Take Five

Take Five seeks to invigorate the Public Diplomacy discussion with contributions from a wide range of authors, from experienced Public Diplomacy figures to scholars and young professionals newly venturing into the field. We are venue for fresh ideas about the way that America conducts its diplomatic relations abroad and about the impact of current policies. Social Media, Digital Diplomacy, and other aspects of Global Communication are also a central focus.
Take Five has written 32 posts for Take Five

Meet IPDGC’s current Public Diplomacy Fellow

Karl Stoltz, Public Diplomacy Fellow 2018-19

Karl Stoltz is the GW Visiting State Department Public Diplomacy Fellow for the 2018 – 19 academic year. He joined the Foreign Service in 1986 and has served in Washington, D.C., Europe, Africa, East Asia and the Pacific.

Before joining GW’s Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication, Karl served as director of the State Department Office of Citizen Exchanges, located in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs from 2016 to 2018. He led a 50-person team overseeing the State Department’s cultural and artistic, sports, professional fellow and high school youth exchanges worldwide, including major exchanges of young entrepreneurs from Latin America, the Caribbean and Southeast Asia.  

Karl also served in Washington, D.C. as director for public diplomacy in the State Department Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs from 2008 to 2010 and as regional exchanges coordinator in the same region from 1995 to 1997.

Overseas, Karl was deputy chief of mission, the second-ranked position, at two U.S. embassies — in Copenhagen, Denmark from 2013 to 2016 and in Yangon, Myanmar from 2005 to 2008. In the former, he was also responsible for U.S. relations with Greenland and the Faroe Islands, two regions closely linked to global climate change issues today. In the latter, he helped guide the U.S. through a time of severe regime repression and fostered the democratic forces that are playing a greater role in the country today.

Karl served overseas as minister-counselor for public affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa from 2010 – 2013 and the embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from 2001 to 2005. In South Africa, he helped establish the African Regional Media Hub, engaging journalists across the continent, and several Young African Leaders programs. In Malaysia, he launched six American Corners in provincial centers and a new Fulbright English Teaching Assistant program that has brought hundreds of American college graduates to Malaysian schools to teach students in remote locations.

Karl was also cultural attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia from 1998 to 2001, during that country’s transition to democracy. He was a public affairs officer in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea from 1992 to 1995, where he helped manage U.S. relations with the nations of Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, and in Wellington and Christchurch, New Zealand from 1987 to 1989, where among other duties he served as the spokesperson for the U.S. Antarctic Program.

His first appointment as a Foreign Service officer was as an assistant press attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Russia from 1990 to 1992, working primarily with Russian media during the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Karl will return to Moscow in summer 2019 to serve as minister-counselor for public affairs, working closely with the U.S. ambassador to Russia to manage media, educational and cultural relations with the government and people of Russia.

Karl has a B.A. in Russian Studies and History from the University of Virginia and has done graduate study at Middlebury University and the National Foreign Affairs Training Center. Prior to joining the Foreign Service, Karl worked for Capital-Gazette Newspapers in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. 

He is married to Tania Garry, originally of Wellington, New Zealand. They have one son, Ryan, who is an undergraduate at Wake Forest University, and a 15-year-old cat who has a Ph.D. in human psychology and a M.Sc. in litter box management.

Listen here for a conversation with the 2018-19 Public Diplomacy Fellow at the Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication: https://go.gwu.edu/5cc

