FCO Public Diplomacy: the Olympic and Paralympic Games 2012 - Foreign Affairs Committee Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers 1-36)

Simon Anholt, and Dr Patrick Spaven OBE

10 November 2010

  Q1 Chair: I welcome everybody to this session of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, and our single hearing into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Public Diplomacy: The Olympics. We have two witnesses in the first session: Mr Simon Anholt and Dr Patrick Spaven. Simon Anholt is an independent policy adviser, author and researcher and is considered to be a leading expert in his field. He specialises in national identity and reputation, public diplomacy and the public perceptions of nations. He is one of the few people I know who has actually had an index named after him: the Anholt Nation Brand Index, about which he will no doubt speak.

  Dr Patrick Spaven is a consultant in research and evaluation for public diplomacy, specialising in evaluation, results-based management and social research. He is a visiting fellow at the Centre for Public Policy in Management at Manchester Business School, and was previously a senior manager with the British Council.

  I give a warm welcome to both of you. Do you have an opening statement that you would like to make, or shall we get straight into the questions?

  Simon Anholt: Let's plunge straight in, shall we, Patrick?

  Q2 Chair: Thank you very much. Let me open the batting. When mugging up for this session, I was struck by how, in the aftermath of the Second World War, Japan and Germany had bad reputations, but 50 or 60 years later they are first and eighth respectively in the index, for their reputations and as a result of their public diplomacy. Quite clearly there is a way in which perceptions can be changed. My first question to you both is: to what extent is public diplomacy effective in changing perceptions of a country in the wider world? Apart from the two to which I have referred, have any other countries been particularly successful in using public diplomacy in this way?

  Simon Anholt: It all depends on what you mean by public diplomacy. This subject, as I am sure you have discovered, is very hard to discuss, because there is so little rigour or systematic use of the terminology. Public diplomacy is a term that can cover a whole host of evils. Definitions of it range from the very precise, the very traditional and the very old-fashioned to the very broad definition that you have yourself just used, which is about the general long-term management of national reputation.

  I would argue that the cases of Japan and Germany were more export miracles than public diplomacy miracles. Some necessary political changes stopped them being immediately perceived as pariahs after the second world war, but after that point the way that those countries began to worm their way into international public esteem was through the export of high-quality consumer goods, and after a few years, people began to discover that, if they could trust the Braun razor or the Sony hi-fi, perhaps they trusted the company that made them. China is doing precisely the same thing now. If that is public diplomacy, yes, it works.

  Q3 Chair: Staying with Mr Anholt for a moment, whatever public diplomacy might be, how effective can the Foreign Office be in changing public perceptions?

  Simon Anholt: If we are talking about people's perceptions of the country generally, that's a very long haul indeed. One of the things that my work and research has shown me over the last 15 years or so is that national images are incredibly robust. They really don't change very much, and that is precisely because the people who hold those images of other countries don't want to change them. They are very reassuring. The way we all navigate our way through a very complex globalised world is by having a series of clichés in our minds about what sorts of places these countries are, and we will do almost anything rather than change our minds. That is simply the way it works. They are normative constructs and the temptation is to resist changing them.

  A Finnish journalist rang me the other day and said, "No doubt you read about the competitor in our sauna competition who died as a result of overheating himself. Surely this has damaged the reputation of Finland." I said, "No it hasn't," but it's an interesting question, because if we really did change our minds about places every time a new piece of information came along, life would be literally unliveable. We would spend our whole time re-evaluating our perceptions of countries, people and companies, and we would never have time to do anything else. So we hang on to those prejudices for dear life, and we will only change them if we have no other choice, and that tends to be as a result of dramatically, consistently changed behaviour over many years.

  In terms of the overall reputation of the country, the Foreign Office, or any other individual agency of Government, or civil society or the private sector, can do very little, because those images are cultural constructs and they are deeply rooted in the global commons. But, at a higher level, in terms of impact on tourism arrivals, or foreign direct investment or recruiting talent—the other things that matter to the business of the country—yes, those can be effective in the shorter term.

  Dr Spaven: I won't go over the same ground. I agree with Simon on more or less everything he has said so far. What I would like to point out is that national image doesn't exist independently of what people have in their heads. What we are dealing with is 6.8 billion little UK brands. Every single person in the world has some idea of what the UK is. How those images are formed will depend on what exposure they have had to the UK, if any, either directly or indirectly. Ultimately you have to get down to a fairly small scale before you can start to work out, first of all, whose impressions of the UK you want to change and how to do it. You have to learn much more about those individuals to be able to develop a strategy for dealing with that. You can't just assume that they are part of an undifferentiated mass that you can project images on to. It just doesn't work like that.

  I spent 24 years in the British Council and I have learned the hard way about the ineffectiveness of a lot of the kind of projective public diplomacy that we have been used to in the past. However, there are some good points that I can elaborate on later.

