The emergence of the new public diplomacy has created a vast array of conundrums for the established diplomatic community and their ministries of foreign affairs. One of the biggest challenges in this regard is how to integrate this new area in the diplomatic organization. The very nature of public diplomacy is to seem open and outreaching which historically has not been one of the strongest suits of the diplomatic corps – who always has had an aura of secrecy and inapproachability about it. This is because as mentioned earlier partly because it has previously been necessary for them to conduct negotiations with counterparts and to investigate situations of the countries they are stationed in – neither of which is an area conducive to a culture of openness. (Hocking 2007: 35-40)
The reason openness is a necessity for successful public diplomacy is not only that it targets foreign publics but also that it is useful to include other organizations in parts of the public diplomacy strategies. Cooperation with NGOs, the private sector (including mass media) or other state organizations (i.e. ministries of education, trade/economy or culture) are all obvious means of enhancing the impacts of the strategies as the ministries of foreign affairs will inevitably have limited resources and connections. (van Ham 2003: 432-433)
These groupings and organizations are necessary to include in any public diplomacy strategy as they have expertise knowledge in areas the ministry of foreign affairs and their staff lacks. Furthermore the incorporation of NGOs and civil society can give an aura of credibility to public diplomacy initiatives which government officials would never be able to do – especially towards potentially hostile population segments. The involvement of non-governmental actors should both include people and organizations in the sending and receiving countries and could include journalists, universities, individual academics, businessmen or artists just to mention a few. The most interesting for public diplomacy planners are to get people and organizations involved with the strategy in the receiving country, but it will often be necessary to recruit people in the sending country first to give the initiative credibility. One of the big challenges for the traditional diplomacy will therefore be to include more actors and begin to show more openness. (Riordan 2007: 90-91)
Three dimensions of public diplomacy
Public diplomacy activities can roughly be divided in to three dimensions depending on the specific needs in different scenarios. These three dimensions are reactive, proactive and relationship building – and can be directed towards the political/military, economic or societal/cultural areas or any combination of these. The reactive variation of public diplomacy practice centers on news management and is a very short term strategy to spread the official opinion of the government about any news affecting it in any way. The proactive approach is a medium term strategy to actively create positive news regarding any messages governments want to send out – for example through the organization of events and activities. Finally the relationship building approach is the long term strategy to create, maintain and improve relations between foreign people and the sending country. This takes years of funding of programs of for example scholarship sponsoring. Below follows a more in depth presentation of the three dimensions. (Leonard 2002: 10-11)
This dimension of public diplomacy includes a short term rapid response strategy. The main idea behind this approach is that when something happens in the world which might affect people’s perception of a government it is necessary to react fast and ensure the government’s official positions are explained and clarified to the public. One major obstacle for this approach is that it is very difficult to tailor a message to a certain group of people as most people around the world will have access to more or less the same information and will also hear what government officials has to say about an issue. This can be illustrated very well with following quote of Colin Powell about his time in the Gulf War where he told his staff:
“’Remember, when we are out there on television, communicating instantaneously around the world, we’re talking to five audiences.’ One, the reporters who ask the question – important audience. Second audience, the American people who are watching. The third audience, 170 capitals who may have an interest in what the subject is. Fourth, you are talking to your enemy. It was a unique situation to know that your enemy was getting the clearest indication of your intentions by watching you on television at the same time you were giving that message. And fifth, you were talking to the troops. Their lives were on the line.” (Leonard 2002: 12-13)
This illustrates the dilemma practitioners of public diplomacy faces when confronted with conventional mass media. It is problematic to convey a message in a rhetoric which will not be misconstrued by some of the audience. The public diplomacy plans can easily be scrapped in favor of pleasing domestic crowds.
A way to direct the correct communication to a chosen foreign public or grouping in another country to the fullest effect is to increase support and potentially funding for local media. By funneling the messages which is in correlation with the public diplomacy strategy through local media with a limited audience, it is easier to tailor a message which will provide a satisfactory result in relation to this local audience. This approach can be enhanced further if one of the locals convey this message as the audience will believe more in one of their own than in foreign government representatives – especially in areas hostile towards the sending government. (Hoffman 2002: 91-93)
This dimension of public diplomacy represents the medium-term strategy which lasts for months at a time. This approach emphasizes on setting the news agenda instead of just responding to what is happening and can be done through events or organizing advertisement campaigns – where public diplomacy begins to overlap towards its related concept of nation branding. The strategic communication strategy can be aimed at improving relations in either political, economical and cultural areas or any combination of these. Events could be anything from hosting the Olympics or a summit on global warming depending on what image a country would like to promote.
The main difference from the first dimension here is thereby that it in the second dimension is possible for the actor to put more planning and consideration in to the messages they send out and can more easily target the people and organizations they would like to affect with the message or image they send out. A problem within this area in the meantime is that different state organizations will often have diverging interests in what image they want to promote. An example here could be whether to promote a country’s more traditional sides to promote tourism or the more modern sides to promote investments. (Leonard 2002: 11, 14-17)
A first hand example of this was the dilemma the commercial section of the Danish embassy in Japan was standing in when they had they were publishing the magazine Hello Denmark to the Japanese public. As the two main interests for the Danish strategy towards Japan was to attract investments and to increase tourism, they had to promote an image of an idyllic country with small villages and a highly technologically modern country well worthwhile investing in.
The third and last dimension of public diplomacy is relationship building – this is the most long term strategy used and is potentially the most significant. The relationship building programs stretches over years and is aimed at giving deep insight to a select group of people of one’s country through various schemes such as scholarships and network creation. A notable element to this approach is that the planning governmental organization plays a secondary/facilitating role as the approach is mainly focused on establishing networks between likeminded people across borders – be it politicians, academics, artists or businessmen. A truly successful relationship building public diplomacy effort will be very costly as it will have to administer, plan and sponsor the exchange of a significant amount of people in order for it to have a decent impact. (Leonard 2002: 18-20)
Probably the most important relationship building scheme is educational exchange. If governments set up beneficial conditions for foreigners to come to their country to study for months or years they are sure to get a nuanced picture of the country they are staying. These will possibly then function as de facto ambassadors for the country they had been towards their friends or families. An added bonus is that some of these people who had been enjoying the benefits of such an exchange program might rise to prominent positions within their own countries. It is estimated that 1500 cabinet-level ministers and 200 current and former heads of state has been participating in the American International Visitors Program. (Ross 2003: 27)
A potentially very important area to create ties and foster communication is between political parties across borders. Facilitating meetings between members of similar political parties and not just government officials and cabinet members will likely provide increased understanding both between politicians but could secondarily affect the message these politicians send out to their respective constituencies. An example of this is Konrad Adenauer Stiftung which is a German organization which promotes contact between Christian Democrat parties in different countries and is funded by the state. (Leonard 2002b: 55)