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Panda Diplomacy

By Colleen Calhoun, Mary Anne Porto and Libby Schiller

Exotic animals have long been seen as symbols of power and democracy. Dating back
to the times of Ancient Rome and Emperor Octavius, large animals such as lions,
rhinoceroses, etc. have been used as leverage in bureaucracy. Animal diplomacy is not exclusive to the Chinese. In the era of Julius Caesar and Cleopatra, Egypt gave Giraffes to foreign nations. Queen Elizabeth II gave two black beavers to Canada in 1970. The Chinese originally gave Pandas away as gifts, but in 1984 the government decided to begin a 10-year loan system with annual payments.
Today, there are more than 25 zoos worldwide that have Pandas.
With the new loan system, China has reached out to countries in an attempt to foster
relationships. More so now, China has been using Panda diplomacy to pursue
economic and
political ambitions as well. The Edinburgh Zoo received its pandas in 2011, setting up a
deal to
pay an annual fee to the Chinese government to help giant panda conservation projects
in the
wild. Not only is China reaching out to countries using Pandas, they are benefiting from
the
relationships as well. Similarly, Japan also received two pandas in 2011, and the two
countries
hoped it would improve relations caused by dispute over islands and their sovereignty.
China has been successful in their efforts because Pandas are very cute and many
countries
would like to have them in their zoos. Pandas are a soft power tool that the Chinese
have been
using to increase their scope around the world. More so than diplomatic relationships,
China has
seen more growth in economic relationships with Panda diplomacy.
According to a BBC article, Scottish exports to China have almost doubled in the past
five years. Similarly, Panda loans in Canada, France and Australia coincided with trade
deals for uranium. The article also said, “If a panda is given to the country, it does not
signify the closing of a deal – they have entrusted an endangered, precious animal to
the country; it signifies in some ways a new start to the relationship.” This shows that
China is not looking to give countries Pandas and
complete a one time deal. They are looking to foster long-term relationships, especially
regarding economics. As a soft power tool, the Chinese government can use cute,
cuddly Pandas

to increase economic growth, not only for the time-being, but over an extended period of
time.
There are many challenges facing those who wish to replicate animal diplomacy efforts
of the
past. Animal advocates have challenged the practice as they say it commercializes
animal lives
and puts stressors on already vulnerable endangered species. Others want more
transparency
about where fees for loans go. Countries who choose to do so should consider making
their
funding more transparent and perhaps shifting away from a funding model all together,
instead
focusing on just awareness, to reduce criticism. Countries should also consider the
logistics of
their animals, making sure the animals are able to travel and not endangered. They
should also
ensure that the animals are representative of their countries and reflect positively on
them.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author(s). They do not necessarily express the views of either The Institute of Public Diplomacy and Global Communication or The George Washington University.

Public Diplomacy and Asian Cuisine in America

By Caroline Rexrode, Matilda Kreider and Jade Hurley

Asian cuisine has been used as a public diplomacy tool in the United States, specifically
from the country of Thailand. The primary philosophy behind food diplomacy, or public
diplomacy using cuisine native to one’s country, stems from culinary nationalism. We all
associate different foods with different places of origin–tacos, spaghetti, fried rice–and
especially in a globalized world, where we enjoy several cultures at once in the food we eat,
cuisine can be one of the first steps to learning about a foreign nation.

Culinary nationalism is a philosophy where the food of one’s country is closely related to their national identity, and such pride in one’s cuisine can lead to a government’s promotion of certain recipes as being a part of their nation’s heritage–it is a form of showing the world what you have to offer. This is why nations like Thailand have chosen to tie food closely to their national identity.

By spreading one’s cuisine into foreign nations, it is not a one-time occurrence of public
diplomacy. Food can be a quotidian diplomat, meaning, once there, its diplomatic properties of
education and friendship will be repeated day after day. Immigrants from places like Thailand
can encourage their friends in other countries to eat it, restaurants can be established, and the
diplomatic powers of food can be neverending. This was the philosophy behind the Thai
government’s decision to launch the first large-scale culinary diplomacy effort to encourage
people worldwide to try Thai cuisine, which was largely successful.

By 2015, a CNN poll found that Thai food is the world’s most popular cuisine. This is a shift in the eating patterns that we have witnessed in our lifetime, and watching the rise of Thai food is watching the rise of positive relations between Thailand and the world.

It has been a trend in America that foods of Asian origin take on a trendy reputation that
influences how Americans view Asian nations and people. Foods like sushi tend to start out in
urban hubs on the east and west coasts and spread into the continent and into rural areas,
giving them a reputation for being more sophisticated and trendy.

Bubble tea, which originated in Taiwan, can be found most readily in the U.S. on college campuses because it’s expected that Asian students will flock to it and eventually other students will follow, which has made bubble tea have a very youthful reputation. Other regional cuisines are popular with young people and can serve as social symbols, too, like Mexican food in the form of chains like Chipotle.

