Norway’s image abroad - a shared responsibility

Published under: Stoltenberg's 2nd Government

Publisher Ministry of Foreign Affairs

A clear and positive image of Norway is our most important asset when promoting Norwegian interests abroad. Public diplomacy is of key importance in Norwegian foreign policy, and we have a shared responsibility for Norway’s image abroad.

A clear and positive image of Norway is our most important asset when promoting Norwegian interests abroad. Public diplomacy is of key importance in Norwegian foreign policy, and we have a shared responsibility for Norway’s image abroad.

What kind of footprints do we leave? (Photo: Christian L. Elgvin / tinagent.com)

The primary objective of Norway’s foreign policy is to safeguard Norwegian interests. A positive international image increases Norway’s visibility on the world stage and gives us greater influence. This is important for safeguarding Norway’s political interests, but it is also important for Norwegian business and industry, and for Norway’s popularity as a tourist destination. A positive image can also strengthen the position of Norwegian research and boost the internationalisation of the Norwegian cultural sector. 

The Foreign Service is just one of many actors who a play a role in shaping perceptions of Norway abroad. Put slightly differently, Norway’s image is shaped by the footprint left by Norway and Norwegian actors. It is the sum of all our actions – great and small. In this way we all contribute to the impression Norway gives to the outside world. 

A strategic platform
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has constitutional responsibility for Norway’s public diplomacy work, but this is not something that the Ministry can or should work on alone. The Norwegian Public Diplomacy Forum (2007–10), which is made up of representatives from the private sector, the cultural sector and various organisations, has laid the foundation for our efforts in this area. The Forum was asked to identify new challenges and draw up a plan for how we should address them. A strategic platform was developed on the basis of the Forum’s recommendations, which the Ministry now uses as the departure point for its public diplomacy work. The strategic platform outlines what we should focus on, where we should intensify our efforts, and what this work should include. 

Where should we focus our efforts?
On the basis of an extensive analysis of Norwegian interests and the recommendations of the Forum, 20 countries have been selected where public diplomacy will be in particular focus. In some of these countries we are already well known, but need to strengthen our image, while in others we are little known and need to build up our profile. At the same time, there are many countries where we cannot – due to considerations of resources – give priority to intensifying efforts to promote Norway. 

How do we want the rest of the world to perceive us?
We want Norway to be regarded as an attractive, strong and committed partner in our interaction with the rest of the world, whether in the context of political, cultural or economic relations. We are not seeking to convey a fixed message, like a slogan, but rather to stake out a certain direction in our continued efforts to promote Norway.   

Our long-term communication efforts are based on two key dimensions of our society: Norwegian culture and our relationship with nature. 

 

1. Nature and value creation - provide opportunities and entail responsibilities

Norway’s natural landscapes are both magnificent and accessible. Norwegian society and the business sector are largely based on the utilisation and further development of our natural resources, such as fish, oil and gas, which has resulted in substantial wealth and prosperity. Today Norwegian technology is among the most advanced in the world, and Norway is a key supplier of resources all over the world.

2. Our quality of life, culture and welfare state create a society of equal opportunity

Norwegian society is characterised by democracy, open social structures, modern welfare services and flexible working arrangements. We are regarded as one of the world’s most egalitarian societies, and most Norwegians are able to strike a good balance between work, family and leisure time. This model, which is common to all the Nordic countries, attracts great interest from the rest of the world.  

Public diplomacy in practice
It is not, of course, possible to decide on and export a fixed image of Norway. Our communications efforts must be relevant and of interest to the target group, and must be adapted to the countries where we are present. Only then will our efforts be effective.

 

Norges-representant i Tanzania

Communication in the field. (Photo: Lars Jacobsen)

Our many stories and our common values represent an inexhaustible source of inspiration for promoting Norway on the international stage. We produce generic tools for the Foreign Service and other relevant actors with a view to strengthening their efforts to create a clear and positive image of Norway. These tools include story banks, real-life examples, images and other promotional material. Competence-building and raising awareness in the context of our long-term communication efforts are also important priorities for the Ministry. Other valuable tools include press visits and our Internet channels. 

Norway – the official site – http://www.norway.info/ – is the Foreign Service website. It is the most important information channel for missions abroad when communicating with the general public, and is intended to give a positive first impression of Norway.

Cooperation with other actors
The impact of the Foreign Service’s efforts on Norway’s image abroad will always be coloured by our cooperation with other Norwegian actors, whether in the field of culture, business, research, education or politics. The Forum has therefore examined how the Ministry can coordinate its communication efforts more closely with other actors. The main actors in this context include Innovation Norway, the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise and the Office of the Prime Minister. 

Through its more than 100 large and small missions abroad, the Foreign Service is a key channel for communicating Norway’s views in the international arena. The communication work carried out by the missions is therefore a vital part of our efforts to strengthen Norway’s image. Analyses of interests and communication plans help to promote a long-term perspective and professional results. 

The Ministry intends to speak with a clear voice on issues where Norway has key interests. The Ministry will work actively to promote Norway abroad and will seek to develop fruitful cooperation with other Norwegian actors to build up and strengthen our image.