Chile’s new data strategy is defining their 10-year communication plan. Here’s how.

What’s the key to creating a successful data strategy that measures the impact of your communications and allows you to refine your long-term strategic plan? We reached out to Constanza Cea, CEO, & Guadalupe Zegers, Head of Research at Imagen de Chile, to get the behind-the-scenes information on the strategy that won our 2021 Best Use of Data Award.

Congratulations on winning the Best Use of Data award last November! What inspired this new data strategy?

Constanza Cea [CC]: We were facing a challenge as an organisation. I have been part of the board for several years before being the CEO, and I know that not everyone on the board understood what our job was; many of them were number-minded, so we had to prove ourselves in a way they understood. We needed to speak their language. So we started digging in what numbers we had and how similar organisations measured their work. And we identified a way to bring our board members along and really demonstrate what we were delivering.

As a country brand, you need to understand the perceptions that you have abroad, and you need to know what your people feel represents them best: our main values; the goals we have as a country; what motivates us.

To start with, I spoke with all the board members, and industries that we wanted to represent in order to find out their expectations and to understand how we could answer those expectations. In particular, as we didn’t have a huge budget, we were targeting our research to cities, and we worked with our partners to understand which cities were key priorities for different sectors. And then we needed to match those international perceptions of Chile with the perspective of our citizens to understand where we need to focus our storytelling.

Guadalupe Zegers [GZ]: We were really looking to understand what we’ve achieved in the last ten years, and what will be important in the next ten years regarding nation branding and international perception. We checked all the major perception studies, looked into their methodologies, and identified what they had in common. Country Brand rankings were very useful, but we needed more specific information – for example, we’ve been recognised as an innovative country in several international rankings, but is that how the people in those markets see it? We created a new methodology that allowed us to develop a more efficient communication strategy. This strategy, Chile Creating Future, is based on Chile’s contributions to sustainability, quality of life and community.

This new tool would establish indicators we could use to measure our work in the future as well. And we were able to ask about the new political changes in Chile and understand what impact this had and how we can manage our communication. We also wanted to promote more citizen engagement, so we created an indicator to measure citizen pride; now we can annually measure Chilean’s perceptions of the nation brand as we go forwards.

Were there any findings from the study that surprised you?

CC: It’s not a finding as such, but one outcome that did surprise was the attention that we got from the media and our stakeholders. We started the study because we needed to see what gaps we had to fill, and we wanted to focus on different areas, but it actually generated a lot of interest. We went to meetings where they would be showing findings from our studies! That was the biggest surprise, and it gave a depth and a vision that was very important. We don’t do much internally – like most nation brands, we’re very external facing – so that attention was very valuable.

As to the results… Sometimes we forget that we’re a small country. Guadalupe mentioned the social unrest we had in 2019. We thought that the social unrest was really impacting how the world perceives us, and yes, people had heard about it, but it wasn’t changing perceptions of Chile. It’s been a good way to guide what we do. We need to be very honest with what we show to the world, and we need to put a spotlight on our strengths and showcase the strengths that the world doesn’t know about.

GZ: It’s also very interesting to measure the results of our messages. This is a long-term strategy, as it won’t give results in the short-term, but there are hints already that we’re following the right path. We can see that the work from the last ten years of promotion has worked, and there’s much greater recognition of our territory and higher intention to visit Chile. Now we need to take it to the second level, and hopefully in ten years, we can be recognised around the world for our work in innovation, and sustainability, and the other areas we’re leading in.

CC: When this institution began, what Chile was most related to was low prices. Now, it’s quality. That’s not an achievement for Imagen de Chile – that’s an achievement for the country as a whole. It’s a great way to get stakeholders on board and make them feel it was an achievement of their own that someone had recognised it. It helps keep people on board with our strategy, and it’s great to see that they’re happy to see the figures from our study as well.

With the benefit of hindsight, is there anything that you would have done differently?

GZ: There’s nothing that we regret! But things that we learned along the way… there are a lot of different cultures that we interviewed, and we had to adapt our questions to the culture; it took us a few months to learn that. Some places in India, for example, said they ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ to everything we asked – which couldn’t be right. So instead, we had to force them to compare Chile to other countries in South America. It turns out that in New Delhi, there wasn’t that much preference for Chile, but instead a cultural tendency to give good evaluations. Whereas in Shanghai, we saw that people chose us above Brazil and other countries in South America. So that helped us to be more comprehensive in our research, and it’s definitely something we’ll remember for the future.

Do you have any tips for places who are looking to maximise their budget when developing their data strategy?

CC: Being able to define our main stakeholders and understand their needs and what they wanted to achieve was key. After all, priorities in tourism might be very different from trade. Taking the time to understand what the current markets for our stakeholders were and who they want to reach in the next ten years helped us to be more focused with our resources.

So that would be my advice – understand who you want to bring along, and then include their interest in the study, because the data that you get back is a really great tool to help engage stakeholders. It wasn’t what we were looking for, but it was very useful!

What’s next for Chile?

GZ: The research led to a new strategy to help us target our communication in order to help close the perception gaps that we identified. Now our work – in terms of research! – is to continue to monitor our work. We know that we won’t have amazing results in a year, but we need to continue to monitor that what we’re promoting about Chile is good for all of us, and to refine our strategy as needed according to the new data.

CC: We would like to research perceptions in the areas we couldn’t cover in this study, which would also help engage more stakeholders in what we do. And it would improve the goals we’re using to show how Imagen de Chile can add value to the nation brand and that the message we share is being well-received. Our main focus is to give more opportunities to Chileans; if we can show that we have been effective in reaching our audiences – and the audiences of our stakeholders – then we’ve got a much better foundation for our work.

Administrations change, and we have only built another step on top of what previous administrations have done. But having this data helps to create a longer-term strategy. It shows that it’s something inclusive, and it will help new administrations to have a basis and an understanding of what the strategy has been before them. Hopefully, it will build a lot more longevity into the nation branding strategy for Chile.

Wonderful, thanks so much for sharing that with us.

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