Hjörtur Smárason Speaker Profile

Hjörtur is an award-winning branding and communications strategist and co-author of the Place Branding Manifesto. He has worked with a number of cities, regions and countries across the world in attracting talent, investment and tourists and driving economic development. Hjörtur has a background in anthropology, political science and economic development, taught innovation and marketing at Holar University in Iceland and is a popular speaker at universities and conferences all around the world, including City/Nation/Place, WTM, ITB, World Trends Forum, SenseX Africa and more.

Hjörtur has worked on place branding projects in regions like East Greenland, which is the most remote and challenging inhabited region on Earth, and places going through or recovering from crisis, such as Iceland during the economic collapse of 2008 and volcanic eruptions of 2010 and 2011, tourism recovery strategies in Nepal after the earthquakes in 2015, and image and economic recovery strategies for Zimbabwe. Places he’s done work for include some of the most innovative cities and regions in the world as well, such as Reykjavik, Oslo and Stockholm in the Nordics, Limburg and Brabant in the Netherlands, as well as a number of other rural and urban areas in Europe, Asia and Africa.

Based in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Speaker characteristics:

#motivational #inspiring #informative #entertaining #personal

Speaking topics:

Place branding, nation branding, crisis management, storytelling, media relations, tourism development, economic development, future trends.

Hjörtur offers everything from panel moderation and keynote speeches to masterclasses and up to two-day workshops on place branding, storytelling, crisis management, tourism development and innovation.


1. How to outrun a rhino – creating a competitive advantage through powerful storytelling

This can be setup both as a keynote talk or a workshop of up to one or two days. Here I decipher the structure of a good story and how it can be used to create a unique selling point and catch the attention of the media. In the talk I refer to real examples, why they resonate with people from around the world and how you can create the same for your place. In particular, I look at how storytelling can be the tool that can give you an advantage over places or destinations with much bigger budgets and reputation than your own.

2. Never waste a good crisis

This is a presentation where I talk about Iceland‘s remarkable recovery from economic ruins and volcanic eruptions to one of the hottest tourist destinations in the world and a booming economy in just a few years – and how Nepal is now doing the same. I explain the methodologies behind these success stories, what needs to be taken into account to achieve such results and how you deal with the immediate negative news coverage that follow any crisis.

“I had the privilege to hire Hjörtur Smárason for a lecture and workshop on place branding in a municipal project in Norrbotten, Sweden. Hjörtur is extremely professional and was able to present many good examples from real life. He is a true inspiration and I look forward to hire him again soon.” Helena Karlberg, CEO of Piteå Science Park

Interested in booking Hjörtur Smárason as speaker? Please get in touch here. Read our interview with him here.