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Branding a Nation Part 3: The master plan revealed

The only way to take control of your life, raise your standard of living and move beyond merely surviving is to create your own unique product or service that you offer to increasing numbers of people in exchange for the things of value that you desire. This simple formula applies to countries as well as people. A self-sufficient economy has its own products or services of value to export to the world. Similarly, a self-sufficient individual has something of value to exchange in the global marketplace. That thing of value is based on your natural talent, skill, or interest—in other words, your passion!

Editor’s Note: In case you missed parts 1 and 2, they were entitled “Saipan Economic Forecast: Brainstorms Ahead” and “Blog Your Way to Better Times.”


A few weeks ago, I experienced the pride of sending an email to a special group of people here on Saipan. It read in part:

As of April 4, 2007, at 7:58pm Chamorro Standard Time, approximately 120 days from its initial launch on Dec. 6, 2006, the site is now appearing on the first page (Top 10!) of results in a search for the word “Saipan!”

This has been no easy feat and represents the combined efforts, mental energies, visualizations, positive expectations and support of the entire WeLoveSaipan network! Thank you all!

This position represents an amazing climb in rank that started at position 155 (page 16). Your search results may vary slightly as there are fluctuations in search engine results depending on time of day, browser used, etc. (Right now, I’m showing position 11)

What this means for the site and for Saipan is that more people will discover what life is like here through our combined positive perspectives since many people often don’t venture past the first few pages of listings for any search engine search.

It means we’ve proven that it is possible to affect search engine ranking with a little creativity and no money.

The significance of what “The Official Network of Saipan Bloggers” has accomplished can no longer be denied!

Shortly after I sent that email, Gus Kaipat emailed me, and asked a simple question: How can we make the rest of the world care?

Today’s column is my reply:


Hey Gus,

Ahhhh....that’s the easy part, my friend...And that’s where the Master Plan can now be revealed! You get the rest of the world to care by doing a few things:

1. Change the dialogue

Right now, because of what we’re doing, there’s a new dialogue developing. Here’s what I mean. Angelo Villagomez (TheSaipanBlogger) received this comment on his site:

“My father lives in Saipan and I was just looking through the net for information regarding the Tsumani. Little did I know that I would have the opportunity to review your [blog]. It is wonderful, the pictures fantastic, and your involvement in the beautification of the islands is commendable. Very nice! Thanks for the opportunity.”

I received the following email from someone who visited the site:

“I am very impressed. I never thought of early retiring there until seeing this website. I am interested in finding out more.”

These are not isolated incidents. There are an increasing number of people around the world who, after discovering us through these new channels, are saying things like:

“I’m thinking of moving to Saipan!”

“Have you ever heard of a place called Saipan?

“Ever thought about retiring on Saipan?”

Yes, the dialogue is indeed changing.

2. Create a different story to tell

Once the new dialogue has begun, you then give people a different story to tell. If you remember from my workshop (PIC March 2006), I showed how people are moved to action by either 1. fun, 2. facts, 3. the desire to help others, or 4. money. The new stories we can tell through our blogs and our improving Internet presence can provide information that appeals to those who want more facts about life on Saipan, those who relate to the desire to help others, those who want to have fun, and those who want to make money.

So the new dialogue can now continue like this

“Never heard of it? Well it’s this little island in the North Pacific...” or

“Yeah, Saipan! Apparently it’s this little paradise island where people are going to retire, start their own business or just get away from the rat race!”

“Really? How come I never heard about it?”

“I dunno, but....

“Check out the site. It shows what life is really like from the perspectives of a group of bloggers who live there, and they got their site in the top ten listings in 3 months!” (facts), or

“Check out Some volunteers got together to clean up and improve life on the island...” (help), or

“Check out There’s this guy named Angelo who has a fun site about life on Saipan.” (fun), or

“Check out, there’s even this one author who just picked up and moved there to escape the rat race and started the Saipanpreneur project to help people start their own businesses.” (money)

Yes, there are new stories being told.

3. Instill pride in our own people

It’s not enough to change the external dialogue, it’s perhaps more important to change the internal dialogue. Franicia White sent me this email:

“On a personal note, I just want to thank all of you for the work you put into the island especially this site, especially to Walt and Angelo. I remember when I left for college and people would tell me that it was easier to just say that I was from Hawaii. “Why bother explaining to them where Saipan is?” I thought the idea was crazy. Why lie? Why Hawaii? I’ve always loved my home. I loved talking about Saipan so much that I didn’t mind having a hard time explaining more about it. Thank you all for helping keep the island beautiful.”