  Q4 Mike Gapes: The previous Government had a public diplomacy effort, including producing a major report by Lord Carter, which attempted a definition. I do not think that this is the time to rerun all of that, but it would be helpful if you could at least say whether you broadly agree with the definition that was given in that report in 2006.

  Simon Anholt: Yes, because I was on that Public Diplomacy Board, so I was one of the contributors to it—not to the Carter review, but to the work we did subsequently to the Carter review. That, if you like, is a very correct but somewhat narrow definition of public diplomacy. It's simply words to the effect of the engagement of a Government with overseas public opinion as distinct from élite or Government opinion.

  Q5 Mike Gapes: The current Government have sent us a memo that refers to the FCO's Public Diplomacy Group study in 2009, which concluded that, overall, we had a strong reputation worldwide, and we were fourth out of 50 countries in your 2010 index. We are seen as fair, innovative, diverse, confident and stylish. Given what you have just said about the historical length of time that it takes for things to change, is that the image that we would have had 20, 30 or 50 years ago?

  Simon Anholt: Broadly, yes. When you are talking about a country like the UK, which has been internationally prominent for centuries, I think you will find that the roots run very deep indeed. One of the reasons why the UK, to use that horrible phrase, punches above its weight in reputational terms, is because we have been at it for so long. We have so much influence and so much engagement with other people in other countries, and that's one of the things that makes our reputation so good, because generally—very generally speaking—the more you know about a country, the more you approve of it. That is also why it is so robust—because it is literally knitted into the culture of other populations. It is one of our most powerful assets.

  Q6 Mike Gapes: What are the areas of weakness?

  Simon Anholt: Characterial, if that's a word—to do with our character, our perceived persona. We are perceived by a great many people—

  Q7 Mike Gapes: Is this duplicitous Albion?

  Simon Anholt: A little bit, yes. A little bit arrogant. A little bit overbearing. A little bit cold. London, for example, in my City Brands Index is regarded to be an unwelcoming, expensive place. None of this is terribly bad, by the way, because it's quite difficult to admire somebody and find them cuddly at the same time. Our reputation is the kind of reputation that nine out of 10 countries would give their right hands for. I don't think there is anything wrong there at all. When we are talking about the Olympics, the question has got to be: are people going to find the reality even better than the expectation, or possibly slightly worse? That's where the risk or the reward come in.

  Q8 Mike Gapes: Dr Spaven, do you want to add anything to that?

  Dr Spaven: I just add the word boring, which British people are thought to be. But then, so are the Germans and they haven't done badly either in the index.

  Simon Anholt: Never underestimate being boring. Boring is a good thing to be.

  Dr Spaven: Exactly. It is a question of what matters—what matters in terms of what we want to achieve. We have to think about outcomes and then work back from there.

  Q9 Mike Gapes: Would you say that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and presumably other Government Departments, in the recent past have been successful in what they have tried to achieve?

  Simon Anholt: Yes, I think there have been some successes. As long as it's accepted that this is about, as Patrick said a moment ago, fairly tactical, fairly modest, fairly localised initiatives. Where you have a situation in country x, where you have noticed that there is a negative perception that is demonstrably harming our interests and you set to work to fix that negative perception in that country among a certain population group over a certain period of time, it is possible to achieve results. The question, as always, in these initiatives is about sustainability, because the tendency for people's perceptions of the country to snap back to the default is very strong indeed. Patrick mentioned in his paper about Germany's World Cup, which was one of the more successful ones in terms of its success in moving the needle on many perceptions of Germany abroad, but within a year or so it had just gone back to where it was before.

  Dr Spaven: Yes, sustainability—absolutely. One of the big risks in any campaign mode of public diplomacy, especially if we are thinking about a campaign around the Olympics, is that it's seen by the people that it targets as a one-off—"Oh, this is Britain's year, and the following years will be business as usual." They will think that we didn't really want to know them; they'll think that we just wanted to make a big splash. You have to work on their agendas; you have to see it through their eyes. Quite frankly, it has to be more about them than us. All public diplomacy needs to do that.

  Q10 Chair: In the past six months have you seen any significant change in approach from the new Government compared with the previous one?

  Simon Anholt: I am rather out of the loop because the Public Diplomacy Board doesn't exist any more, so I spend most of my time in other countries. I have no idea what's going on.

  Dr Spaven: I have to admit that I spent most of the last year in Africa. I picked up signals there, but I haven't been close to the supply side.

  Q11 Chair: I am sure that it is in my brief somewhere, but what has happened to the Public Diplomacy Board?

  Simon Anholt: It had a four-year term, which expired last year. I believe—you will need to check this—that another group has been set up out of some of the remains of the previous group. That group has the word "influence" in it and is a work in progress.

  Mike Gapes: It was effectively taken back in-house by the FCO, which now has a closer role.

  Q12 Chair: Are you satisfied that there is still a group of people addressing the same subjects?

