Mapping ‘The United States of Awesome’

Throughout my studies at the Cronkite School I have come to realize that we live in a PR world. Every message the public picks up on TV, radio, in books and online has most likely been delicately tailored by public relations practitioners who understand the target audience and what they want. From a New York hot dog stand to Intel, size does not matter because every organization can benefit from good public relations.

However, what about a larger organization like, say, a country? I would think that, with the revenue that good foreign relations can accrue, it would be important for the global community to keep track of their image to make sure that it is in the hands of people who are effective communicators. Luckily, the United States has begun its most recent attempt to put a fresh face forward to the foreign public amid the unrest in the economy that we are dealing with at home. Why shouldn’t a world power care just as much about its image as a Fortune 500 company? Both place stock in the ability to communicate effectively.

The “United States of Awesome Possibilities” is what the Corporation for Travel Promotion (CTP) has chosen for the tagline of this new national campaign, Brand USA. A Yahoo article described it as an “effort to boost business and leisure travel in order to spur economic growth.” With the confidence of a $200 million budget, it has previewed its launch next year with multiple lofty promises of recreating America into a “21st century brand,” apparently demonstrated by the dots in the campaign’s official logo. I am not sure what a 21st century brand is or what the dots have to do with it, but it sounds exciting.

Specifically, Brand USA seeks to inform the international traveller of all the possibilities that lie inside America’s doors — that the streets are paved with gold, and all that. The Discover America website — one of the tactics of this campaign — lists useful tips on American culture including topics such as healthcare, banking, and hygiene. Yes, hygiene. The site claims that Americans are fanatics about showering and that it is recommended that visitors adopt our daily cleansing rituals. Other tips include avoiding the $1 to $3 charges that ATMs sometimes enforce. Most of the content is categorized by city to make it easier for visitors to plan their trips here.

While it is my personal opinion that there are probably more important topics to prep foreigners about before coming to our country than daily showers, I do think that rebranding is a good idea. We are in the midst of a crisis in this country due to various hot-button issues. However, foreign relationships are something that we must keep healthy no matter what is happening on the home front. While I have questions about the timing of this campaign, I do see the importance of making sure that the rest of the world sees our best side.

Do you feel that this campaign is coming at a good time or would it be more effective if more importance was placed on finding solutions to these issues before the campaign’s launch?

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5 Responses to Mapping ‘The United States of Awesome’

  1. rsutherl says:

    This topic completely fascinates me, mainly because I work in the travel industry where we try to prep Americans for overseas experiences. It’s so difficult to see your own country objectively — I tried to read the travel tips from the perspective of a foreigner, but it was difficult.

    The U.S. outbound travel industry is seeing inconsistent benefits from the European economic crisis — currencies are up and down, prices are fluctuating out of desperation for more revenue and Americans are irrationally afraid of traveling to unstable countries.

    We have just experienced a major recession, and here is a campaign dedicated to encouraging tourism. It’s smart to promote the country when the exchange rate is favorable and internal commerce is lagging.

    When Europeans experience the slightest economic bobble, Americans fear they’ll encounter suicide bombers on their vacation. I wonder if Europeans are more tolerant of our ups and downs? Ultimately, transatlantic travel is expensive, so if we’re dealing with a public that can afford it, we need to be sure that American tourism is worth every pound, euro, etc. The first step is promoting our nation in an attractive and accessible way.

    I’d say the timing couldn’t be better, and as long as we paint ourselves as stable, affordable and full of natural and cultural gems, tourists will come.

  2. caolson says:

    I actually think that this campaign came at a perfect time. Offering these helpful tips and travel advice to boost tourism from other countries could be exactly what we need. To me, it seems like this could be a great way to help America’s economy while also fostering relationships with people outside of the USA. I also think having a resource like this available may make people from other countries feel more prepared to travel here, and more willing to spend their money when they do so. I also think anything the USA can do to try to strengthen economic ties with other countries could result in an improvement of our country’s image. We have a lot to offer as a country, and I think this is a great way to show that.

  3. rsteinga says:

    I think that as this huge recession continues to pull people under, a fresh face for the U.S. is not such a bad idea. As a country, I feel like we have two kinds of polarizing sides — one where people in other countries see us as a land filled with opportunity and the other, where people see us as not very polite, and uncultured Americans. Hopefully, this increase in travel and a fresh face to our country will refine our image as more uniform and polished.

  4. dlkline says:

    This is a very interesting subject. As we are definitely living in a global world, why not market the good old U.S. of A.? Also, the fact is that the American brand has been somewhat damaged by ongoing wars in the Middle East and severe economic times. I think this is a great idea for American PR and the American economy.

  5. abwolfe says:

    It is definitely odd to think of PR as a national representation of a country. Reputations are built and preserved based on what the world sees of a country. When you really break it down, everything a country does involves PR. It really is a fascinating thought. However, in regards to “the United States of Awesome,” I am not a fan of the new motto. Although I do like to call myself awesome, I don’t think it is appropriate for a country. It sounds like an eighth grader wrote it.

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