POLITICS & INSTITUTIONS - INSTITUTIONS

Conversation with Beryl Koltz

"Our mission is to put the country on the map”



Beryl Koltz: "Luxembourg has remarkable assets, capacities to adapt to the context, to the environment, which are also linked to the size of the country." (Photo: Anthony Dehez/Maison Moderne)

Beryl Koltz: "Luxembourg has remarkable assets, capacities to adapt to the context, to the environment, which are also linked to the size of the country." (Photo: Anthony Dehez/Maison Moderne)

One year after taking up her post, Beryl Koltz, who is responsible for the strategy of promoting the country's image, shares her ambition to make Luxembourg better known in depth internationally. A goal that involves the triptych of creativity, diversity and sustainability.

Ioanna Schmizzi: Is it still necessary to talk about nation branding when referring to the country's promotional strategy?

Beryl Koltz. - We try to talk about a brand image, which is equivalent to the nation brand. The word 'branding' suggests that you can create marketing tools from scratch, that you can create an image in the same way as you create the world of a commercial brand. I don't think this works for a country, which is a much more complex subject than a brand. The inventor of the term 'nation brand', Simon Anholt, has himself detached himself somewhat from the expression 'nation branding' because it is not a question of positioning the country artificially, but rather of building on the assets and aspirations that exist.

What is the prevailing vision to implement the promotion of the country?

Together with the stakeholders involved, we have defined the following vision, which was endorsed by cabinet at the beginning of June: to position Luxembourg as a committed player on the international scene, a strong ally in the context of sustainable growth and a facilitator of innovative ideas that can contribute to a better world.

Following on from this green light, you presented an action plan for 2021-2025 on 30 June. What are its objectives?

Our objective is to 'make the values and faces of Luxembourg known and appreciated'. There are four sub-objectives: to develop an authentic, coherent and sustainable positioning of Luxembourg; to coordinate the various stakeholders active in the promotion of the country; to aim at the international level through targeted promotional actions; and to develop expertise in the area of perception of Luxembourg and evaluation of our actions.

The priorities defined in our action plan are in line with the government programme. It is true that sometimes there is a fine line between promotion, communication and awareness-raising, but our job is first and foremost promotion. The main aim is to highlight what embodies Luxembourg's values today in terms of projects, initiatives and ideas.

Our ultimate coordination goal is to develop a real community of people active in the promotion of Luxembourg.
Beryl Koltz

Beryl KoltzStrategic manager for the promotion of Luxembourg's brand image

How will this be achieved?

We will continue to organise our workshops to develop the action plan between now and the end of the year, based on the main lines of the new strategy. This action plan is based on four main strategic axes. The first is to develop a coherent and authentic positioning of Luxembourg, both in terms of the message and the visuals. As far as the message is concerned, we are going to develop more storytelling. We are currently developing a narrative axis that will be modular, so that it can be integrated by the various stakeholders in their promotional work.

The second axis corresponds to the verb 'to coordinate': one of the key factors for the success of the initiative. Coordinating the different stakeholders in the best possible way to harmonise the messages that are conveyed to the world. This axis highlights our role as facilitator, and it is in this context that we will also launch a new website by the end of the year, to bring together the different services that our team makes available to stakeholders. Our ultimate coordination goal is to develop a real community of people active in promoting Luxembourg.

The third axis is to promote: here, the idea is really to aim at the international level to increase awareness and strengthen the country's image.

For the fourth axis, it is a question of evaluation: measuring external perception--by carrying out monitoring --and evaluating the impact of coordination and promotion actions. The idea is to have an expertise on the perception of Luxembourg: where is it known? In which countries is it less known?

Through the public consultation carried out in 2015, three main reference values were identified to qualify Luxembourg: dynamic, open and reliable.
Beryl Koltz

Beryl KoltzStrategic manager for the promotion of Luxembourg's brand image

What are Luxembourg's assets to 'sell' itself internationally?

Through the public consultation carried out in 2015, three major reference values were identified to qualify Luxembourg: dynamic, open and reliable. What do these three values represent? The first means that, because of its size and agility, the grand duchy has always been able to reinvent itself through the ages and in all sectors--agricultural, industrial, then in the services sector and today in the research or space sector.

