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Council on developing Hungary’s country brand gets a makeover

With a panel of experts arriving from various areas and sectors, Hungary’s Országmárka Tanács (Country Brand Council) is continuing its operation in a new structure, with new tasks.

In a recent government decree, the Ministry of Public Administration and Justice has been assigned with reorganizing the council, which was originally set up in 2009 by the previous cabinet.

Members of the council have been gathered from the areas of education, culture, the so-called creative sector and the private sector. All members participate in the council’s work on a voluntary basis. The main difference in the composition of the current council and the one launched by the previous government is that the earlier, 10-member council chose its chair from among the members, while the current co-chairs and members (20 professionals this time) were asked to fill their position by public administration and justice minister Tibor Navracsics. Their assignments are for two years and the minister can recall them at any time.

“The aim of the government is to build up a characteristic and credible country communication that can represent Hungary with a unified image in front of the Hungarian and international public,” Borbála Papp-Váry, deputy state secretary at the ministry said. “Creating a positive country image also serves the interest of the national economy.” Papp-Váry co-chairs the council with Gergely Pröhle, deputy state secretary responsible for cultural diplomacy at the ministry.

The council is entitled to give its opinion on the country brand strategy currently under development by the Country Image Workgroup (a body independent from the council, which includes institutions such as the Hungarian Trade and Development Agency, the Hungarian Tourism Zrt, and the Agricultural Marketing Center and relevant ministries).

When asked by the BBJ whether the new country brand will finally leave behind the traditional cliché of Hungary being a country of goulash and wranglers, co-chair Papp-Váry, without revealing further details, referred to the strategy currently being discussed, and drew attention to other areas such as wine and viticulture, and the importance of Budapest in the country image.

Zsuzsa Beke, head of PR and governmental relations at pharmaceutical company Richter, said that although traditional values are equally important, she would welcome a 21st-century innovative approach to country brand communications. “The old clichés are somewhat outworn, and Hungary needs a more modern approach.”

From the side of large Hungarian corporations, not only Richter, but also oil giant MOL is represented in the council. “I think it is important to represent the business sector in the council,” Beke said. “Our role in it is to communicate Hungary’s country brand to decisive business circles in Hungary as well as beyond the borders. It is similar to building up a corporate identity, and I think this is the area where I can help the council’s work.”

The renewed Országmárka Tanács held its first meeting on November 17. (Patricia Fischer)