Branding a Stateless Nation: Public Diplomacy Strategy of Catalonia

How to represent and promote a stateless nation internationally? In their recent case study on Catalonia published in the Journal of Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, Jordi de San Eugenio Vela and Jordi Xifra take a close look at the nation branding and public diplomacy strategy of the independence-seeking autonomous region of Catalonia (Spain).

We invited the authors to share their key research findings and to reflect on how things have changed since.

Learn about:

  • How stateless nations can manage their international relations, example Catalonia;
  • How the Catalan government approaches public diplomacy;
  • The cultural diplomacy strategy developed by Catalonia and implemented through its pioneering 2010–2015 Foreign Action Plan.

Which are your main research findings from the case study on Catalonia’s cultural diplomacy?

We tried to demonstrate that the cultural diplomacy strategy proposed by Catalonia transcends the traditional concept of diplomacy to formulate a new strategy of projecting its image domestically and internationally. The latter is based on value added by universally renowned and appreciated contemporary Catalan creators, who are used to define a solid culture industry.

Basically, we wanted to show the strategy used by stateless nations to develop their public diplomacy. Catalonia as case study was ideal in that it allowed us to demonstrate the existence of important alternatives to traditional diplomacy, in order to project a positive image of places through cultural values.

Our paper establishes a direct relationship between cultural diplomacy, nation building and nation branding. The research demonstrates a need to project a unique image through a brand that, at this time, does not exist (the Catalonia brand).

The paper also highlights some of the most important cultural values of Catalonia, which make it unique and create a strong positioning for this region. Some examples of Catalonia’s cultural values, according to Bargalló (2011) are:

  1. Catalan creators, such as Miró and Dalí in art, Gaudí, Sert, Miralles and Calatrava in architecture, Casals in music, Carreras and Caballé in opera, Llull and Tirant lo Blanc in medieval literature, Rodoreda and Monzó in modern fiction, Adrià and Roca in gastronomy, and the Barcelona Football Club and Gasol in sports;
  2. Barcelona as an international capital of culture;
  3. the culture industry itself, particularly in relation to publishing and audiovisual production, as well as music and contemporary art events, among others.

We identified culture as a key value to project the identity of Catalonia around the world.

(How) has Catalonia’s public diplomacy strategy changed since your research?

Catalonia (and Spain) is experiencing an important political transformation. In Spain, a strong citizen mobilization is emerging around the creation of new political parties like Podemos, which a priori requires a different way of managing public affairs. This new political landscape has (slightly) modified the scenario discussed in the article.

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The Editorial Team

Hi there, we hope you've found this article useful. Want to stay up to date on latest place branding insights, stories and examples? Sign up for our free email newsletter! You might also be interested in our services. Have a question or suggestion? Get in touch!