And this dynamism is also evident in the cultural sector with the creative industries, and also in social initiatives, the solidarity and circular economy. The term 'open' is used in the sense that the country is open to the outside world. This is really the key element of Luxembourg's identity. And, of course, Luxembourg is a cosmopolitan crossroads, a melting pot of personalities and nationalities. The third value is reliability, because it is an economically and politically stable country.

How can this knowledge be turned into action?

This branding initiative is still very young: it was built in 2013 on the idea that, in order to be able to talk about us, we must already know who we are and what we can contribute. That's why these three values were identified. The next step was to define the priority themes in the new strategy that has just been published. After 'who are we', we had to formulate 'what do we want'.

These three priorities are creativity, diversity and sustainability. They are based on the three core values, and I would say that they specify them a little more in the idea of bringing a more ethical dimension to them. Since 2013, the world has continued to change. The climate crisis is rumbling more and more strongly, the Covid-19 pandemic has broken out, #MeToo has arrived. The world has changed. We felt the need to integrate this into our approach.

Which stakeholders are active in promoting Luxembourg?

Stakeholders are often confused with target groups. Generally speaking, stakeholders are the groups of people or organisations that are involved in some way in a given initiative or have an interest in the issue. They are linked by the purpose of the initiative. For the promotion of the Luxembourg brand, stakeholders play a crucial role in the deployment of messages.

It would be a pity to ignore the country's past, as Luxembourg is rich in both its historical heritage and its dynamism, and is looking to the future.
Beryl Koltz

Beryl KoltzStrategic responsibility for promoting Luxembourg's brand image

Each stakeholder contributes in its own way to the mission of promoting Luxembourg internationally. The stakeholders can be divided into a branding unit and five major networks. There is the committee, which represents about twenty people, and which is the core of the promotion of the brand image. It also defines the main strategic orientations. It is made up of representatives of ministries and administrations, sectoral promotion agencies, professional chambers and various other partners.

We also have a network of advisory members. To give an example, we can cite the ministry of transport and public works which, without being directly involved in the promotion of Luxembourg internationally, has notably created a buzz abroad with free public transport, and has contributed to conveying a positive image of Luxembourg. The other networks are that of the official representatives, made up of our diplomatic and consular missions, as well as the commercial and economic networks in the world, the network of committee members and the general public at home.

Do you consider Luxembourg to be a special country?

Yes, Luxembourg has remarkable assets, capacities to adapt to the context, to the environment, which are also linked to the size of the country. We have always had to and been able to find solid alliances with the outside world in order to survive, so to speak.

Does the country still have a negative image internationally?

It's more a question of a partial or even biased view of Luxembourg. However, when you look at the country objectively, when you see all that Luxembourg initiates and achieves in terms of projects, initiatives and synergies, its aspirations, its efforts and its assets are obvious, also from a moral point of view. And I would say that the three priorities we have identified aim to highlight this aspect. There is the know-how and the 'making known', and our mission is to make known and therefore to put the country on the map.

The idea is also to have images in mind when you think of Luxembourg?

Yes, and that there is a coherent narrative that links everything together, that you don't just have one image in your head, that there are several, but that not everyone quotes ten different ones. We need to know what the vision for Luxembourg is. It is therefore very important that the image is authentic, because people must recognise themselves in it, otherwise the messages will not resonate and will therefore not be transmitted. We need a discourse that is balanced between the past, the present and the future. It would be a pity to hide the country's past, because Luxembourg is rich both in its historical heritage and in its dynamism, and it is looking to the future.

As a director of fiction and documentary films, my objectives have always been to 'tell the story' of a person, to enhance a city, to convey a message, so it all fits together. Except that here, the main character is Luxembourg.
Beryl Koltz

Beryl KoltzStrategic manager for the promotion of Luxembourg's brand image

Do you have examples of 'faces' that represent Luxembourg?

There are many. In relation to the news of recent months, we can, for example, mention the actress Vicky Krieps or the athlete Charles Grethen, as well as committed people who deserve to be known beyond our borders because they embody values that are very present in Luxembourg. We are now getting to the heart of the matter with the action plan, which will be to highlight these trajectories, notably through social networks or small video or photo formats, to make them known.

