The paper advances a realist analytical model for case studies of national soft power policies. First, it argues that for the purposes of realist analysis, a soft power policy must be considered as a rational strategy pursued under the conditions of competition. Furthermore, it emphasises the importance of taking into account the specificities of the recipient state as well as the fact that a soft power strategy is targeted at both its elite and its public. In addition, the article substantiates the necessity to draw a clear-cut distinction between soft power sources and instruments and shows possible shortcomings that research can have should this distinction fail to be made. Finally, the paper discusses the impact of a competitor’s presence on a soft power strategy and specifies the terms under which disregarding this impact may engender a wrong conclusion.