Week 7: Real Time

Throughout this course I have found the mode of social media platforms to communicate in real time to the foreign public most compelling. In week one I posted about the increase of social media usage in nation branding via local civilians projecting a certain mass image on social media sites. In week four I posted about Under Secretary of Public Diplomacy, Karen Hughes, who in 2006 rallied foreign service officers to make as many public appearances as possible to be heard and familiar to the foreign public they served. Prior to this campaign, officers were dismayed from making public appearances due to scrutinization of their message by their Government supervisors. Everything needed to be approved and that takes time.

In week 6, the article by Wallin focused on the necessity of giving autonomy to foreign service officers when it comes to interactions via social media sites. The bonus of communicating via social media to a foreign public is that response can happen in real time. In the past this method of communication has been stifled by attempts to gain approval for what messaging an officer was using. By the time approval was gained, the response was deemed late. The foreign public begin to see their issues as less of a priority for US foreign policy. Thus, it is essential to be able to give foreign service officers a certain level of autonomy so they can utilize the ability to communicate in real time.

This week’s readings on nation branding brings full circle that idea that cohesive messaging through all platforms including social media is essential to today’s PD efforts. Social media sends messaging not only from trained officers, but also from private sectors, nonprofit organizations, and civilians engaged in international relations on corporate, social, and cultural level. This messaging needs to be cohesive but autonomous in its efforts.

-Samantha Sobash


Review of Applied Public Diplomacy Group 2, Country paper on Chile’s Public Diplomacy: Approaches to Effective Regional and International Strategies

Based on the Paper from group 2, on Chile’s Public Diplomacy approaches I have learned that Chile has a relatively stable public diplomacy strategy, on which it is continuously building upon.

The ProChile program seems to be a valuable initiative to attract FDI and improve Chile’s international economic image. It has received criticism from other Latin American countries, for not addressing inter-Latin-American relations, however, my question would be, is it intended for Latin American audiences, or does it have a wider scope? I can imagine that ProChile targets international investors from the most developed countries, and serves on a wide unspecialized manner.

FICH on the other hand offers a wider range of diplomacy approaches. While ProChile is based on economic diplomacy, FICH tackles commercial, cultural and political exchange. FICH as well seems to have a stable foundation, based on the four pillars of Chile’s nation brand. “Chile hace bien”, which means both “Chile is good for you” and “Chile does things well” is a very good slogan, especially for the Spanish speaking audiences.

I also agree with the recommendations of Group 2. I was particularly fond of the education exchange programs recommendation and the gastrodiplomacy initiative, as I believe both of those approaches to be very effective, and as Group 2 has laid out in their paper, have proven success for countries that have applied them.

Good job Group 2!

Week 6 Blogging – What do you think are the limitations or problems with the turn to new and social media for US public diplomacy? Do these critiques outweigh the advantages?

What do you think are the limitations or problems with the turn to new and social media for US public diplomacy? Do these critiques outweigh the advantages? 

There was some saying about limitations of the new digital diplomacy; one particular concern is that digital diplomacy is now making foreign policy less foreign, in which this idea has been brought up by Evan Ryan, Assistant Secretary of Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and Douglas Frantz, Assistant Secretary of Bureau of Public Affairs in their meeting with Department of State last year.

As they said, diplomats encourage every responsible person at the State Department to be engaged in social media. However, “with that encouragement comes a certain amount of risk. And – but these are people generally we have to trust their judgment. Social media is an interactive platform. You know what. And so if you wait to come back to the State Department and get clearance on how to respond to a question over Twitter, it’ll take days if not weeks, and the conversation will be over.”

The whole idea is that they want people to be engaged. They also want people to be willing and able to take responsible risks. It’s certainly something that Secretary Kerry has encouraged and we’re pushing it down. And the State Department can be like many bureaucracies – a rather risk-averse environment – and so you have to reinforce this. In this, I don’t think taking risks is necessarily a problem or limitation, rather, it will call to the importance of social responsibility and internet freedom, that would definitely bring digital diplomacy into a higher stage, where PD is not limited in politics but more culture and people oriented.

Wk 6: What does the term engagement mean in the context of public diplomacy? Does it clarify the purpose of PD or add to its ambiguity?

Public diplomacy work entails numerous partnerships with interagencies, NGOs, and more broadly civic society. These partnerships are necessary for a number a reasons. First, a government does not have the capacity to carry out all of its envisioned PD initiatives. PD officials, especially in the US State Department, are already understaffed and spread thin with the projects they are assigned. Second, many initiatives would not be as approachable to locals coming directly from government officials. It is more comfortable for a public to interact with foreign peer groups. And lastly I’ll mention that it seems more realistic that a separate entity would be more effectively evaluate and commit to a long term engagement than the government with rapidly changing interests depending on current world events. A government has to focus on whatever is most crucial at a given time. Therefore nongovernmental organizations can carry on the work that is necessary to maintain strong diplomatic ties with nations less on the radar of the US government at any given time.

