Reputation, like beauty, lies in the eyes of the beholder. The same goes for greatness.
The strategists behind the new ‘Britain is Great’ campaign appear to have missed out on this fundamental premise of good communications. Attempts to fashion (or repair) your own (tarnished) reputation must acknowledge that ‘greatness’ can only be something bestowed upon you by others.
Calling yourself great is about as much a faux pas as calling yourself cool. Simple fact: it’s just not cool.
It also points to a tendency for amnesia on the part of Britain’s flag carrying thinkers. Indeed, the criticism launched at the campaign by commentators is focused by a central theme: let’s not pretend that markets aren’t faltering, that economic growth isn’t stagnant and that the riots didn’t happen.
Sure, the campaign is an honest attempt to give Britain a simple brand vision and identity, to restore confidence in Britain as a place to visit, invest in and do business. But no need to engage in poster-based propaganda to achieve that aim. Let’s get real: just today the FTSE has dropped 5%. Sticking Wallace and Gromit on a poster clearly isn’t the answer. Instead, let’s recover from this summer of gloom through a firm commitment to action, to finding viable solutions based on our peculiarly British penchant for reflection and consideration.
And to do that, we need to think carefully about the content and medium of the messages we send to the world.
When Cameron last met the Queen he attempted to win her over to his particular vision of a plugged in, switched on digital future – the iPad version of solitaire. The ideological undertones present in a game where the player must, literally and very much alone, play their cards right, perhaps speaks great truths about the state we are in. But more to the point, the Queen’s stately, and characteristically stoic, response was perhaps as firmly switched on to the Zeitgeist as any Cameron might make about restoring Britain’s reputation: ‘one has heard of such things, but in any case prefers a simple game of cards.’
In this age of austerity, where corporate or political reputation is as volatile as global markets are fragile, let us be wary of grandiose flashy campaigns, and instead endorse a politics of humility, of reflection and grace. Herein lies the route to restoring greatness on the global stage.