Public diplomacy is a professional practice within foreign affairs, just as the practice of medicine is part of health care. Too frequently people mistake public diplomacy for one or another of its tangible products, such as television production, cultural presentations, academic exchanges, public speaking or press and publications work. It’s like mistaking the aspirin pills for the practice of medicine.
The Council organizes and conducts training, and Council members maintain contact and engage with public diplomatists working at the United States Department of State and related foreign affairs agencies. Under the pages listed on the left, you will find information about our activities and on the professional practice of public diplomacy. We invite suggestions from practitioners regarding other information to place here, and invite you to make contact with the Council. Write us at PDC@publicdiplomacycouncil.org.
Professional Practice: Our Approach
Public diplomacy is a tool in the diplomat’s briefcase, a process in the foreign policy community and a tangible and measurable product. The ability to weave public diplomacy into strategy is a characteristic of successful foreign affairs professionals.
As a tool, public diplomacy is an instrument of national power (like military, economic or other instruments). It can be a means to achieve a national goal or objective. Equally important public diplomacy offers a set of principles to shape our own thinking and actions. Public diplomacy brings with it a certain useful consciousness of the interlocutor’s perceptions, understanding, and motives.
As a process, public diplomacy impels diplomats and other practitioners to listen, to understand and to engage before acting; it causes leaders to develop plans and synchronize their communication with other instruments of national power (DIMES—diplomatic, informational, military, economic, and social/cultural). Importantly, the process of public diplomacy obliges everyone in government to coordinate actions and messages.
As products, public diplomacy takes the form of actions (programs, activities, products and deeds) and messages (ideas, themes, words and values). Generally speaking, public diplomacy products can be measured and evaluated. They are tangible and visible, at least to the participants.
As a leadership characteristic, public diplomacy reflects a fundamental outlook and approach. It implies a willingness to listen, to understand, to engage in two-way or multilateral dialogue before deciding what to say or do.
Public diplomacy encourages leaders to seek congruence between actions and words, to continually assess and adjust as changes occur, and to trust in the audience’s good judgment.