What if we could see at a glance what people worldwide were saying about our country or city? 

Say we wanted to boost Chinese inbound tourism. Imagine the benefits if we could tap into Chinese online chatter and fish out relevant user sentiment about our country. Perhaps the average Chinese netizen thinks it’s dangerous, expensive, stingy with visas. Or maybe a recent silver screen portrayal has got them buzzing with plans to visit (e.g. the Chinese tourists who flocked to Thailand after the movie “Lost in Thailand” was released). Knowing what the Chinese like and respect about our country would be invaluable information for crafting future branding campaigns. For example, they may love London’s regal side, and admire its place as home of British royalty. Maybe they appreciate James Bond, or perhaps David Beckham is more their cup of tea. Whatever the case may be, listening in to online conversations is an excellent way to gauge sentiment and assess opinion.

I’ve been thinking recently about sentiment analysis tools and how they might be used in place branding and reputation management. So I was excited the other day to stumble across this video by Dr. Nello Cristianini of Bristol University, one of the UK’s foremost experts on sentiment analysis and opinion monitoring.

In the video, Dr. Cristianini talks about the recent progress made in conducting sentiment analysis using social media. The power in these tools is impressive. If it could be suitably harnessed who knows what significance it may have for future place branding and national reputation management campaigns.

What about the existing country branding indexes and how they are constructed? A public opinion poll is used to collect the views of respondents from every country assessed in the index – requiring an enormous amount of work every year. What if we had tools that could scan the whole social media sphere and visualise whatever results we wanted? If we needed to know what Argentinians think of the French, sentiment analysis can find the answer for us. If knowing the Japanese opinion on German cars is all-important to us, sentiment analysis tools can bring the information to light.

However, as far as I’m aware, these tools still need time to mature and develop. I’m not certain yet if they have the power to do exactly what I described above.

When I searched on Google for place branding and sentiment analysis, I didn’t find many results. The best example I found was some research from Robert Govers, who wrote an interesting paper analysing the multi-faceted image of Dubai and comparing it to neighbouring Gulf states. In this paper, Govers uses the results of social media sentiment analysis conducted by Radian6, a powerful analysis tool that studies sentiment across millions of blogs, tweets, forum posts, video sharing sites, social media channels and online news sources.

Sentiment analysis in place reputation management is a topic I’ll be exploring more in future posts. If anyone has ideas/expertise/relevant experience to share, please leave a comment or contact me.

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