  Simon Anholt: I am afraid that I can't be, because I just don't know what's going on. I would be more satisfied if I were part of it.

  Q13 Chair: Mike Gapes was the previous Chairman of the Committee. The board was exercising a sort of oversight role, which you say has now gone in-house. Is there now no independent oversight role—

  Simon Anholt: I can't be sure of that.

  Q14 Chair: —other than this Committee?

  Simon Anholt: I really can't be sure of that, and one would need to ask the FCO about its work in progress.

  Q15 Chair: We've got the Minister after you.

  Simon Anholt: Okay, let's see what the Minister says.

  Q16 Andrew Rosindell: What is your overall assessment of the FCO's strategy in terms of public diplomacy? What do you think it is doing right, and what do you think it is not getting right?

  Chair: Feel free to talk at length on this point.

  Simon Anholt: The only sense in which I can answer that is on the basis of the papers that I've got here about the Olympics. In terms of its general overall strategy, again I'm afraid I'm in no position to say, because I am not privy to it. I don't know whether Patrick has anything more to add on that.

  Dr Spaven: Only that the paper talks about recent public diplomacy activity as well as what is projected for the Olympics, so there are some insights.

  Simon Anholt: What I see from the scraps of evidence that I have picked up from reading this and from watching the news coverage of the end result of their deliberations, is that there still persists a great deal of confusion, or at least lack of clarity, about the complex issues that we are dealing with here. When we are talking about the reputation of the country, we are talking about Britain's international standing. This is, intellectually, enormously difficult stuff. One of the things that I was pleading for over and over again during my term on the Public Diplomacy Board was for us to take the time to sit down and work out, really and truly, what we meant, what terms we were using and what we were trying to achieve. We needed to work out the difference between the country's overall standing and our success in trade, tourism, the recruitment of talent, and so on. There are almost no countries on earth that have sorted out those things really effectively.

  Our friends in the United States continue to shift backwards and forwards, with every change in Administration, from the very narrow approach, which might be called the Government PR approach, to public diplomacy—let's just make the policies and try to sell them to people—back to something a little more broad. As far as I am concerned, the bottom line in all of this is that any separation of policy-making and reputation management is likely to be fatal, because countries are judged by what they do, not by what they say. The moment you start saying that there is one Department that makes policy and decides what to do, and another Department lower down, less senior, that does not make policy but decides how to sell it, then I think you are in trouble.

  Q17 Andrew Rosindell: In your perception, is there co-ordination and consistency between the different Departments that are running the Olympics, looking after the Olympics and everything surrounding them?

  Simon Anholt: My understanding is that there is recognition of the fact that these issues have to be connected to policy making, but I think that it probably needs more than communication. In an ideal world, the policy makers themselves would be expert in issues of national reputation management, and they would bear them in mind as they made policy. The idea of keeping it as a separate division or a separate group of experts or informers—the United States has been through this over and over again over the last 50 or 60 years.

  One of the papers presented to the Committee was from the Foreign Office book "Engagement." I wrote a chapter in that, in which I talked about the way in which public diplomacy has developed over the years, from a primitive 1950s cold war approach, which is just, "We in Government make policies, and you just put them on the damn radio." That was a quote from the then Foreign Secretary. It goes backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards. I do not see any evidence that we have quite grasped this properly yet. I think we are still fiddling around at the edges, and I think that we're still not measuring it properly—Patrick is the expert on measurement—and we are still not connecting it properly to policy making.

  Q18 Andrew Rosindell: The new Government want to use the Olympics to promote British trade. The previous Government emphasised the more environmental issues. How do you assess that?

  Dr Spaven: If I was starting out, I would emphasise those as the most important things. I do not see a dichotomy between environment and trade. On the contrary, I think that they're extremely complementary.

  Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.

  On resuming

  Q19 Chair: My colleague Andrew Rosindell, who has yet to return from the Division, was asking questions about trade, and whether the Government were placing more or less emphasis on trade. You were halfway through answering. I don't know if you can remember where you were.

  Dr Spaven: I think I was about 25% through it. It depends whether we are talking about the Olympics as an opportunity.

  Q20 Chair: I would like to focus more in this next part of the session on the Olympics and the opportunities that it presents.

  Dr Spaven: There are quite a few references to opportunities to promote wealth creation, inward investment and so on here, but they are quite difficult to read because they are very general. Probably not a lot of the specifics have been worked out yet—or if they have they are not in this paper. I make two observations.

  There are two levels at which the Olympics offer opportunities for that area of UK business. One is projecting specifically London, and more generally and to a lesser extent the UK, as places with a good climate for business. Climate for business is a complex issue; it is all about infrastructure, benign regulation or the lack of it—all sorts of things. Those issues can be projected through the Olympics if it is done skilfully, but that area is more about broadcasting than narrowcasting.