Another interesting foreign food phenomenon in the U.S. is the prevalence of food trucks. Food trucks build familiarity and can help people get to know parts of the world that they
wouldn’t otherwise. On an urban campus like GW’s, one can usually find 5-10 food trucks at a
time, and many of them are foreign cuisines like Chinese, Afghan, or Laotian. Due to the casual
and accessible nature of food trucks, consumers gain exposure to regional cuisines they might
never have experienced otherwise. Some of the food trucks on campus are even incredibly
niche, like Himalayan or Bermudian, exposing Americans to even more unusual foods. Also, the
presence of food trucks in suburbia as well as in large cities helps eliminate the urban elite
complex that is attached to some foods.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author(s). They do not necessarily express the views of either The Institute of Public Diplomacy and Global Communication or The George Washington University.

Street art as a form of public diplomacy

By Devan Cole, Jazmyn Strode and Ali Oksner

Street art, which is defined simply as visual art that is created in public places, is seldom
considered a form of PD. But, if thought about carefully, one can easily see how street art can be a powerful and effective form of public diplomacy. Our presentation was centered around several examples of street art that Jazmyn and Ali saw (and in one case, painted) during their study abroad trips last year, that serve as prime examples of how this form of art can send cultural and political messages to both visitors and citizens of other countries.

In Italy, Jazmyn snapped photos of a series of paintings in a town she visited. The paintings were
of people who appeared to be torn from classical Italy but wore scuba diving masks and were positioned underwater. While the message they sent wasn’t exactly political, it was indeed cultural as it gave people (tourists) passing by a glimpse at Italian art without having to go into a museum that likely has an entrance fee. With the paintings being on the street, accessibility is at the heart of their purpose because you don’t have to chump up euros to experience this form of cultural diplomacy. In Chile, Ali saw a message spray-painted in Spanish that translates to “You have to be asleep to live the American dream.” This message, which can be considered street art, was presumably written by a local who wanted to express their thoughts on what they saw as an unattainable foreign fantasy. The audience: both Chileans and Spanish-speaking visitors. The interesting thing here is that the artist was attempting to relay a message about another country’s beliefs, not their own.

Nonetheless, this example of public diplomacy proves is just as interesting as any other because it promotes a citizen’s socio-cultural beliefs about a country. Ali also painted a mural of her father on the side of an abandoned house in Chile. When she
asked if she could paint somewhere, city officials shrugged off her request and told her she was free to paint on the side of the building, proving once again that this form of public diplomacy is extremely accessible. Her painting was a way for her to promote American art technique and form in another country, which can be seen as a form of public diplomacy. All of these examples and more serve as a testament to the fact that street art is an important form of public diplomacy that allows individuals to promote political and cultural messages through art that is easily accessible to anyone who wants to be on the receiving end of that messaging.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author(s). They do not necessarily express the views of either The Institute of Public Diplomacy and Global Communication or The George Washington University.

China’s Panda Diplomacy

by Lily Werlinich, Emma Barrera and Mailinh McNicholas

Nuclear arms may be the current talk of the town, but China has been successfully deploying a
furrier weapon for years: the panda. Late last year, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and
Chinese President Xi Jinping met in Berlin’s Tierpark Zoo to commemorate the latter’s loan of
Meng-Meng (“Little Dream”) and Jiao Qing (“Darling”). The two pandas will remain in Berlin
for the next 15 years at an annual cost of $1 million.
The two world leaders met for the exchange two days before the G20 meeting to project a
peaceful, friendly relationship to the international community, a stark contrast to the atmosphere
that President Trump would bring with him to the conference.
Yet this loan is much more than a mere photo-op. For years, the Chinese government
has loaned pandas to other nations as a way of signifying respect. China lent the United States
its first pandas in 1972 after President Nixon’s historic visit to the Asian nation. Pandas can even
be withdrawn when a nation refuses to support China’s political policies. After President Obama
met with the Dalai Lama in 2010 against China’s wishes, panda cubs from Zoo Atlanta and the
National Zoo were repatriated. Other times, pandas certify the existence of favorable trade
relations between China and its partner nations. China and Germany are the first- and third-
largest trading nations in the world, respectively, and therefore must work to craft deals
favorable to both nations.
This exchange of pandas is a theatrical display of public diplomacy and a way for China
to flex its soft power, a branch of diplomacy that the nation has historically neglected. As defined
by Joseph Nye, countries use soft power to make themselves more attractive. They do so by
emphasizing their culture, political institutions, and foreign policies in ways that appeal to
international sentiment.
Pandas are an excellent source of soft power because of their inherent charm. The bear-
like mammals symbolize political power in the East and wildlife conservation in the West. But
perhaps most importantly, they are simply adorable and adorable animals are transnational and
transcultural.
China’s new soft power initiatives reflect the nation’s desire to project its power beyond the
Asian region. In its nineteenth National Congress in October, the Chinese Communist Party and
President Xi Jinping announced the country’s commitment to achieving “China’s dream” of
becoming the number one global power during this century by developing a powerful military
and reaching full economic development by 2050.
China’s new foreign policy strategy rejects isolationism and aims to promote inclusive
development, as reflected by the country’s ambitious “Belt and Road Initiative” to link
China with Central Asia, the Middle East, Russia, Europe, and Africa through physical
infrastructure, financial arrangements, and cultural exchanges.

