“Brand South Africa is the authority that can help us all speak with one voice, with one identity,” Sithembile Ntombela, BSA general manager of marketing, at the organisation’s stakeholder workshop.Johannesburg, Thursday 2 June 2016 – Stakeholders agree that a nation and its representatives need to all convey the same message to build the brand. For South Africa, people need to overcome the disconnect between the image they have of themselves and the way the rest of the world sees the country.It was easier to remind visitors, and South Africans, of our uniqueness if we had one voice, said Thabo Masebe, who delivered the keynote address at the first of a series of workshops on nation branding held by Brand South Africa.Communication specialists from national, provincial and municipal government as well as representatives of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) such as Eskom convened to listen to presentations on branding, and more specifically nation branding, at the organisation’s head offices on 31 May.The departments and SOEs had to be united behind a single purpose, pointed out Masebe, who is the deputy director-general of Gauteng Provincial Communication Services.“There are events, like 2010 [the FIFA World Cup], that leave a mark. The question we need to answer is: how do we host the world in a way that lets them know that South Africa is the place to be.”A strong brand was built not just on a strong identity consistently communicated, but on being brave enough to embrace all that the brand represented, said Greg Maloka, the managing director of radio station Khaya FM. This honest approach, in nation branding, was the equivalent of the emotional attachment people developed towards commercial brands.“A nation is people with different experiences. What is it that appeals to us all on an emotional level? Is our diversity a strength or a weakness? Do we have a shared vision? How do we draw people in to share our diversity? If we all co-create this identity, then South Africans own the brand and are invested in its growth.”Dr Petrus de Kock spoke of the need for a single message to be delivered with one voice. Too many voices led to confusion, explained De Kock, Brand South Africa’s general manager of research. As an example, he pointed to the difference in perception foreigners had of South Africa versus the way we imagined the country to be.“Globally, audiences perceive us more positively than we do. Our open democratic system and strong institutions are important to investors and we remain the largest recipient of foreign direct investment in Africa. Importantly, for the way we are perceived in Africa, we are the second largest source of investment in Africa,” he said.“For business, South Africa is the place to be if you want to do business in Africa. We are not doing ourselves any favours if we ignore the challenge of how we perceive ourselves.”Masebe said this was the result of people’s perceptions and as communicators it was the responsibility of the assembly to work to change that. “South Africans are positive about the country but they believe that the government has removed themselves from the people. We are the ones who need to change that (perception).”Brand South Africa was the organisation to do just that, added Sithembile Ntombela, the general manager of marketing. “Brand South Africa is the authority that can help us all speak with one voice, with one identity.”Its approach – to be both proactive and reactive – was the best way for a country brand to communicate its uniqueness successfully. Like great commercial brands, South Africa’s message should be focused, distinct, relevant and consistent. With Brand South Africa as the lead, South Africa’s message – its unique promise as a nation and destination – would be clearly heard.