City diplomacy in action: Why Prague is taking an active role tackling global challenges

In an increasingly interconnected and globalised world, cities are taking on a new role in global affairs. In many ways, cities are better placed than national governments to understand the needs and priorities of their communities, and this localised approach to diplomacy is making waves in the international arena. Tereza Hrušková, Head of International Relations Unit for the City of Prague, caught up with us to explain how city diplomacy is allowing Prague to take an active role in global challenges where the national government is unable to react as rapidly and how cities can collaborate together for a more sustainable, resilient future.


What role does soft power and public diplomacy have in your promotion of Prague?

Soft power and public diplomacy play a crucial role in promoting Prague's reputation as a progressive and value-based city. We believe that bilateral and multilateral collaboration and people-to-people connections can create long-lasting positive impressions of our city in the minds of international audiences.

The Pact of Free Cities, which Prague founded in 2019 together with Budapest, Warsaw, and Bratislava, is certainly worth mentioning. The organisation was created to counterbalance inefficient and slow national governments with the aim to highlight the growing importance of cities in preserving and protecting democracy and open society. The vision for the Pact is to build a value-driven mayoral network, agile to adapt to the ever-changing political environment and bring about meaningful change.

Prague has a unique cultural and creative ecosystem, and we believe that creativity combined with technical research and innovative approach will be Prague's niche. With that in mind, we are using various communication tools to engage with foreign audiences and shape their perceptions of our city to attract value-add investment, talent, and visitors from around the world.

Do cities have a new role to play in influencing the global stage?

Absolutely. In today's interconnected world, cities are emerging as new power centres that can influence the global agenda on a wide range of issues, from climate change to social justice. Cities are often much more flexible than nation states. They are able to identify and respond to emerging problems very quickly, due to their proximity to city residents. We have seen this trend not only in the COVID pandemic, but also in the case of the Ukrainian refugee crisis last year, where Prague was able to respond to the situation much more flexibly and quickly than the Czech Republic as a country. A similar example can be observed in Warsaw, for instance.

As urbanisation continues to accelerate, cities are becoming hubs of innovation, creativity, and diversity, attracting talent and investments from around the world. In Prague, we recognize the potential of cities to shape the future of our planet, and we are actively participating in international urban networks and platforms (such as the above-mentioned Pact of Free Cities or EUROCITIES, where Prague recently became Vice-Chair of the City Branding and International Economic Relations working group) to share our experiences, learn from others, and promote sustainable urban development.

How are you ensuring that your strategies are promoting the sustainable growth of the city?

Sustainability is at the heart of our strategy for promoting Prague as a metropolis for the future. We believe that economic growth, social wellbeing, and environmental protection are interdependent and must be pursued together. To this end, the city is working on a number of initiatives that promote sustainable urban development, including improving public transport, increasing energy efficiency, promoting green spaces, and supporting local businesses. We are also engaging with citizens and other stakeholders to ensure that our strategies reflect their needs and aspirations and that our city remains liveable, inclusive, and resilient for generations to come.

Prague was recently ranked 35th in the Europe’s Most Talked About Cities 2023 ranking – how are you growing your digital presence to increase awareness of the city?

While our department does not currently have a formal digital strategy, we are working on developing one that aligns with our overall promotion strategy. We understand that a strong digital presence is key to connect with a wider audience.

However, the official DMO, Prague City Tourism, has been actively working on increasing the city's digital presence through various digital channels and platforms, including social media, OOH marketing channels, and search engine optimization. Prague City Tourism has also been developing engaging and informative content that highlights the city's unique attractions, cultural events, and business opportunities. They are constantly monitoring the city's digital performance and adjusting their digital strategy to optimize their efforts.

While Prague City Tourism is mainly focused on tourism marketing, we are working closely with them to align our strategies and ensure that we are working towards the same goal of promoting Prague as a progressive metropolis. We recognize the importance of a strong digital presence and are committed to developing a formal digital strategy that can support our overall promotion strategy for the city. By leveraging these digital tools, we hope to increase awareness of Prague and attract not only more visitors but also investors, talent, and students to the city.

Having done some research, it’s also clear that Prague is doing well across multiple rankings, including fDi Intelligence’s European Cities and Regions of the Future report and Euromonitor International’s Top 100 City Destinations. Do you use rankings to benchmark your strategy?

Rankings are one of many tools that we use to benchmark our strategy and evaluate our performance. We recognize that rankings can provide valuable insights into how we compare to other cities in terms of various criteria such as business environment, cultural offering, and liveability.

However, we also acknowledge that rankings have limitations and should be used in conjunction with other sources of data and feedback. While rankings can provide useful insights into how we are perceived by external audiences, we do not use them as the sole benchmark for our strategy. Our priority is to develop a comprehensive and holistic strategy that reflects our city's unique strengths and challenges, and that is informed by the needs and aspirations of our stakeholders.

Ultimately, our goal is to use rankings as a starting point for identifying areas of strength and improvement and to develop evidence-based strategies that respond to the needs and aspirations of our citizens and visitors.

What should places be looking at if they want to improve their standing in a particular ranking?

If places want to improve their standing in a particular ranking, they should start by focusing on their core strengths and unique value propositions. The criteria and methodology used by the ranking organisation are also important and places should assess how they align with their own priorities and goals. Places should also prioritize transparency and accountability, providing reliable data and metrics that demonstrate their progress and success. This can help build trust with investors, businesses, and tourists who are considering visiting or investing in the city.

However, and I think most importantly, places should engage with their citizens and stakeholders, including local businesses, government agencies, and community organisations, to identify areas for improvement and to develop targeted initiatives and strategies that address those issues. This could involve investing in infrastructure, improving public services, or promoting the city's unique culture and heritage and overall increasing citizens' participation to create more inclusive cities. Sustainable development and responsible tourism practices are increasingly important factors in many rankings and places should also consider investing in those.

Ultimately, improving a city's ranking requires a long-term commitment and a collaborative effort from all stakeholders across the city. By focusing on their unique strengths and addressing their weaknesses, places can create a compelling value proposition that attracts visitors, investors, and businesses, and ultimately leads to sustainable growth and success.

Finally, can you share one upcoming project that you’re particularly excited about?

I am excited to announce that we will be launching a tender for a new place branding strategy for the City of Prague. This tender will be open to branding agencies and consultants from around the world, and we are looking for innovative and creative solutions that can help us showcase Prague's unique identity and strengths to the world.

The new branding strategy will be an essential component of our overall promotion strategy, which aims to position Prague as a metropolis where people want to study, work, invest, and visit. The existing communication strategy of Prague has focused (it must be said, very successfully) on the communication of Prague as a tourist destination. However, if the city wants to maintain its competitiveness in the face of this ever-increasing competition between regions and cities, it is necessary to strengthen its reputation abroad.

We would like to highlight the liveability of the city, the excellent conditions for the development of innovative and creative projects and personalities, as well as the exceptional access to university education. We also want to showcase our commitment to sustainability, equality, and inclusivity, which are key values for the city.

We are looking forward to receiving proposals from the best branding agencies and consultants from all over the world, and we are confident that the new branding strategy will help us untap Prague's potential and reinforce our position as a leading city in Europe and beyond.

Thank you for sharing that, Tereza. It was a really interesting look into Prague’s strategy.

Missed the event in person? Don't worry...

The Place Brand Portfolio is City Nation Place's searchable portfolio of Awards case studies from the past five years.