Investing in our soft power assets – the GREAT campaign & the Spending Review

This is the fourth in a series of blogs on the upcoming Spending Review, and how Britain maximises its influence and soft power across the world at a time of declining budgets. This focuses on the GREAT Britain campaign, which has been a focal point for the UK’s prosperity agenda. Find the others with the following links: FCO, British Council, BBC World Service.


Another ambitious initiative has established itself as one of the UK’s more innovative soft power tools – the GREAT Britain campaign. Active in 144 countries, the £113.5 million campaign (2012 – 2015), is the government’s major branding campaign to promote the UK as a destination for tourists, trade anSan Fran harbourd investment, and students, in order to secure economic growth. As Director, Conrad Bird highlights, the award-winning campaign has focussed unashamedly in driving the prosperity / economic growth agenda with clear objectives aiming to stimulate foreign direct investment, tourism and strengthen the UK’s economy – “…it is about jobs and growth for Britain; it is designed to make money for Britain”. Conceived and coordinated from the Prime Minister’s Office in Downing Street (but working with UKTI, the FCO, British Council, VisitBritain and VisitEngland), the campaign was recently commended by the National Audit Office, reporting a return on investment (so far) of £1.2 billion.


The campaign has not been without resource challenges, as James Pamment from the USC Center on Public Diplomacy explains, “Despite the potentially demotivating effects of cutbacks and the marketing freeze, GREAT has provided a focal point for the prosperity agenda. Backed by hard cash, positivity dividends from the Jubilee and Olympics, support at the highest political levels, and metrics which demonstrate value in a manner easy to understand, GREAT has opened the door to opportunities for organisations and staff at a time when resources have been stretched.”


With over 400 businesses and hbond-is-greatigh-profile individuals backing the brand with joint funding and sponsorship (contributing over £69m in cash and in kind support), the campaign is in an increasingly strong position to seek further support from the private sector given the increasing value of the 11-21snowdonia-2-RGBGREAT brand itself, and track record in delivering results for business. With further campaign plans for the next 12 – 18 months (e.g. using the Bond movie to promote the UK, Exporting is GREAT campaign targeted at SMEs, tourism campaigns on Culture & Countryside, activity marking Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary, supporting Liverpool’s 2016 International Festival of Business), it is clear that the campaign is seeking to build on the momentum generated and will no doubt will be hoping for adequate resourcing for its ambitious plans. The 2015 Conservative manifesto hints at future support – “We will boost our support for first-time exporters and back the GREAT campaign, so we can achieve our goal of having 100,000 more UK companies exporting in 2020.

UKTI admits to pimping out British embassies

YouTube Preview Image

UK Trade and Investment’s Mike Gavin has been caught on camera by Heydon Prowse dishing out the following advice to a company offering ‘security’ services:

“You can also use that embassy to present your company. So you can invite people to a reception or a presentation. Again, you pay for the room but it’s all arranged for you,” he said.

“There is a perception that you’re endorsed by the government because it’s a government building. Of course it’s crap, we don’t.

“All we do is due diligence to check that you’re not going to appear in theTelegraph on Sunday embarrassing the hell out of the British Government.”

He explained that in countries such as Nigeria using the embassy was the “easiest way to get everybody together”.

Prowse asked: “Because of the security situation?”

Mr Gavin replied: “No, because in places like Nigeria they love to show off that they have got this card from the British Embassy, it’s got Ambassador invites, British Government logo and they say ‘Look I’m going to a garden party’.

“It’s all bollocks, but everybody in Nigeria wants one because they want to be seen getting out of the car, going into the High Commissioner’s office. It’s all perception and that’s part of what you don’t have at the moment.”