  Then you have specific connections to make in and around the Olympics—hopefully the successful management of a large-scale project, particularly infrastructure in and around the Olympic sites, rapid transit and so on, and the whole green issue. That is why I said a little while ago that environment and trade are interconnected these days. The opportunities are there; the question is how they are mobilised. I cannot comment on that, because there is not enough information, but there is tremendous potential for doing it successfully, probably more than for any other potential benefit from the Olympics.

  Equally, there are risks. For example, if the transit does not work, Britain's reputation—

  Q21 Chair: We will be coming to risk in a moment.

  I don't think you have had a chance to read the FCO's submission to the Committee on the matter. In the second part, there is a section on trade and investment activity; given that trade is very much the theme of the new Government's foreign policy, it seems a bit thin. Right at the end, it says that UKTI and the Foreign Office are planning a business hub at games time to promote UK industry in Lancaster House. Wouldn't something like a trade fair be a more appropriate way of promoting trade, rather than a hub? We then have UKTI's Host2Host programme, and we will be probing the Minister on that in a moment. Do you have any views on that?

  Simon Anholt: Yes. When I read that sentence about the event at Lancaster House, I thought to myself that that sounds pretty much like business as usual, good stuff and necessary. But the thing that one has to understand about the Olympics is that they are first and foremost a gigantic media opportunity. That is why one does it; that is why one spends the money on it. It is the only time in the year when a country can be the object of fixed contemplation by billions of people around the world for weeks at a stretch.

  There are two ways of taking advantage of that. One of the ways, in very practical terms, is to make an impression on the people who are coming to the Olympics, some of whom—a great many—will be business people, and I'm sure one should be doing things like Lancaster House and so forth. The other thing that one should be doing is taking advantage of that media opportunity to make sure that the right pictures of the country are being broadcast around the world, as far as possible. This is where the whole issue of national reputation comes in.

  I won't go into risk, because we are coming to that, but it is worth saying that it's what people see on television that really makes the difference over the longer term. There tends to be an assumption that if one simply has an Olympics and it goes off without a hitch, it will somehow, in heavy inverted commas, brand the nation, making it more famous and more popular.

  My own view is that that is highly unlikely to happen with the UK, because it's image is so very good indeed, and we are such a prominent country—more, some would claim, than we deserve to be—and the chances of us putting on an Olympics so good that people think more about the UK afterwards, or improve their impression of it, are very remote. You could argue from that point of view that there is a greater chance of us suffering from the Olympics than benefitting from them. I hope not, but anybody who imagines that a successful event will make us more famous is probably kidding themselves, and disastrous Olympics could set us back a few years.

  The point is that even in the general media, one is sending out messages to people who are also business people. They are consumers and television watchers in their spare time, but they are also potentially investors, they're potentially students and incoming business visitors and so on. We need to make absolutely sure that the stuff they're seeing is first rate, and symbolically representative of a first-rate country.

  Q22 Chair: Patrick, do you feel that enough is planned on the trade side?

  Dr Spaven: As I say, I think it is probably early days. A lot of it will be about schmoozing business people from abroad. I imagine that there is something to think about there. Those are things that probably need to be finalised nearer the time. From this document, I cannot really tell whether there is enough and whether it's the right sort of thing. I suspect that not a tremendous amount has been done yet.

  Q23 Andrew Rosindell: The final point is on promoting British culture and values. Do you think that the Olympics will be used appropriately to enhance and promote British culture? The logo of the Olympics does not really project British cultural values, does it?

  Simon Anholt: I think that logos are of vanishing consequence. I couldn't care less about them. I don't think people really mind about logos one way or another. Earlier, Mike Gapes raised a question about the negative perceptions of the UK, and we spoke about this perception of our aloofness, arrogance and so forth. There is a job to be done there. There are one or two aspects of the Olympic plan that look to me to be very, very well thought-out, and that could seriously benefit some of those aspects of our culture and our personality.

  Specifically, there is a project, which I was sorry to see mentioned only in passing in the FCO document—and its name is misspelt—called International Inspiration. There is a little bit of information about it. Basically, this is a project to introduce sport and sport education to 20 million children in 12 countries by 2012. When I first heard about it, I jumped up and down. I have been around many, many Governments in my life when they have been hosting, or bidding to host, an Olympics. In one way or another, they all ask themselves the same question, which is: "How can we best benefit from this opportunity?" This, the London Olympics, is the first time that I had ever heard a Government asking themselves a different question, which was: "How can we best share the benefits of this wonderful opportunity?" International Inspiration is a wonderful example of that. It is what we promised when we bid for the games. We wanted to ensure that we shared the opportunity with people around the world.

  My own vote would be for taking a look at things, such as International Inspiration, which really hit very hard and are a perfect antidote to the negative perceptions that exist about Britain. Let's put a lot of clout behind those, because they really prove the point; they don't say it, they prove it.

