Both countries and cities have specific assets and attributes, developed intentionally or unintentionally that can be deployed to their reputational advantage. We believe those assets fall into two camps – hard power and soft power attributes.
Hard power attributes consist of all political, economic and military means available to a government in the way it influences residents and non-residents alike. National hard power attributes can have a direct impact on city interests too in the way in which they are deployed internally and externally. Soft power attributes are more diverse: they include, but are not limited to, media, digital technology, music, food, tourism, education, arts and literature, and the environment.
The focus of this Report is on the latter.
Nationally, the collective value of soft power attributes is on the rise. That is not to ignore the fact that hard power tensions in Asia Pacific remain and, in some instances, territorial disputes have increased. But as the shortcomings of using (as opposed to flexing) military muscle are readily apparent, governments and policy-makers have turned their attention to leveraging other assets available to them as they seek to exert their influence. Soft power has therefore risen on the agenda of all governments and other national and city-based institutions.
A central part of that interest is how it enables governments to attract, engage and retain people and organisations whose talents, ideas and entrepreneurial spirit directly influence the economic well-being of their country. A nation of visionaries and problem-solvers is a powerful thing.
But soft power is not isolated to the national interest alone. Because they define our perception of a place and the experience we have when there, they are equally significant to cities. From infrastructure to architecture and retail to neighbourhood diversity, soft power attributes profoundly influence the balance of Asia Pacific’s multibillion-dollar tourism industry as much as they do the inward-investment decisions of those in the business community.
For those charged with elevating the reputation of city brands, soft power contributes to consumer experiences; fosters creativity and innovation; and promotes inward investment. Understanding how it works is critical. The same can be said for commercial organisations that need to interpret consumer motivation and behaviour. For domestic brands seeking global reach, soft power attributes have heightened significance. Consumer familiarity and association with the origins of a product can have a direct impact on their perception of, and engagement with, a brand. For multinational brands, a clearer insight into the nuances of a foreign market reinforces their ability to connect with those within it.
Soft power is about setting an agenda for the future as much as it is about establishing a tone for the present. We believe that the ability to articulate, connect and promote soft power attributes is now at the hub of influence for governments, cities and commercial brands alike.
Weber Shandwick has drawn on the views of influencers, published authors and Weber Shandwick ‘s expert marketeers to determine 16 soft power attributes with particular importance to cities. We believe that for city brands to be strong—to have the power to draw visitors, investors, entrepreneurs, artists and the diversity of people that great cities need—they must perform strongly on each of these 16 key dimensions of soft power.
This is an excerpt from Engaging Cities: the Growing Relevance of Soft Power to City Reputations in Asia Pacific. For the full report, click here.