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The world thinks we're doing okay. A pity we don't share optimism

MAKING the cover of 'Time' magazine recently was no mean feat by Enda Kenny. The last time a Taoiseach appeared on the cover of 'Time' was in 1963 when Sean Lemass was pictured alongside an illustration of factory buildings to symbolise new industrial development.

Naysayers might argue that one picture and one article couldn't make much difference to our fortunes, but they would be wrong.

The article reinforces the feel-good factor that had been building around Brand Ireland for some time now.

The first sign of that came last February when Ireland was described as the "poster child" for recovery in reporting from the World Economic Forum.

In recent weeks, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was reported as having described Ireland as a "shining example" of economic hope. She also congratulated Mr Kenny on receiving a European of the Year award, which she said is "very justified''.

All this points to the fact that Ireland's reputation has largely recovered abroad from the very low point we reached at the time when the troika arrived to bail us out in November 2010. That is a remarkably speedy recovery, one for which Mr Kenny and his advisers should be given considerable credit.

While it is very encouraging that our reputation abroad is recovering, things are not so positive here at home.

Ever since the economic crisis began, we have been bombarded with bad news about all aspects of the economy, which is very real, but which is magnified in the relentless media analysis and criticism.

This has sapped our self-belief and damaged our confidence in all aspects of our behaviour; fewer business-es are being created, consu-mers are not spending, and therefore the domestic economy is locked in a negative cycle that is difficult to break out of.

An analysis of the coverage of the recent US presidential election by the Pew Research Centre also identified this effect.

Commenting on the very negative news coverage of the presidential debates, the centre's director, Tom Rosenstiel, said: "The media tend to reinforce and perhaps increase any phenomenon they observe."

From a communications point of view, one would have to conclude that the Taoiseach and the other members of the Government have not recognised the importance of positive communications for the home audience in the way that they have for the overseas audiences.

This has created a vacuum to be filled by negative speculation about the forthcoming Budget and other bad news.

President Obama is generally acknowledged as a leader in the use of the internet and social media in his 2008 presidential campaign. His team invested $25m in their social media campaign back then, and their efforts were acknowledged as a pivotal influence in his success.

SOCIAL media, as well as intensive TV ads, were used in the 2012 campaign. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney used social media to get out campaign videos, post images, highlight issues, raise money and make themselves come across as more personable, but Mr Obama is recognised as the leader in this area.

Mr Obama had more than 21 million followers on Twitter, while Mr Romney had only 1.6 million. On Facebook, more than 31.5 million people have "liked" the president's page, while 11.5 million have "liked" Mr Romney's. On YouTube, Mr Obama had about 233,000 followers, while Mr Romney had only 21,000.

There are some valuable lessons in this for Mr Kenny and the Government.

At the very minimum, it suggests the value of considerable further investment in social media to cement the gains that have been made in recovering our reputation and to magnify them in support of our future economic recovery.

Mary Lambkin is Professor of Marketing at the Smurfit Business School, UCD

Irish Independent