  Dr Spaven: I would endorse that example, because it sounds like an example of the exchange model of public diplomacy, where there is as much benefit to the people in other countries as there is to the people in the UK. The broadcast and transfer model is just Britain telling the world about how clever it is. The latter can work in very special circumstances if it is done brilliantly, but it is a high-risk model. The exchange model is almost no risk at all. It is resource-intensive, but from what little we know from the evaluation of public diplomacy—there has been very little of that over the years—those things tend to work, because they create lasting relationships.

  Q24 Mr Watts: Is there any evidence that Olympics anywhere have a long-term beneficial effect on the economy, visitor numbers, and the reputation of an area?

  Simon Anholt: I can speak for the reputation. There have been a couple of cases that are celebrated because they really made a substantial long-term difference to the reputation of the country, and they are probably Barcelona and Sydney. There were very special sets of circumstances. Australia's reputation at the time of the Sydney Olympics was beginning to grow. People were starting to consider it as a viable long-haul but exciting tourist destination, and the profile of the country was already beginning to rise. Films such as "Crocodile Dundee" helped enormously, because people saw a picture of a country that they rather liked the look of.

  What the Australians succeeded in doing with the Sydney Olympics was telling one very simple, very compelling story about the kind of country that it was, and people bought it and loved it. That is a country with a previously somewhat weak but generally positive reputation; there was nothing negative in there. In a situation such as that, an Olympics can have a strong long-term effect. It simply raised its game by a notch or two and it has benefited from it ever since. It has maintained the momentum.

  One thing that one has to understand about a major event of this sort is that it is not a sprint to the finish; it is a relay race. We spoke before about sustainability. Countries have to become obsessive about asking themselves, "What do we do next?" People get exhausted planning these things, so you have to have other teams standing by to take the baton and do the next big thing. Brazil is doing that and China is doing that. They have big events mapped out in two or four-year intervals for the next few decades, and I think that is the way one has to look at it. Patrick is the expert on Barcelona because he was posted there when it was going on.

  Dr Spaven: Yes, Barcelona is probably the most often quoted success story. It is quite a long time now since 1992. What happened there was that it had, not exactly a blank slate, but a fairly uniform backdrop on which to impose the messages. Barcelona, as many of you know, was an interesting city but it was a bit grimy. It was a declining industrial city until it started to transform itself. It started to do that before the Olympics, and would have carried on even if there hadn't been the Olympics. However, it got an enormous boost from the Olympics—from potential markets, because people were looking at it, but the bigger factor was the internal market. I mentioned that in my submission. One million to 2 million people—not exclusively from greater Barcelona, a city of 3.5 million—became really proud of their city and went out to become public diplomats.

  There is no more effective public diplomacy than individuals talking to other individuals. If someone understands that a message is coming from the Government, they are much more likely to be sceptical about it. If the message comes from a person, especially if there is a relationship, it is going to be far more credible. If you have millions of people saying that Barcelona is a wonderful city, fine. So that worked at the time, but it carried on working because the people were so proud of what had happened in Barcelona that they were prepared to invest more and more in their city. That meant money from their wallets carried on transforming the city. It was that cumulative effect that sustained the improvement of the city, and that created the Barcelona we know today, which is unfortunately a bit more congested than it was when I was living there. The momentum effect definitely was an outcome from the Olympics—no question of that.

  Q25 Mr Watts: Would it be true to say—you also used the Australian example—that, for the Spanish one, the benefits were specifically for Barcelona, not for Spain? Economically and in terms of visitor numbers, it does not seem to have had the desired effect in the long term.

  Dr Spaven: I think there was an effect for Spain as well. Barcelona, a city roughly equivalent in size to Madrid—though different—became complementary to it, whereas for so many years before that they had been diametrically opposed. Barcelona had been the junior and somewhat aggrieved partner, and it became a jewel in the crown of Spain. That has benefited Spain as a whole. I can't prove it, but that is my impression. I lived there for six years and saw that happening at the time, and I go back frequently.

  Simon Anholt: I think these internal effects should never be underestimated. One of the things I was searching for in the FCO's paper and couldn't find was any reference to this really significant point about the London Olympics. For all the reasons that we have spoken about up to now, I think there is a fairly good chance that, even if it's a success, it is not going to have any major impact on the reputation of the UK, because people already believe what they are going to believe.

  Where it might really make a difference and could bring some value is to the UK's perception of itself. There is progress that needs to be made. I mentioned earlier Germany's World Cup. We certainly recorded in my study a measurable up-tick in other people's perceptions of Germany but, as I said, it didn't last for very long. It went back down again after a year. What may have changed permanently was the Germans' self-view as a result of the World Cup. I am sure that many people will remember that during that World Cup we could see on television ordinary middle-class Germans gathering together and singing their national anthem without irony or aggression, and remembering the words. That was a really significant moment in Germany's post-war history, because they suddenly discovered what it was like to be, say, Italian, and just to be ordinarily proud of the country you come from. It is just a fact of human nature that we can't love somebody who doesn't quite know how to love himself.