What are the best vectors for promoting the country today?

There are social networks, events, work with the press, and the fact that each person is, in himself, a potential vector of a positive image of Luxembourg.

Are there any countries or cities that inspire you in their promotional approach?

In terms of message and visuals, Switzerland has a very strong image that refers to unspoilt nature, mountains, culinary specialities, but also new technologies and finance, as does Luxembourg.

Cross-border workers play an important role, just as they do here. Switzerland has adopted a systematic approach to its international communication, which gives coherent messages and is also based on concrete image analyses. Scandinavian countries such as Sweden and Finland also inspire us as countries that are strongly committed to sustainable development.

In view of your career and after a first year of hindsight, how do you see your job?

This job is above all that of a facilitator of exchanges, networks, partnerships, concepts and tools for the promotion of the country. The interest of this job is to be able to cultivate the view I have of our country, both from the inside and the outside, because of my origins and thanks to my background, with the central question 'how to express an idea, communicate a concept, transform this concept into an emotion that, in the end, will touch its recipient?

As a director of fiction and documentary films, my objectives have always been to 'tell the story' of a person, to enhance the value of a city, to transmit a message, so it all fits together. Except that here, the main character is Luxembourg. So I am using my initial profession to carry out my mission today.

From the outset, the methodology applied has been a participatory approach, and it will remain so because the more participatory the project is, the more likely it is to unite.
Beryl Koltz

Beryl KoltzStrategic manager for the promotion of Luxembourg's brand image

Do you feel in phase with the methodology applied for several years for the promotion and with the figures who have carried it?

From the start, the methodology applied has been a participatory approach, and it will remain so because the more participatory the project is, the more likely it is to federate. This initiative was implemented and deployed as early as 2014 by a trio of women who are, for me, a source of inspiration: Francine ClosenerFrancine Closener, who was secretary of state for the economy, Sasha BaillieSasha Baillie, now CEO of Luxinnovation and who chaired the Nation Branding Committee at the time, and Tania Berchem, who was the general coordinator for branding at the ministry of foreign and European affairs. I hope to be able to continue in this spirit, which I admire very much. They managed in a very short time to set up a team and to deploy an initiative that developed very quickly in the country.

Are things accelerating?

Yes, there are more and more actors who understand the interest of our approach and the initiative, who contact us because they recognise themselves in the priorities of the country branding strategy, those common denominators that we are trying to deploy. It is a long-term effort, but it will bear fruit.

What can prevent the successful deployment of a branding strategy?

The branding exercise is above all a collective effort, and the effort can only be effective if the active partners all carry the same messages outside the country. For this reason, the adhesion of the different partners is a sine qua non condition for the success of the deployment. In the same logic, the coordination of the different partners is also a condition to ensure an optimal and sustainable deployment. Branding is also a long-term exercise: there are no overnight results. It is therefore an exercise in perseverance and humility.

How would you describe the country's past, present and future?

We tried to find a common thread, socially, culturally and economically, by starting from people's stories to tell the story of Luxembourg. It was a request from the stakeholders that there should be a narrative axis to present the country in a coherent way, which would represent both the history of the people and their current aspirations, values and priorities. This narrative axis is that of 'Luxembourg, land of culture and cultures'.

Indeed, the nation is basically an agricultural country that has been able to renew and reinvent itself, but which remains a fertile land in the figurative sense, a land where the best conditions are met so that every project, every idea, can develop in the long term. There is also the idea of a land of welcome for cultures. It now remains for us to embody this narrative axis with images, words and faces. Our approach is centred on the human: human emotions are the strongest way to share ideas.

Is there a parallel with your experience as a director?

Totally. I am in the continuity of what I did before. Making a film is also communication, it's conveying one or more messages. If, at the end of the chain, there is no emotion, the message will not reach people, like in a fiction film or a documentary. But in this work, I put myself at the service of an idea that goes beyond me, of a strategy that is based on a multitude of testimonies that we have collected, and that we try to deploy on a daily basis, afterwards, with my team, who are very committed and who invest themselves without counting the cost. I am very lucky to be able to carry out this activity, which is truly fascinating."

This article was written for the October issue of Paperjam magazine published on 23 September 2021. It has been translated and edited by Delano.

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