Icarus co-founder, Anna Pollock suggested in a recent post on her company blog that perhaps there are two Canada's - the one dreamed of by former Prime Minster and Nobel Laureate Lester B. Pearson, and the one being presented to the international world today.
In a transparent world, companies, individuals and countries are increasingly being evaluated and appraised based on their actions not their words. Canada was hailed as a leader at Kyoto in 1992 for signing the treaty and committing to reduce emissions but since it was unable to follow through on its intent, significant harm has been done to its credibility.
A brand's reputation is no longer in the control of its marketing agencies but is formed, shaped and shared by the interactions between its customers, employees and other observers and stakeholders. Many enlightened DMO marketers understand this - just look here.
Furthermore, "official" efforts - no matter how professional and well planned - can sometimes be undermined by events or the intentions of amateurs - witness the spoof by the so-called Canadian Tourism Federation. Since peer to peer recommendations significantly outweigh almost all other sources of information and influence, when making expensive purchases, it becomes vitally important that a brand has integrity and authenticity. Reputation matters more than marketing. If this is the case, then a nation cannot present two contrary images to the world and expect to be given much attention or credence.
The further away you live from a country, the less you are aware of its reality. In this context, it is gratifying that a national newspaper, the UK-based The Guardian, which enjoys pointing the finger at the misdemeanours of others (see this interview with the CEO of Easyjet), would highlight the efforts that Canadian provinces, communities and First Nations leaders are taking to protect the Boreal Forest.
As described by the Guardian's writers, and identified in a previous Icarus post Canada's Boreal Forest absorbs some 22% of global CO2 emissions every year. The stewards, identified in the Guardian article, along their invisible and numerous counterparts across the country, are the unsung heroes. An important aspect of place marketing will be to tell more stories of these achievements. The tourism community in Canada is encouraged to join them by at least signing up for the movement to Make Forests Count. They only have 1879 petitioners as of today - surely such a labour intensive "industry" as tourism can help swell their ranks - it's not just the right thing to do, it makes good business sense to show you care.