As China transitions to a more assertive role in the international arena, President Xi
Jinping aims to develop China’s soft power by presenting a“true, multi-dimensional, and
panoramic view of China.” Ultimately, China’s embrace of globalism and shift in style, attitude,
and behavior in global affairs is likely to have a profound impact on the international order.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author(s). They do not necessarily express the views of either The Institute of Public Diplomacy and Global Communication or The George Washington University.

Facebook Meets Global Agitprop

By Rob Cline and Olivia Dupree

Facebook has come under fire by Washington lawmakers and the American public in recent
months for their apparent involvement in the 2016 election. It has been discovered that Russian
disinformation operations paid for targeted Facebook ads that promoted Donald Trump and
sowed divisions in the electorate by touching on cultural wedge issues.

Facebook’s leadership failed to identify and curve these propaganda operations on their site, raising questions about
the company’s ability to independently maintain a truthful and fair media platform for Americans to get information.

While this problem seems uniquely American, we need to point out that Facebook is a global
website. Nations across the world have experienced Russian disinformation campaigns through
Facebook over the past two years. It has been discovered that the Brexit campaign in the UK was
plagued by Russian social media influence, as well as the French presidential campaign.

While it’s majorly important that Russian intelligence is interfering in the elections of Western
democracies, there are places in the world where groups utilize Facebook for much more
dangerous outcomes. In Myanmar, the militant government in power is engaging in ethnic
cleansing of the Rohingya Muslims. This brutal violence against the Rohingya has been fueled,
in part, by misinformation and anti-Rohingya propaganda spread on Facebook.

In countries like Myanmar, social and governmental instability means that traditional news
outlets like newspapers and cable TV have much less sway with the public, something both
Patricia Kabra and Louisa Williams spoke to when visiting our class. Without these forms of
media, the public forum moves to open social media platforms like Facebook. Facebook has
become the primary news source for most citizens of Myanmar.

This sets up a huge problem: Facebook creates a massive, open public sphere and leaves
everyone else to deal with the consequences. As the New York Times put it: “Correcting
misinformation is a thorny philosophical problem for Facebook, which imagines itself as a
neutral platform that avoids making editorial decisions.” Unfortunately, like we saw with fake
news in the US presidential election, people seem to have a willingness to accept what they see
on Facebook as true. This means the government of Myanmar has been extremely successful in
alienating the Rohingya through misinformation campaigns.

For PD practitioners, this represents an information crisis. On one hand, Facebook is an essential
tool in the modern age to reaching broad audiences that you would normally not reach with
traditional media. On the other hand, Facebook is an untrimmed landscape ripe for
misinformation and deceit by those who want to manipulate public opinion.

Battling social media disinformation will likely become a common practice of public diplomats
around the globe. US envoys who want to maintain the US’s image abroad will most likely have
to deal with Russian backed anti-American propaganda campaigns. Additionally PD
practitioners will have to learn how to deal with the social and political upheaval that comes
when disinformation campaigns are successful in their host countries.

Resource: Facebook as a Tool of Global Propaganda
https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/10/29/business/facebook-misinformation-
abroad.html?_r=0&referer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author(s). They do not necessarily express the views of either The Institute of Public Diplomacy and Global Communication or The George Washington University.