  For very different historical reasons, the UK has a very similar psychopathology to the one Germany had at that point. We don't know how to love ourselves and, rather like the Germans, we do tend to swing sickeningly from pathological self-hatred to pathological self-aggrandisement. The Olympics could and should fix that—perhaps fix it semi-permanently. I would love to see something in the paper that says how we are going to brand Britain to Britain with the Olympics.

  Q26 Rory Stewart: That is a very exciting point, Simon. To exploit you slightly before the arrival of the Minister and the Head of Public Diplomacy, can I push you both on this point? If you were sitting in our position, what would you drill down on, in terms of resources, institutional structures, and bureaucratic structures in the FCO? What should it should it be doing concretely to change its public diplomacy?

  Simon Anholt: A very important part of a country beginning to take control of its reputation is creating the right structures to do so. We have spoken endlessly in this country about the need for greater communication between the sectors, and that much is obvious. This is a very busy world. If this is a supermarket, it is a supermarket in which we are competing against 204 other similar products in one way or another. Therefore, it is incredibly important that, as a country, we fire on all cylinders, and that the same sorts of messages about the country are coming from every sector—and civil society, business and so on. So, clearly, co-ordination is a no-brainer, but my experience of working with this Government and many other Governments overseas is that the moment you stop forcing people to co-ordinate they will stop co-ordinating, because the tendency is for them not to do so. They have got their own mandates, targets, audiences and businesses. Therefore, the only way to make people co-ordinate and work together long term—what we have occasionally called joined-up government in the past—is by creating structures that make it impossible for people not to co-ordinate. I think one has to be a little bit fiercer about it.

  At the moment, it tends to be that people sitting in meeting A then go to meeting B and reporting on the proceedings of meeting A to the people in meeting B. I don't think that is good enough. In the countries I have seen where this is really working, you have actually got people from the different departments—from business, from civil society—sitting together in, to some degree, policy-making groups and doing policy together so they can't ignore each other. When we are doing tourism, we cannot ignore foreign direct investment, and when we are doing foreign direct investment we cannot ignore foreign policy or the military or anything else, because they are all working together. In most countries, and the UK is no exception, the kinds of bodies, structures and organisations we have to deal with this were all designed in the 19th century and are singularly unfit for purpose in the modern age, where reputation is everything.

  Q27 Rory Stewart: Patrick, very concretely, what would you pin the Minister down on?

  Dr Spaven: My recent experience in this area of co-ordination—I agree that co-ordination is very important—is from Sweden, where, to some extent, I have had some input. What Sweden has done is create a looser form of co-ordination, which is possible in a country like that, which is obviously smaller than the UK. In this model, which is more of a network model, the glue between the international influence organisations—the obvious ones—is a concept of brand. What Sweden has done with its brand is not project it outwards; it created it to have everybody, as it were, singing not from the same hymn sheet, but certainly the same hymn book. So, it is a segmented brand, but it nevertheless has a measure of agreement and has resources that people use in a networked way. The Sweden Promotion Forum does meet from time to time, but it does not force the issue. That may be possible for the UK to some extent. I suspect it probably needs a bit more accessible co-ordination here.

  Q28 Rory Stewart: Can I ask you what this actually looks like bureaucratically? What is this thing? What is it that you would be asking? If you were Foreign Secretary, what would you be doing?

  Simon Anholt: In a couple of other countries, I have set up a thing that is deliberately crassly called the national marketing agency, which is responsible for managing these reputational issues. It has some limited power to make policy. It creates a national strategy through broad consultation and it has senior members, very often at ministerial level, depending on the size of the country, from all the relevant sectors. That is what, when I first started writing about the subject 15 years ago, I called a hexagon of national image, which is policy, culture, population, exports and so on. I will send you a copy. They are all sitting together and all doing this together at a very high level, at the policy level, because that is what really makes the difference.

  There is another very specific thing that I would like to see done. That is, if it is at all possible, a bit more refining of the objectives here. There seem to be quite a number of messages that we are trying to get across about Britain during these Olympics. They are somewhat vague and anodyne. They are a bit motherhood-and-apple-pie. We would like to be seen as caring, sharing, tolerant, modern, technological, equal, and so on. I am afraid my heart sinks when I read these things, because it is what 90% of all countries want to be perceived as, and it is just not very distinctive. In my experience, you are lucky if you can prove one new thing about your country, let alone 12. I would love to see us just saying, "Here is the one thing which, through close analysis, we have decided the UK can best use the Olympics to prove about itself"—the one thing. And then let's go about proving that.

  Chair: Because of the vote, I'm going to extend the session by 10 minutes. We were due to stop about now, but there are still a couple of questions left.

  Q29 Mr Ainsworth: Let's turn now to the downside—to the negative. You've flagged up a couple of opportunities, but one could be forgiven for believing that there is a lot more risk in this than opportunity. London is perceived as a pretty exciting, positive city. What are those risks and how do we position ourselves so as best to manage and mitigate them?

