Thursday, April 28, 2011

Public Diplomacy shifts to Social Media

Recently, I found this interesting article that, a major global public diplomacy website is shutting down. States Department that organized the portal decided that the portal is not as effective anymore. It decided to switch its efforts and information to social media. From now to distribute the information they will use Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Is that a good decision? In my opinion some organization are blinded by today’s technological progress and development. Social media interaction can be very effective. However, not until it is used appropriate way. The State Department cannot forget that the aspects of social media is not anymore for sending information but also to engage the public and create relationship with the target audience. Without this concept in mind it is sure that its attempt could be a big failure. Many companies and organizations found out about it very fast by spending most of their promotion budget on social media while not forming a good SM strategy, which in consequence brought to a huge losses.(example: Pepsi Refresh Project) But let’s see what the future will bring for the State Department and its public diplomacy shift.

What do you think about this?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Mondays of Spanish Rock and PD

A few weeks ago a friend messaged me about going to see a concert. I had not heard of the band before, but really anything that would wake me up on a Monday night after a two and a half hour art history lecture on the Northern Renaissance (there are only so many etchings of the Christ Child you want to see at 7 pm) sounded like a fantastic adventure. Moreover, anything that could pull me away from the hair-pulling-tear-inducing thoughts of post-graduation plans seemed like an excellent plan. Thus, on a Monday in early April I gleefully ran out of my art history classroom--leaving the religious iconography and paintings of men with enormous beard and big bellies in the art center to hop in a cab to go to downtown.

My music-lover friend described the band we were off to see as the Spanish Phoenix. Phoenix, a French band who sing in English happen to be one of my favorites, so really she could have said, three Spanish men are coming to this venue and lipsynching to Phoenix songs and I would have gladly shelled out $10. Luckily, the band, Polock (not Jackson) turned out to be a fantastic act--with their own songs and vibe. The venue we were at was really tiny and intimate--it was actually part of a historic synagogue in downtown--Sixth & I Synagogue. Thus, it was easy to bump into new people and really get to know these bed-headed Spanish rockers. I mention the size of the venue as it was very easy to see the demographics of the crowd. I was very surprised to see that over half the people in the crowd were actually natives of Spain.

Suddenly, I was being treated to a concert and a cultural diplomacy event... Spain: 1, Kristi: 0. As I looked around the room, my eyes fell across a small booklet, the 2011 "Spanish Cultural Program: Spring Season." I turned over the booklet and read that the event was actually being hosted by the embassy of Spain. I nabbed one of the booklets as a token of Spanish public diplomacy and as my music-guru friend went for some sangria (yes, it was basically a Monday night in Barcelona), my PD-brain went into overdrive. I have also believed in the cross-boundary power of music, but here I was witnessing it as a tool of Public Diplomacy. I tried to explain this to my Public Comm-major friend, but my excited yelps of "OMGPDPOLOCKSPANISHMUSICSOGOODBECAUSE,YOUSEECULTURALDIPLOMACYISVITAL..."
were returned with a look of "perhaps, we should focus on the music, young crazed one."

I know have my Spanish Cultural Program Booklet stashed on my dresser--in case I want to dabble in some cultural diplomacy another Monday night...

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Royal Wedding with a PD Flourish!

I will openly admit that I have gone a bit mad with Royal Wedding fever. Yes, it is true...even serious students fall into this black hole of daily "Royals" section readings... There is however, only so much time a young soon-to-be graduate can spend thinking about the impending doom which is graduation until he or she runs to the nearest computer to check out the "Royal" Facebook page (yes, I have liked it).

Thus, on a Friday night after some tea at Tryst and before a movie in Bethesda, another Anglophile and I went to Barnes and Noble to burn some time before becoming deeply engrossed in a "Jane Eyre" cinematic masterpiece. My anglo-loving friend and I studied abroad in London last year so anytime we come together it is a quiet sob-fest about missing tea and crumpets and Mary Poppins-accents. Thus, it was necessary that we buy our hot chocolates and then proceed to leaf through (study with great intent and purpose) the approximately 12 magazines dedicated to everything Will and Kate. At the end of our intense review session of the royal family an older gentleman probably reading some Keats or Ikenberry stopped us and asked us what exactly were we so excited about for the wedding. I tried to think of something pertinent other than--"so we can expertly judge her wedding dress and tiara selection, sir," so I came up with "I mean the whole family is just fascinating!" then quickly looked at my friend to say, we should probably leave before we find out this man will be conducting interviews at jobs we would like...

