public is misrepresentation by the politicians and the media. Great example of this is the use of Intelligence to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the British and American. In America the speech on February 5, 2003 by Secretary of State Colin Powell revealed that 79 percent of the population thought that Powell made either a strong case for the invasion of Iraq. In Britain, years after the invasion it became clear that “ministers intentionally exaggerated intelligence assessments of WMD in their efforts at public diplomacy.”(3)  The following video shows a small round up from the The Democratic Policy Committee that held a hearing on June 26, 2006 in the afternoon on the manipulation of pre-war Iraq intelligence:   Later in 2013, the British and American once again publicly presented intelligence in an attempt to persuade the public that a military strike on Syria was needed. The Obama administration “In a similar fashion to Powell’s 2003 speech to the UNSC, the intelligence summary was cited by Secretary of State John Kerry in a televised briefing the same month, who argued that a military response was justified.”(4) Knowing the invasion of Iraq, members of Congress have requested a record number of NIEs (National Intelligence Estimates).  However, the White House chose to release a statement themselves, and in the end the strategy was poorly received and there was a strong opposition to the proposed strike. In Britain this time they decided to release the full JIC assessment of the attack. However, “it was clear that the public was unimpressed by the JIC’s statement…In the end, the government’s proposal to pursue action in Syria was rejected by the British Parliament.”(5)

The intelligence services use propaganda because  they know that when people feel fear they do not question the message. However, what seems to be ignored here is the bad effect propaganda has on society. So “in order to regain the public’s trust, both the United States and the United Kingdom will need to present intelligence in a more transparent fashion when it is used for public diplomacy.”(6)


The propagation of U.S television coverage of post-communist countries

The U.S. media propaganda is something acknowledged by many outside the USA, and is slowly realized more and more media propagandainside the U.S. Here is an example of how political factors, such as relations with the U.S., affect American television coverage of post-communist countries e.g. Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Moldova etc.

The argument here is that post-communist countries which are allies with the U.S. are more likely to receive better coverage, than those considered non-allies. Even though propaganda can be difficult to determine exactly, many studies address different media propaganda in political communications. The following content will give some examples of that.

When the Soviet Union and the United States were allies during the World War ll, Joseph Stalin was turned into “Uncle Joe” and “his totalitarian rule and mass political repression were largely overlooked in the U.S. until the start of the Cold War. Then Stalin and the USSR were represented in a negative light by U.S. media. Similarly, Afghan mujahedeen were often represented in the U.S. media as “freedom fighters” during their war in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union, despite their illiberal Islamist ideology – reflected in their name, which is derived from jihad.” (1)

Another study concluded that much of the coverage of the two wars in Chechnya in the United States and by the Western media in general, “has been relentlessly one-sided and relentlessly anti-Russian” (Lieven 200a). Coverage mostly focused on the effects of Russian actions on Chechen civilians, blamed Russia for starting both wars, and largely ignored or minimized the role of attacks carried out by Islamist terrorists and kidnappers in Chechnya at the starts of the violent conflict in 1994 and its resumption in 1999 (Lieven 2000a, 2000b).” (2)

There are many examples from the past that could be brought to light, but the table below speaks for itself. This table shows the amount of positive and negative content of U.S. television coverage of post-communist countries before and after they turned into allies of the United States (1998-2009):


Looking at current events, e.g. the crisis in Ukraine, it can be seen that this trend is still relevant today. John Pilger is a very famous critic of the western media and in his interview for RT (Russia Today) he is talking about the Western media bias; the way he describes it is “ a deep anti-Russian sense that runs right through the media..” The full interview can be seen in the link below:

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