Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 22:16 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 22:16 | SYDNEY

The new public diplomacy


Andrew Carr


7 April 2011 09:10

Earlier this week, my colleague Fergus Hanson released a new paper 'The new public diplomacy', making three arguments about the social media sphere:

  1. New communications platforms are different: While old forms of communication (TV, radio and print) involved one speaker communicating to many via gatekeepers, new platforms are now far more democratic. Accordingly, new strategies will be required to grow and cultivate online audiences. New ways of communicating, in language, tone and even content apply.
  2. Audiences and debates are moving online: And this means a different time frame. Whereas in the past, a single carefully crafted press release could lead tomorrow's coverage, in the online world governments and diplomats need to be constantly part of the discussion. This will require hiring full-time social media correspondents, as the UK Foreign and Commonwealth offices, Pentagon and US State Department do (the latter including nine full-time Arabic-language bloggers, two Farsi bloggers and two Urdu bloggers)
  3. New solutions to old problems: While this sounds like a lot of additional hard work for already overburdened departments, the new platforms can also help reduce the diplomatic workload. Google's 'people-finder' for example, helped quickly identify people missing during the recent Japanese earthquake, and let them make contact with authorities and people at home. Likewise, crowd-sourcing can employ whole societies to fight problems (such as identifying corruption or abuse).

As Fergus argues: 'E-diplomacy is not a boutique extra for foreign ministries and increasingly will be central to how they operate in the 21st century. Digital platforms will require cultural change, but they also promise a wide range of benefits, whether that is taking a much more active role in managing their public diplomacy messages or engaging audiences that were previously out of reach. For DFAT, it is high time to act'

The full paper, 'The new public diplomacy' is on the Lowy website.