Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Growing Challenge of PD

Public diplomacy is a powerful tool to connect with audiences, influence decision makers and communicate foreign policy objectives. As the field of PD has emerged, many challenges and opportunities have developed. PD practitioners are constantly seeking new, innovative and relevant ways to impact their audience and fulfill foreign policy goals. Practitioners are faced with the challenge of implementing their programs with budget constraints, overcoming technological and cultural barriers, while also communicating a message that is not perceived as propaganda.

Exchange programs have most notably been the most traditional way to influence foreign audiences outside of modern media. As technology has advanced, virtual exchange has become popular and an effective means to influence those that may not have the opportunity to physically visit the United States. Public diplomacy experienced a time where efforts were strictly targeted at foreign governments but now is focusing on influencing civil society and the general community. The motivation behind influencing the wider public is that the foreign government within that country will be more willing to cooperate if their people have an affinity for the United States. Identifying creative ways to influence the public is one of the main challenges to the work of public diplomacy. However, measuring these outcomes is an even more strenuous task that PD practitioners must constantly grapple with. There are many new opportunities available for doing the work of public diplomacy, which include collaborating with local citizens on projects focused on music, food, culture, entertainment and education. The U.S has a growing role of supporting democracy, freedom and equality, which also contributes to public diplomacy efforts. As argued by the Last 3 Feet, public diplomacy practitioners must rise to the challenge and continue to strengthen their personal engagement through more creative means. Social media and the Internet must only be a supplemental component to people- to- people interaction.


  1. This is a nice and succinct blog post. You highlight one of the major challenges of public diplomacy – how to measure it. A better system of measuring outcomes and impact could have a huge impact on whether or not Congress decides to fully fund public diplomacy programming. How we measure public diplomacy also makes a difference in how we evaluate whether a specific public diplomacy initiative is effective or not. You mention that practitioners are constantly looking for new sources of “innovation” or ways for them to expand their field into the future. I think the social media revolution plays a large role in this transformation. I agree that people-to-people interaction is vital to public diplomacy, but there is also value in screen-to-screen diplomacy. Practitioners must go where their audiences are gathering and today that place just so happens to be on the Internet. The “last three feet” is probably now more like the “last three clicks” in that practitioners need to draw their online audiences closer together and provide an open forum in which to engage them in a meaningful dialogue.

  2. Amanda:

    This is a great response. I especially like how you mention the " last three clicks". As more international populations and audience become connected through the Internet, Congress and other stakeholders must willing to make this shift and dedicate the necessary resources to this endeavor. These stakeholders must also be willing to change their measurement and evaluation guidelines and understand that online engagement cannot be measured the same as people- to people engagement.