Italian good news: Nation Brand Italia, joining forces against Italian stereotypes

Dec 15, 2018 256

Every Italian in the world knows how strong and deep-rooted are the stereotypes regarding Italians. There are prejudices about many countries and peoples, but Italy has a particularity: we Italians are the first to have stereotypes about ourselves and to speak ill of our country. Very often we think, as our Latin ancestor Ovidio said, that "the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence".

Our problem of self image is demonstrated, for example, by the Country Reptrack of the Reputation Institute, an international ranking on the reputation of countries: Italy is permanently among the 3 countries that have the biggest gap between their reputation as perceived by foreigners and that perceived by themselves.

This is also demonstrated by "Livewhat", an international project financed by the European Union. Citizens from various European countries were asked how they thought they lived in other countries: all foreigners believe that in Italy they live better than Italians think, and the majority of Italians think that abroad they live much better than in Italy.

All this may seem strange to those who read from the United States, love Italy and are proud to be Italian, but this is the reality: often we Italians living in Italy are less proud of our country than those living abroad. Some might say that this happens because those who are far away are less familiar with the problems of the country. However, it is also true that most people in Italy do not know what it's like to live abroad, but they are always ready to say that outside Italy everything is better.

There is even an expression, “disfattismo all’italiana” (Italian-style defeatism), to describe the excessive self-criticism of Italians. This has very concrete effects on the “Italy” brand, for example on Italy's position in international rankings based on interviews with a group of selected citizens, who are asked to judge the situation in their country.

Italian defeatism, together with the lack of attention to the promotion of the country that the institutions have had for a long time and together with some failed experiments, has created a serious problem of Italy's international reputation in the political and economic field.

Fortunately, in recent times, both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other public and private bodies have been making serious efforts to promote the “Italy” brand. For example, I recently attended at the Farnesina the seminar "Indexes and Reputation: Strategies for attractiveness in comparison" on the relationship between the image of the countries and their positioning in the main international rankings.

Shortly afterwards, at the Assolombarda (the association that brings together entrepreneurs from the Lombardy Region) headquarters in Milan, I took part in the presentation of a study on the value - to the entire Italian economy - of the support that institutions give to Italian companies for internationalization. A very interesting conference, but also on this occasion the Italian defeatism emerged: the lack of confidence that Italians have in their country is strong. In fact, the entrepreneurs invited said that, until recently, they had not asked for help from Italian institutions because they did not think they could achieve anything, or because they had heard that Italian diplomats were not business-oriented, and so they had lost opportunities. Yet, after these entrepreneurs recently started to work with the Italian embassies abroad, they even received compliments from their foreign clients for everything that the Italian ambassadors had done to facilitate their agreements.

There is still a lot to do, because Italy started very late, compared to other countries, a coordinated activity to protect and promote its international reputation. Moreover, often, in the wake of a topic that is becoming fashionable, initiatives are taken from scratch, without considering all the research and precious reflections that have already been made on the theme of Italy's reputation in the world, when it received less public attention.

Nation Brand Italia (www.nationbranditalia.it) is a project I founded to study the international reputation of Italy in the past and present. As a researcher in History of International Relations I started by creating a library that collects studies, statistical surveys and international rankings on the “Italy” and “Made in Italy” brands, and is constantly expanding.

Nation Brand Italia also monitors and analyzes the image of Italy presented by the English, German, French and Spanish press, in addition to the Italian one, and follows the main initiatives dedicated to the theme.

On all these issues I offer advice and training and contribute to the public debate with articles in blogs and magazines and organizing events such as "Vicenza and the United States", to which I invited Umberto Mucci to present We the Italians and talk about the reputation of Italy in the United States.

All this is possible thanks to the many people, Italians in Italy and abroad, who contribute to Nation Brand Italia sharing their ideas to strengthen Italy and its image. Interviews with a number of experts will soon be published and an online channel is always open to collect the opinions and suggestions of all those who love Italy. Readers of We the Italians can't miss it!

You have two possibilities to share your ideas:

Thank you for your ideas and your love for Italy! They are very precious and appreciated. Together we can contribute to the recognition of the lesser known qualities of our country, first of all to the Italians who are always very self-critical and then to the rest of the world!

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