Franicia’s not the first person I heard say she was told “tell them you’re from Hawaii.” I’ve met people who did and do in fact tell others abroad that they’re from Hawaii. But, now, if there’s a different dialogue, something people can use to facilitate the explanation, then the dialogue may change to:

“YEAH, I’m from Saipan! Not Taipei, you idiot, SAIPAN! “I don’t know why you never heard of it, maybe you’ve been living under a rock! Check out or and get yourself educated!”

Or, as our stories circulate, locals living abroad may start to hear things like “Oooh, I hear you’re from Saipan! I saw Angelo’s website! Is it really like that over there?” or “oh, yeah, Saipan....isn’t that that island where.....[insert new story here]?”

Yes, there’s a new pride developing.

4. Balance the new person’s experience

The power of the #10 or any front page spot is that from now on whenever anyone seeks information about Saipan, we’ll be there. The stories on the site are now a permanent fixture on the Internet, which will henceforth flavor almost everyone’s introduction to the CNMI. These days, people who want to learn about a new place, person or thing, go straight for the computer, the Internet, and 50 percent of them, I’m told, go to Google. With our #10 position we have taken control of what that experience will be.

Let me repeat: We are in control of what a new person’s experience of saipan will be.

Now, even if other sites of negative tone exist, they’ll be outnumbered by other positive sites, and they can judge them accordingly. To give you an example of what I mean, one of the people who responded to my post on the forum did his own search for Saipan, found another negative site and said “It seems that Saipan is a beautiful little island, but there may be a few flies in the ointment…”

Think about that for a second. The first half of his statement, “It seems that Saipan is a beautiful little island,” comes from him having seen the site, my own blog, as well as Angelo’s. The second part, “there may be a few flies in the ointment,” comes from what he read on that “other” site.

After reading both sites, his phrase to describe the negative side (“flies in the ointment”) came out a lot more balanced than if that “other” site were his only source of information.

Yes, we are balancing the experience.

5. Do your thing, build a brand

Beautify CNMI! is changing the island’s image. Captain Carl is planting plumeria trees and posting Beautify CNMI! signs in India! Bloggers are sharing their “Why I Love Saipan” testimonials and lifestyles on their blogs. Angelo is creating tsunami documentaries of 2 mm high tidal waves and sticking boarding passes to his forehead; Walt has just written a new book entitled Jamaican in Saipan, Franicia is writing her own book (yep, I said it, Franicia, now we’ll all be looking out for it!); Steve is helping the mentally ill; Everyone’s got their “thing.” Just keep doing it, but make sure you take the final step…

6. Capture it all for the world to see

Public Relations has been defined as “good works well publicized” or “effective cause well demonstrated.” Images are an important way to publicize and demonstrate for the purpose of building a brand. So all the blogs and books and sites and films and other projects coming out of CNMI that capture the beauty and show what life here is like serve to offer the world new mental pictures, publicize the good works, and brand the nation.

Mike Tripp’s Underwater World of Saipan DVD, Dan Shor’s and Ben Salas’ Looking for America DVD, Cinta Kaipat’s Liewella: A Micronesian Story DVD of the Refalawasch people, and other such productions (visit for all of them) all offer amazing brand-building images of life on Saipan.

And speaking of great images, check out the new banner for the site. Boni Gomez sent me a photo of her daughter, Sommer to accompany her ‘Why I Love Saipan’ testimonial. It’s a spectacular shot. The ever-present ship in background, the sand on Sommer’s hands, the cloud color, the coastline and that carefree look of her joy being in the moment—it has all the elements of a signature, brand-building shot for Saipan. Boni shared the story behind it with me:

“[Sommer] was so happy just playing with the sand and exploring the beach she started twirling. I snapped away, and when I saw the shot, it took my breath away. I’m happy she’s on the banner, it really is a testament of how her home makes her feel. Shouldn’t we all feel that way about home?”

Indeed we should, Boni. Indeed we should.

So, THAT’S how we make the rest of the world care, Gus. We just continue to do our thing, and in so doing, we change the internal and external dialogue, we tell new stories, balance the experience, capture it all, and then let the natural attractive power of the CNMI’s people, their power, their pride, and our (top 10) position draw to us kindred spirits who want a new story to tell, or who want to be a part of it all!

Note: Download the free e-book, Jamaican in Saipan, at

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Until next week, remember, success is a journey, not a destination!


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