The Peace Corps and Public Diplomacy Connection

by Samantha Cookinham and Meredith Hessel

Washington Post Contributor Bren Flanigan feels that the importance of the Peace Corps’ role in public diplomacy is forgotten with the budget cuts that President Trump proposed in the spring.*

Flanigan finds he, along with others in the Peace Corps are cultural ambassadors for the country showing interest in other cultures, showing the truth about American culture and showing a memorable impression of America.

While in Benin, he found that food was key to sharing culture. He cooked pizza for his host
family and celebrated the Fourth of July with A1 steak sauce and the Whitney Houston version
of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

These interactions helped with cultural diplomacy by “addressing questions like these gives Peace Corps volunteers the opportunity to shatter the stereotypes about the United States portrayed in television and movies.” Flanigan wants to influence societies not solely through intimidation or economic isolation, but through integrated cultural exchange because this will “endure through political administrations and fluctuating diplomatic relations.”

Our thoughts:
Soft power may be difficult to measure, but it is effective because it is memorable and able to
shatter stereotypes about America. These cultural exchanges are necessary to share diplomatic
relations through experience and genuine interest in cultures and traditions. People in the Peace
Corps are cultural ambassadors.* Flanigan’s reflection that Peace Corps volunteers are “for many communities… the real American ambassadors, the only ones they will ever meet, and the only ones they will remember.” This is similar to how Flanigan was welcomed by his host family in Benin with questions about the 2016 election. Their questions showed that they were looking for a refreshing first-hand account of what Americans think and if they agree with the rhetoric of the
election.

Further, this emphasizes the importance of face-to-face or person-to-person public
diplomacy, as Peace Corps volunteers represent America and are “direct extensions of American
values and principles.” In all, Peace Corps volunteers strengthen an understanding of people and
cultural values between the U.S. and the country they are volunteering in.

* The Peace Corps “is a service opportunity for motivated changemakers to immerse themselves
in a community abroad, working side by side with local leaders to tackle the most pressing
challenges of generation[s].” As  an independent agency within the executive branch that was
established by President John F. Kennedy through an Executive Order in 1961, the Peace Corps’
mission is to promote global world peace and friendship. The President appoints the Peace
Corps’ director and deputy director and the appointments must be confirmed by the Senate. As
an agency, it has bipartisan support in Congress, as both Democrats and Republicans and even
representatives and senators have served as volunteers. The Peace Corps’ budget is 1% of the
foreign operations budget and the annual budget is determined each year by the congressional budget and appropriations process.

You can learn more about the Peace Corps’ leadership and initiatives at https://www.peacecorps.gov.

*Bren Flanigan contributed to the Washington Post’s Global Opinions section on August 31
(https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/global-opinions/wp/2017/08/31/the-forgotten-role-of-
the-peace-corps-in-u-s-foreign-policy/?utm_term=.df698d912f8f) with his insights from serving
as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in Benin.

 

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author(s). They do not necessarily express the views of either The Institute of Public Diplomacy and Global Communication or The George Washington University.

Event Recap: Challenges in the New Public Diplomacy Environment

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In honor of the Centennial of Walter Roberts’ birth, the Institute for Public Affairs and Global Communication and the Walter Roberts Endowment organized a panel on Challenges in the New Public Diplomacy Environment.

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Director of the School of Media and Public Affairs Frank Sesno reflecting on Walter Roberts’ career

Honoring Walter Roberts and Navigating the New Media Landscape: Director of the School of Media and Public Affairs, Frank Sesno, introduced the program by recounting the contributions Walter Roberts has made to public diplomacy in general and George Washington University in particular. Mr. Sesno described how the new media age has transformed our lives, changed the way we obtain and share information, how we organize, mobilize and win. Each person now sustains a unique news feed and serves as his or her own executive producer, which upends old assumptions. The notion of objective journalism, of gate keepers, and even the notion of fact itself is being challenged as never before. Changes in public diplomacy reflect these changes in the real world, which the four panelists addressed.

