Brand NZ Needs a Push, Says Brian Sweeney

While we can hold out the hope the average foreigner associates us with more than just the All Blacks, Brian Sweeney, co-founder and chairman of public-relations company SweeneyVesty, believes New Zealand is missing the chance to portray our country as a modern economy.

Since David Lange stood down as Prime Minister in 1989, politicians have largely avoided “the vision thing” and stuck to the business of the day, Sweeney says.

“For too long, New Zealand I think has been a bit aimless.”

“The messaging is still quite diffuse. People haven’t quite made the connection that New Zealand is, or could be, an innovation hub. From a governance point of view, reputation management of your brand is fundamentally important and we are grossly under-spent. If this was a corporation there would be alarm bells ringing in the boardroom.”

Sweeney established website NZEdge in 1998 as a side-project to try to fill a void and revitalise New Zealand’s brand image.

One of its clever PR spins has been to recast New Zealand as a “network” of five million people spanning the globe, rather than a country with a population of four million that another million people had left.

For the past 14 years NZEdge has surveyed overseas news reports to check the pulse on how New Zealand is perceived overseas.

Sweeney’s message to the world would be that New Zealand is unusually successful in a range of fields because it is the most remote country and the youngest discovered land mass, shaped by inward and outward migration, and it is at this kind of “edge” that innovation occurs fastest.

New Zealand “almost has a biological role within the world” to be world-changing and it is in our psyche to take on the world, he says.

Sweeney knows words and perceptions matter.

Sunday Star Times journalist Tom Pullar-Strecker asks Sweeney, who lives in New York, if he will ever return to New Zealand.

“I partly say that I haven’t left.”

That is not the PR professional talking. Whatever the flag, Sweeney will be waving it, figuratively, wherever he goes.

Original article Tom Pullar-Strecker, Sunday Star Times, December 21, 2014.

Photo by Ross Giblin.

Tags: Brian Sweeney  David Lange  New Zealand's brand  NZEdge  Stuff  Sunday Star Times  SweeneyVesty  

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