  Simon Anholt: First of all, yes, it's certainly true that London has a pretty good reputation. None the less, I would never advocate resting on laurels. A reputation is not something you learn; it's something you rent. And you have to keep paying the rent on it.

  Q30 Mr Ainsworth: And it is an opportunity. That's what you appear to be saying.

  Simon Anholt: And it is an opportunity. Even though clearly there are risks, I would never advocate avoiding risks. One has to do these things from time to time and, as a prominent nation, it is very important that we do prominent, daring things from time to time—as long as we remember to make them prominent and daring. I would say that the risks to our overall reputation are very slight, just because I have so seldom seen a country ever manage to damage its reputation in any serious way over the long term, even when trying very vigorously. Invading other countries doesn't seem to do it. It is difficult to imagine what one could do to damage one's reputation permanently, if one has a good, robust reputation—as we luckily enough do. Long decline over many years would do it, but we're not planning on having that.

  In the short term and on a much more superficial level, yes, there are risks. If the Olympics are in some way or other not a success and are a disaster, that will have a short-term impact on trade, on tourism, on investment, on foreign students coming in and so on. We need to be scenario planning. If we are not already doing so, we need to take the approach that Shell pioneered in the 1950s, which has been imitated throughout the world in corporations and, to some degree, in the public sector as well. You get a lot of people who are very good at scenarios who sit down and work out the 20 possible things that could go wrong and what impact those would have on all the things that matter to us. What have we got waiting to ensure that the damage is limited as far as possible? For example, if we were to have a dramatic infrastructure breakdown during the Olympics and getting people to the site was catastrophically bad, that would have an immediate impact on foreign direct investment, because it sends out a very clear symbol that this isn't a place where things work. It would take a little effort to reassure people that that was an anomaly, rather than a pattern.

  We should not only be anticipating those potential risks, but trying to insure against them in advance. In the remaining months building up to the Olympics, we should be doing everything we can to build up a strong perception that we are very, very good at infrastructure. We should be demonstrating that the infrastructure is very modern, is working hard and we are making investment in it. That will mean we maximise our chances that if something does go wrong, it will be perceived as an anomaly, rather than proof that things are going downhill. That sort of approach is essential.

  Mr Ainsworth: And reaction too.

  Simon Anholt: And reaction too.

  Q31 Mr Ainsworth: Are there systems that we should be putting in place?

  Simon Anholt: Absolutely. Here we get into the area of public relations, which is not really my field. Certainly any good PR person would be able to say to you, "How would damage limitation work in a situation like this?" Broadly speaking, it is about ensuring that the moment a bad story gets out, you are very, very close to the media and you can get on to them straight away. That means if incorrect or exaggerated information is published, you can immediately issue timely and accurate rebuttals. More importantly, for every one negative piece of information about a tube train that breaks down, you can send 100 pieces of information about something excitingly good.

  Countries are always complaining to me about the fact that the media prefer negative to positive stories. That is actually not true. The media prefer exciting stories to boring stories. You can't tackle an exciting negative story with a boring positive story. The trick of the thing is to find exciting stories that are positive and are even more exciting than the negative ones. If we are building high speed train lines and so on, that is potentially more exciting than one tube train breaking down. That is how you combat it.

  Q32 Chair: In fact, a disaster such as that of the Chilean miners and their survival and recovery was an exciting, good-news story. Patrick, do you want to add anything?

  Dr Spaven: I am not quite as sanguine as Simon about the level of risk. Britain is trying to project itself as a country that knows how to manage big projects. This is its best opportunity. It wants to show that its infrastructure works. If something goes seriously wrong in any of those areas, it will be picked up on and could set Britain back more than just a year or two; it could set Britain back for a considerable period in certain areas. It won't damage the reputation of Britain's people and so on, but it will damage that sector.

  Long-term, the question of legacy is always going to be pursued by the media. They will come back time and time again just to make sure that our legacy strategy is working, and if it's not they will hammer us. That has been the case with all the other Olympics and it will happen with the UK; there is no doubt about that.

  Q33 Mr Roy: I'd like to take you back to what we were talking about in relation to Germany in 2006, and the China Olympic Games two years ago and the Delhi Commonwealth Games that have just finished. We know that Germany benefited from that two-year impact. But now, looking back, what has happened to the performance that came in 2006 to Germany? In relation to China, were the games a success for China in relation to public diplomacy? Were lessons learned? Thirdly, was Delhi a success, bearing in mind the very bad news that we had from Delhi the week before the games on the athletes' village, which I think clouded a lot of people's vision? Where do we sit with those three in terms of lessons learned?

  Dr Spaven: I don't know whether anyone has done a serious micro-analysis of the impact of Germany 2006 or China 2008, and certainly they won't have done it yet for Delhi, and probably won't. We have evidence from Simon's index, but I would slightly moderate the picture that you ( Simon) presented of Germany. Yes, Germany has slipped back a bit in the index from the immediate post-World Cup heights of late 2006.