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Professor Robert Entman discussing updates to his political communication cascade model

U.S. Media Diplomacy and Foreign Opinion:   Emphasizing that there is nothing more practical than a good theory, George Washington University Professor Robert Entman presented an updated model showing how information cascades from elite government circles through the media to the public and back again in feedback loops complicated by the growing power of social media. It is difficult enough to explain when and why Americans support U.S. policy as leaders try to spread their interpretations or frames through a hierarchy of networks, complicated by the ability of leaders to now bypass gatekeepers such as the media by addressing the public directly through social media. Persuading foreign publics to adopt pro-American frames becomes even more complicated as more communication paths form. Foreign leaders and the elites need to be motivated and have the power to spread pro-American frames to their public and gatekeepers. The public needs to be receptive to these frames as well for public opinion to be moved. The challenge is particularly acute in countries and publics hostile to the U.S. but even in close allies the multiple paths and networks for information to flow complicate the mediated public diplomacy efforts of the modern diplomat.

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Macon Phillips outlining the three key challenges facing Public Diplomacy at the Department of State

Connecting People to Policy – Leveraging Digital Tools/Social Media to Advance U.S. Foreign Policy: Macon Phillips, Coordinator of the United States Department of State Bureau of International Information Programs described three challenges facing public diplomacy at the Department of State: 1. thinking of policy in terms of objectives. Setting well defined, achievable objectives allows one to have an effective strategy and to measure success. This involves moving from telling people what they need to know to what they need to do. 2. Identifying priority audiences to achieve these objectives, which will affect even something as minor as putting together the traditional guest list. 3. Maintaining relations. One must maintain relationships and develop trust. The thousands of alumni of our international visitor and educational exchange programs should be viewed as allies and not just alumni. Nurturing and maintaining relationships will inoculate contacts, making them more resistant to disinformation. This will allow the USG to be less reactive and more proactive – a much better strategy.

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André Mendes discussing how the BBG has progressed despite facing public diplomacy challenges

Reaching global audiences – A changing saga of platforms, paradigms, censorship and ever narrower echo chambers: André Mendes, Chief Information Officer and Chief Technology Officer of the Broadcasting Board of Governors André Mendes outlined three challenges.  The first is budgetary, reaching out to the world while following Congressional and other mandates requiring continued investment in certain areas and technologies.  The second is overcoming censorship with some of the most sophisticated censorship in the area of online software.  BBG has the world’s largest anti-censorship operation with one trillion hits while continuing to overcome short wave and satellite censorship from countries such as Ethiopia and censorship of all kinds from countries ranging from Mali to Russia.  The third challenge is the echo chamber effect, the fact that people naturally gravitate towards information they already believe in.  The problem though is that every search we perform creates a micro environment as ads, articles, and preferences are directed to what we already like.  The objective of online platforms is to make money by gathering clicks rather than to inform.  Individuals from all corners of the world know that they can make money by generating clicks on our preferred platforms by writing articles that will outrage us even if not true.  We are all willing accomplices by participating.  Finally, Mr. Mendes described the progress the BBG had made in the last seven years, from 165 million monthly followers, mostly in radio to 270 million today, half TV and half radio and digital platforms.  Given that this expansion has occurred under budget cuts of 150 million in an environment in which media in general is shrinking this is one of the world’s great success stories.

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Andrea De Arment giving insights on how digital diplomacy can and must be transformed

 Public Diplomacy in a “Post-Truth” World: Andrea De Arment, incoming Information Officer and Spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu Andrea De Arment emphasized that diplomats need to make the tough transition from a reliance on facts and figures to the realization that most people paying more attention to what people care about: feelings, personal beliefs, culture and religion.  To be truly effective, PD professionals need to be at the table when policy is being made to make the decision makers aware how a given policy will be perceived in various regions of the world.  One cannot be served a plate made in the policy making sausage factory with the mandate to make people think it is delicious.  Successful public diplomacy must engage so that diplomats don’t just push out information but listen to what is coming back.  Digital diplomacy also needs to entertain in a strategic manner.  Soft diplomacy grows audiences but one needs to go where the audience is to engage.  This requires leaving the safety of the walled compound to engage with the public to close the last three feet to use E Murrow’s phrase.

