Events drive the perception of countries
Thomas Cromwell

Events in a country can have a major impact on how that country is viewed around the world. For example, over the summer, the United States, China and Russia all experienced huge swings in how they are perceived by international media, according to a new ranking of 200 countries and territories based on how they are covered in leading publications around the world.
 
These swings in perception are reflected in coverage of major news events associated with three of the world’s most important countries, although the reasons for changes in perception differed dramatically.
 
The US image plunged as the country was battered by a financial crisis that saw major corporations going bankrupt, the stock markets plunging and the government mounting unprecedented interventions. In the second quarter, the United States ranked 34th in the world, whereas in the third quarter it dropped all the way down to 155.
 
Russia’s international image has been suffering for some time because of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s increased control over politics, the economy and the mass media. But when Russia invaded its small neighbor Georgia in August, international opinion turned sharply against Moscow and many foreign investors pulled their money out of the Russian market. Russia ’s global ranking dropped from 61st in Q2 to 191st in Q3.
 
In the meantime, China emerged from a troubled spring in which a less than stellar response to a severe earthquake in Sichuan province and demonstrations around the world against Beijing on behalf of Tibet had given it a black eye leading up to the Beijing Games. All of this changed, however, with the hosting of the Games themselves, in August. China ’s rank rose from 138th in Q2 to 7th in Q3, a huge improvement fueled by massive, mainly positive, coverage around the world.
 
The index is produced by Washington DC-based East West Communications, a nation branding consultancy (which also publishes www.DiplomaticTraffic.com), in collaboration with Perception Metrics, a leader in text analysis. The ranking is based on the tone of coverage (determined by grammatical association of words and phrases) found in leading media coverage of all 192 members of the United Nations as well as major territories. For the Q3 survey, research covered hundreds of thousands of news articles with millions of mentions of the countries.
 
For Q3, Singapore and Hong Kong reclaimed their Q2 positions at 1 and 2, respectively. At the other end of the scale, Pakistan replaced Iraq at 199 and Afghanistan repeated at 200.
 
It is important to note that while quarterly rankings reflect the short-term impact of a country’s events, actions and policies on international perceptions, annual rankings will tend to reflect long-term views.
 
The East West Global 200 Index published for Q3 is the second so far. The first annual index will be published early in 2009. The indexes can be seen at: http://eastwestcoms.com/global.htm.
 
East West can prepare for countries detailed, customized reports on how they are viewed internationally and in specific countries or regions. (See samples: http://eastwestcoms.com/reports.htm.) These reports can compare one country with another, or analyze perceptions of a sector, such as tourism or investment.
 
For information about the perception reports, contact: info@eastwestcoms.com.
 
Thomas Cromwell is the president of East West Communications and a leading expert on nation branding and international strategic communication.