  Simon Anholt: But not all the way.

  Dr Spaven: But not all the way. If you take a longer view, if you look at late 2005, Germany was sixth in the index. Now it's—third?

  Simon Anholt: Sometimes, yes.

  Dr Spaven: So Germany's status, in so far as the index tells the story—I believe that it does, because it is a very robust, large-scale survey—seems to be significantly better off in image terms now than it was in late 2005. The only factor that I can find to explain that is the 2006 FIFA World Cup, around which it managed public diplomacy, in a very broad sense—international influence—as well as I've seen any country, and in a purposeful way. What happened in Barcelona was almost incidental; it wasn't a grand strategy. Germany had a grand strategy, which I think they designed and pulled off very well.

  China is a different matter. We know that China's overall reputation has improved since, and has—

  Simon Anholt: And continues to improve.

  Dr Spaven: Yes, which is interesting, because China's reputation was going down quite steeply before the Olympics. Before the Olympics it had the fastest-deteriorating reputation of any country in the index, but that has been checked and it has started to rise. Whether it has risen back to what it would have been in 2003 we don't know, because the index didn't exist in those days.

  Simon Anholt: I think the Beijing Olympics was a clear case of simply revealing more of the country to a population that knew very little about the country and imagined a great deal, and what they saw was generally reassuring.

  The index doesn't just measure overall reputation; it measures it in some detail. On the question of governance, human rights and all the rest of it, China is still regarded as a pariah by the majority of the world's population. So that's the ball and chain around its ankle. None the less, on most of the other indices it continues to rise and, as Patrick said, it got a big boost from the Olympics. Every country that hosts a major event is in every sense a special case. That was the right moment for China to have its Olympics, and it benefited arguably as much as it possibly could have done from that opportunity. And China continues to invest; they are treating it as a relay race and not as a sprint. They have had the Shanghai Expo, and they continue to invest massively in cultural relations, building Confucius centres all over the world. They can afford to do so; they are doing it well, they are doing it right. The ball and chain aside, this is an exemplary case of how to improve your image.

  Delhi's a rather different matter. A phenomenon that I've sometimes observed is that countries can over-promise. South Africa is a rather similar case. It was widely believed that South Africa's World Cup had improved the image of South Africa but my study has shown that it is nowhere near as clear-cut as that. In the minds of many people in the study, South Africa's image actually deteriorated after the World Cup. That was perhaps as a result of the fact that many people overseas didn't really know what South Africa looked like; all they'd seen was tourism promotion and they thought that it was a first-world country through and through. They then saw it on the television and realised that in many respects it's still a third-world country, and the image was therefore corrected downwards. I think that the same thing is going to happen to India. A lot of people have been hearing nothing but stories of India's meteoric rise in commerce and economics and so on, and then they see what Delhi actually looks like. If you come from Toronto or London that might shock you. Therefore there will probably be a bit of a downward correction, but they will pick up again afterwards, and one might say that that is a necessary correction because the perception has been restored to something closer to reality.

  Mr Roy: Unlike Glasgow in 2014, hopefully.

  Q34 Chair: Time is virtually up. Patrick, right at the beginning you said there were some points that you wanted to make. Do you feel that you've got all your points over?

  Dr Spaven: One message that I'd like to leave is that we know very little about the effectiveness of public diplomacy, particularly in the narrow sense. Despite the fact that we now have an academic centre for public diplomacy in Southern California, which is doing some good work—some of it is rather uninteresting—we are just in the foothills of understanding about this and I make a plea. I think that research-wise we are learning quite a lot, but in terms of evaluating actual programmes—understanding what works and what doesn't and with what markets—I think that we are woefully ignorant. So we need to do something about that, and not just because that's my business.

  Q35 Chair: Simon, have you something that you'd like to say in 30 seconds?

  Simon Anholt: By contrast, I'm going to sound rather fluffy, but I just make a plea for us to be less boring. In 15 years of advising Governments around the world, I've found that the single most common reason why countries are misjudged is that they generally speaking make quite good policies but very boringly. I would like to see more stuff in here that's genuinely imaginative and genuinely extraordinary, because that's what breaks the mould; that's what makes people admire, respect and take interest in other countries, and I'd like to see us asking ourselves about relevance: "Why would anyone care about Britain?" It is not, "How do we make ourselves famous?" it's "How do we make ourselves relevant?" How do we touch people in other countries so that they go to bed at night thinking, "I'm glad Britain exists"? I think that those are the big questions that we are perhaps not really addressing here.

  Q36 Chair: And do you think that the headlines we've got at the moment are good, but boring?

  Simon Anholt: Yes, and possibly not really very relevant to me sitting in Peru or Korea.

  Chair: Thank you both very much indeed. That is really appreciated.

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