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Discussion Session: The discussion session revolved around issues of building trust both within institutions and with the public at large.  Our partners can carry our message sometimes even more effectively than we can, which is particularly important when working with hostile publics.  Diplomats need to use social media not only to transmit messages but to listen and to engage in the necessary give and take which builds relationships.  The best way to inoculate oneself from Fake News is build relationships of trust and to be credible sources.  To keep up with rapid developments, the State Department needs to move from a default clear to a default open culture, which will improve efficiency and motivate employees.  To be effective, one must have well defined goals of what success looks like, which also allows one to identify failure more easily.  One needs to change in order to survive but innovations should not be made for innovation sake but to more effectively support U.S. policy goals.

Strategic Communications and Foreign Policy: A Conversation with an NSC Press Spokesperson

Emily Horne in Conversation with Janet Steele, ESIA, October 2016

Emily Horne in conversation with Janet Steele, ESIA, October 2016

In a conversation moderated by IPDGC’s program director Janet Steele, National Security Council Press Spokesperson Emily Horne answered questions about her role in the NSC, its media strategy, and elaborated to students about her career path. Students, faculty, and industry professionals attended this event and were invited to join in for the second half of the conversation.

Emily Horne is currently an Assistant Press Secretary and Director for Strategic Communications at the National Security Council, where she serves as spokesperson for a range of foreign policy issues and advises White House and other senior U.S. government officials on media and strategic communications. Before joining the National Security Council she was the director of communications for General John Allen, the Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, where she built the communications strategy for the Obama Administration’s counter-ISIL efforts and traveled to over 30 countries supporting international efforts to degrade and defeat ISIL. She has also served as Spokesperson for the State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, including temporary tours as spokesperson for the U.S. Embassies in Sri Lanka and Nepal. She began her career in government as an unpaid intern in the State Department’s Office of the Historian.

Event Recap: U.S. Ambassador to the UK Matthew Barzun Discusses Networks & Engagement in Public Diplomacy

In an insightful and entertaining session on March 24th, U.S. Ambassador to the UK Matthew Barzun discussed the importance of engagement and networks in public diplomacy. Ambassador Barzun described how since almost all phones sold nowadays are mobile phones, the term itself has become an oxymoron. Barzun believed that the term public diplomacy was following the same trend line as the importance of public engagement increases.   

To illustrate his point, Barzun asked the audience to describe which 130-year old company produced the first digital encyclopedia. The answer was Encarta, which was backed by the world’s most powerful and rich software company Microsoft. Yet this multi-billion dollar company was driven out of business by a ‘kid from Alabama,’ Jimmy Wales, who developed a bottom up model called Wikipedia, ‘the largest knowledge transfer engine in history.’

Barzun then asked the audience to imagine four squares along the following lines:

Digital Hierarchy
Analogue Network

According to Ambassador Barzun, the magic was not going digital but going network and digital.  But one could have very effective combinations of analogue and network such as conference calls. The key Barzun emphasized is to engage. Inside an organization one can be surprised what one can accomplish if rather than task people, one asks people for help. In public events the key is to listen, seeking not so much to be understood as to understand. “Outreach” or “reaching out” is not nearly as effective as engagement, which involves understanding and listening.  

“If you listen, people will hear you differently,” he said. “If you repeat the pattern, good stuff happens.”

Answering a question about socio-media analytics, Ambassador Barzun noted that “things can be very precise without being accurate.”  Judge the effectiveness of what is happening in the digital world by comparing the same to the analogue or real world. Computer or digital tools can be misused or overused. Twitter can allow an overuse of a broadcasting approach or power point can be overused to bombard audiences with information: “If power corrupts, Power Points corrupt absolutely.”

Ambassador Barzun stated that public diplomacy can build a reservoir of good will. You can fill the reservoir ‘a cup at a time’ or sometimes with a ‘hose’ and refill it when it gets punctured and fill it again. A positive example was President Obama’s dancing the tango in Argentina, which he said demonstrated humility and an interest in the local culture.  

Ambassador Barzun closed by describing the image of the hierarchy, which could be described as triangles, with, for example, a Minister of Foreign Affairs at the top of the pyramid, and the circle of influences such as journalists to the wider public, which could be imagined as a cloud encircling the other two. We are living more and more or our lives online but engagement remains paramount. If one approaches challenges in a hierarchy mindset, one will fail just like Encarta.  

 

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