Selection and commentary by PDC members and authoritative experts in the field
Thursday, July 25th 2013
I can’t say that I was very surprised by the news that the State Department spent $630,000 to boost traffic to four of its International Information Programs (IIP) Facebook pages.
Was it a waste of money at a time of fiscal austerity? Absolutely. Did it result in a bump in traffic? At least temporarily, yes. Will IIP be able to hang on to those followers and advance its mission to “build America’s reputation abroad”? Probably not.
The reason it won’t is because of what social media has become: A place where a lot of people (and institutions) are talking, but very few are listening.
Monday, July 8th 2013
Stories about $650 thousand spent by the State Department’s International Information Programs (IIP) bureau on Facebook advertising have proliferated, prompting extensive discussion (see John Brown’s public diplomacy blog for examples.)
The background comes from an inspection report recently made public by State’s Office of the Inspector General. Our busy commentators can’t possibly have read the report, or their accounts would pick up far more salient issues.
Tuesday, June 25th 2013
What is lacking in the White House planning for the President's travel is input from the public diplomacy experts. It would not take a great deal of audience attitude analysis from the research community, or even "finger in the wind" analysis from PAOs at our embassies, to educate the White House staff on what public reaction to expect in a given country.
Sunday, June 23rd 2013
The President's speech in Berlin has come in for criticism on many levels, but experienced public diplomatists seem to agree that this was a public diplomacy opportunity misspent. The pictures of the President speaking behind large sheets of bulletproof rang particularly off key.
Patricia Lee Sharpe judged that the picture "doesn't make him look like a world leader to be taken seriously." John Brown, a Council member, asked: "Glass walls? Is that the USA message to the world?" These are warning signs for those advancing the upcoming Africa trip.
One of the Council's most senior members and foremost expert on U.S.-German relations, Hans "Tom" N. Tuch, agreed that the visuals were terrible and offered this blog a broader and sobering assessment of the U.S.-German public diplomacy challenge that needed to be met. Tom writes:
"The qualitative changes in attitude of Germans vis-a-vis the United States, as reflected in Alison Smale's reporting (NYTimes 6/19) appear similar to those in earlier times with similar deleterious results in our overall relationship.
"Today, Smale writes that Germans' reception of President Obama's arrival in Berlin was far more restrained than was his euphoric greeting by the German people when he spoke at the Siegesaeule in 2008. The reason for this diminution in enthusiasm include, reportedly, the president's inability to close the prison at Guatanamo Bay, continued killing by American drones and the disclosure of the extensive surveillance program of foreigners.
In the 1950s many Germans, rightly or wrongly had considered the U.S. their Camelot. In the mid-1960s a significant number of young Germans turned against America for various reasons: U.S. involvement in Vietnam, the upheavals of the civil rights revolution in America, the assassination of JFK, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King all contributed to a conviction that America was no longer a model society but the enemy of society.
Not that the current disenchantment of the German people with President Obama need to have as negative an impact on U.S. German relations as those that affected the close relationship in the 1960s, but one might note the parallels and be concerned."
Wednesday, June 12th 2013
On June 7 I had the privilege of speaking to the Dutch and international students participating in World Class - The Hague. This unique initiative was launched by Mayor Jozias van Aartsen. The series of lectures, discussions, dinners, and other events designed to reach out to international students studying in The Hague and integrate them into the community is an excellent example of creative public diplomacy. Willem Post, Senior Advisor to Mayor Aartsen, describes it as an example of “city diplomacy.”