– Do you think public diplomacy officers should be required to get more training than ‘traditional’ Foreign Service Officers? Why?
Yes, I think public diplomacy offices should be required to get more training than ‘traditional’ FSOs since public diplomacy officers are only one limited part of the specialties of FSOs, as Rugh states in Chapter 2. Where they formally classified FSOs as ‘tracks’ of public diplomacy, political, economic, consular and management.
He also mentioned in the article “the skills an FSO should have in a public diplomacy assignment differ in several respects from the skills required in non-PD assignments. A successful public diplomacy officer must be good at program and personnel management, interpersonal and communication skills, as well as reporting, and at staying informed on a wide variety of issues and topics,” that concludes public diplomacy officer as the exclusive position.
However, it is also true that in our overseas missions, public diplomacy professionals and traditional diplomats have some attributes in common. Both are “advocates,” who must present and explain U.S. policy positions. Both must have an understanding not only of American policy, but also of the host country – its political and economic system, its history and society, and they way its people think.
But that is where the similarities end. Traditional FSOs and PD officers have very different jobs.
FSOs are primarily responsible for representing our foreign policy and reporting to Washington, while PD offices to this point must not only explain policy but also convey an understanding of American domestic politics, society, and culture.
Traditional FSOs are responsible for engaging primarily with host country officials, while public diplomacy officers engage with a wide variety of opinion leaders in various fields, namely anyone who is an opinion leader or influential in communication, whether in the media, academia, the arts or elsewhere.
Traditional FSOs work mostly on classified matters while PD officers work almost entirely in the open on an unclassified basis.
PD officers – unlike traditional diplomats – are also “programmers,” who facilitate meetings and dialogues between Americans and foreigners by organizing a whole range of activities–lectures, seminars, exchange programs, press events, website content, etc.–which allow these encounters to take place.
Because the scope of a PD officers’ mandate is to reach a much broader and more diverse segment of society, he or she is much more likely to need to, according to Ambassador Rugh:
- a) follow local public opinion closely from many different sources, including the media, and through contacts with a wide variety of people, not just official contacts;
- b) have excellent communication skills, to act as embassy spokesman, conduct interviews with the local media, and give public presentations, which the traditional diplomat
- c) be proficient in the local language, in order to communicate, one-on-one or in groups, with audiences who have limited or no English;
- d) be able, beginning with his or her first assignment abroad, to manage a much larger professional staff of Foreign Service Nationals than the traditional diplomat, whose FSN staff is small and has no access to much of the office’s work because it is classified.