Nicolas Bideau, Ambassador and Head of Presence Switzerland
Presence Switzerland is responsible for promoting Switzerland’s image abroad and for implementing the Federal Council’s strategy on Switzerland’s communication abroad. Our public diplomacy agency is part of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. One of our main missions is to represent Switzerland at major international events such as the Olympic Games and the Universal Exhibitions. We use positive clichés in connection with Switzerland, from cheese and chocolate to mountains and the St. Bernard legend as a starting point from which to broaden public perceptions and emphasise Switzerland’s strengths, such as innovation, openness, and our political system.
Social networks have been integral to our strategy for many years. Over the last two years we have stepped up activity on social platforms, which we use to bolster our traditional communication strategies and improve interaction with our target audiences. As a channel for public diplomacy, social networks provide unique opportunities to communicate directly with the general public, the media and authorities in another country.
From the outset of the two-year campaign in Brazil, social media were central to the communication strategy surrounding the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games. It was in choosing a label to use online that the whole campaign became known as ‘Swissando’, which gave the whole operation a distinctly Swiss-Brazilian feel. All of the campaign’s social media platforms used the ‘Swissando’ handle and the label was taken up by every event. The brand encapsulated all of the various facets of Switzerland’s connection with Brazil and was adopted by our target audiences in sectors as diverse as business, science, culture and sport. The mix of digital communication and side events, a highlight of which was the House of Switzerland at the heart of Rio during the Olympic and Paralympic Games, set in motion a virtuous circle – visitors used the hashtags suggested on site, which were followed by people online, who then came to discover the House of Switzerland for themselves.
At the end of 2016, more than 72,000 people were following Swissando on social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat). Of all these social media platforms, Facebook generated the most interactions. Each Facebook post generated on average 390 engagements (clicks, likes, comments and shares). This was user engagement by a qualified audience, since 90% of the interactions were from Brazil.
Most community interactions took place during the Olympic Games, when we recorded more than 3,000 posts (Twitter and Instagram) using the campaign’s swissando hashtag. And it was not just visitors to the House of Switzerland in Rio who used the hashtag. It was also adopted by influencers, including travel bloggers and local celebrities. Over 365 days,