Using the term engagement to describe diplomatic efforts can make the work a bit more ambiguous. However, I think it is a more accurate term when it comes to separating the type of interactions had by governmental officials versus nongovernmental individuals or organizations abroad. Engagement in the context of public diplomacy is descriptive of the interactions nongovernmental persons and organizations have with foreign publics that can be or not be on behalf of government initiatives.

This term is salient particularly when considering cultural activities and exchanges related to public diplomacy. For instance, if a dance company was sent abroad to lead educational workshops and perform for the public, I would think of this as cultural engagement under the umbrella of public diplomacy. Although these engagements add to the overall efforts to inform a foreign public about US policy, it is mostly about building international peer relationships.

-Samantha Sobash

Wk 5: Consequences for increased demand for better measurement and evaluation

It is clear there is a need for improved measurement and evaluation of PD programs. PD programs are challenging in the sense that they require long term attention to yield tangible results, most require cross sector partnerships which is difficult to appropriately evaluate, and the new forms of media utilized within PD efforts require new forms of evaluation. With respect to these characteristics of public diplomacy initiatives, it only makes sense to specialize the way we measure and evaluate the work.  As Banks notes in “A Resource Guide to PD Evaluation”, the evaluation and measurements of PD programs have to reflect the public diplomacy objectives for a particular country. However, currently most programs are evaluated base their own merits, thereby missing out on broader trends, links, and applications. Although it is necessary to consider programs based on their country’s context, they should not be evaluated in a vacuum. Aggregating information about programs with similar objectives in various countries will be highly beneficial to gaging what types of programs will work best in different country contexts.

In broad terms, the US has not carried out contemporary public diplomacy initiatives long enough to have sufficient base line data. This limits the credence of current program evaluation, because there is not enough data to prove long term effectiveness. However, when we consider big data, therein lies a range of possibilities for supporting the efforts of public diplomacy initiatives. Public diplomacy programs have developed to become much more interactive due to the internet and social media platforms. Big data exists, we just need to know what to do with it. Fisher suggests in “Everybody’s getting hooked up…” to consider two potential areas, the operational activity of an organization and observing the greater networks of communities worldwide. Enlisting big data can provide significant leverage for the effectiveness of public diplomacy programs worldwide. In light of these changes, the betterment of measurement and evaluation would have very positive consequences.

-Samantha Sobash

Infograph – Language beyond borders

This infographic provides great insight into where languages have roots and where crossover of various countries occurs. The readings throughout this course have indicated the necessity for Public Affairs  Officers and other public diplomacy officials to be able to communicate directly with the locals in their respective native language(s). Many foreign publics or officials will refuse to talk through translators for fear of misinterpretation or external ears in the conversation. While the US education system does not do an exceptional job at teaching foreign languages, it is crucial to the work of foreign service officers, and thus the US government supports intensive language courses as a significant part of officer training. This infographic is a great tool for knowing where your language skills could best serve or what language skills could be beneficial for a public diplomacy officer’s work.

W5 – Q3: Do you think there are consequences for the increase in demand for better measurement and evaluation? Good, bad, or both? 

Traditionally PD was not measured for its impact, which resulted in the increase of demand for measurement and evaluation of PD programs and projects. In the lack of an evaluation history, current academics and practitioners are struggling to find ways in which PD can be measured, to create baseline data which to be used as reference points and comparison now and in the future. Measurement and evaluation are especially important, considering that PD is not only about opinion, but also about social impact and action (or non-action, e.g. ISIS example).

There are several positive and negative consequences tied to the increased demand for PD measurement and evaluation (M&E). On the positive side, as Banks has mentioned in his 2011 paper, M&E will contribute greatly to improved PD – among others, in terms of allocation of resources; best practices; motivation for further improvement; honest insight of PD achievements and expectations; and offering an alternative to hard power.

The increased demand for PD M&E also has a few negative consequences. With practitioners trying to meet the M&E standards and requests in order to justify their spending requests, more and more PD programs are being designed in order to be measured (and most probably result in success stories). While designing for measurement is exactly what PD needs, the most crucial factor in PD should not be measurability, but rather effect or impact. It is not easy to design a PD program which serves its aim and is able to prove its effect. With regards to this, Banks has also laid out the ‘dirty dozen’, or challenges of M&E for PD. Banks M&E challenges list, among others, includes the high costs of M&E; the threats of continuity linked to changes of staff; the growing emphasis on multilateral partnerships, which make it harder to define the source of impact; as well as the confusion between output and outcome M&E models; to mention some.

I think that the process of adopting regular M&E processes in PD is hardest now, in the phase where it is being properly established. The increased demand for M&E has its positive and negative consequences, out of all of which there is plenty to learn and apply, in order to create a good M&E basis for PD in the future.