After our movie and popcorn extravaganza, I came home and thought about this man's question some more... Specifically, I thought about the PD ramifications of the wedding. Yes, I really did. I am that much of a royal wedding-PD nerd. The royal wedding is expected to bring in over 2 billion viewers for--a wedding? No, it is more than a pretty young couple and a very large cathedral. In fact, the royal wedding is fantastic advocacy and cultural diplomacy (thank you, Nick Cull) for the UK. The UK has recently been in the news for its high unemployment, student protests and well, everything Will and Kate. The wedding of the future King of England is not important historically, as he will someday be a ruling monarch, but it also brings in a generation of new audiences (do not tell me you have not heard you parents talk about Charles and Di's wedding and those huge, puffy sleeves of her's) to see British history in the making. Furthermore, tourism has already massively increased in London; I can only imagine the effects of a fairytale on the city.

A friend of mine recently pointed out, 8% of the British people are on the dole and now they will be paying more taxes for the royal wedding--how is this fair? Indeed, unemployment is high and the British people will pay money toward public services used on the wedding day. However, the British monarchy is something inherently special and important to the British people. I believe that come the big day, the Brits will be lining the streets (and the pubs) to glimpse a happy occasion in their country. Who knows, perhaps a young person in a country across the world watching the wedding will be so enamored with the event and the UK, that he or she will forever support the UK state--if the fairytale of Will and Kate can happen, why not that one?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Interesting tactics of Polish nation branding by tourism

Rise of tourism in Poland could be very beneficial because it helps to brand the nation and brings economic development. Poland’s tourism brings only in 6% of the GDP. That is why Poland should start approaching the international public by interesting programs and good promotions. Especially in the aspect that coming to Poland could be lot cheaper than to Western Europe, government executives should use that advantage.

Good example of the benefits that international program bring was shown to Poland after announcement of EURO 2012 hosts. The interest in Poland grew instantly. Media and tourists start to research Poland its culture, customs, language and tourists spots. Well, now Poland should make a step forward and do the best to attract as much tourists as possible. However, as of today the Republic does not have even a good television add for the international audience and the EURO is next year. A little bit embarrassing.

What is even more interesting, instead of promoting the EURO 2012 and approaching the international public, the Ministry of Sports and Tourism focuses on a new program with Jordan to boost tourism?! Would not the approach of more than one country be more beneficial? I understand that Jordan has 1 million people traveling abroad and love soccer, but in reality how many of them will come to Poland. There is around 5 billion soccer fans in the world, why not approach them all?! Well Even though I am Polish I still cannot get the reasoning of government’s moves. …. lost chance and lost opportunity.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Edward Steichen: The Greatest Figure in American Cultural Diplomacy

The last week of classes has arrived and along with it more paper writing than I could have ever really imagined (senior year is so much fun!) and an intense loathing for students on the Quad doing things like playing Frisbee or enjoying the sunshine, basically having a life. Yesterday, my overly caffeinated mind hit a low point when upon seeing a group of students laughing and tossing around a football, I looked at a friend and said “How can they be playing football right now!?” Clearly, DC’s sunshine and warm weather has not imbued me with a sense of humanity or rationality.

Luckily, I was saved once again by the brilliant Helen Langa and her class on Modern Art in the U.S.: 1935-1970. Dr. Langa’s lecture focused on photography (“I guess every girl goes through a photography phase. You know, horses…” Lost in Translation) and all of a sudden, in between Robert Frank (you are sublime) and Diane Arbus (Nicole Kidman did not do you justice) my professor used the words “cultural diplomacy.” Yes, it seems as if cultural diplomacy is now tiptoeing into my non-IR world and disguising itself not with a moustache and bowler hat, but with art exhibits and my very personable art professor. Dr. Langa was speaking of the exhibit, The Family of Man, which was held at the MoMa in 1955. Edward Steichen, Directory of Photography at the MoMa, narrowed down 2 million photographs from around the world to 503 photographs to be presented in the museum. The photographs were displayed using advertising and publicity techniques and interspersed with the photographs were small texts and poetry. After its stay in the MoMa, the exhibition then toured 37 different countries for eight years. The concept of the exhibition was to show the commonalities of all people from around the globe. Steichen wanted to show the universality of the human experience: life, death, love, war, pain, etc. The last photograph in the exhibition before the exit was a picture of a huge mushroom cloud after the explosion of an atomic bomb. Thus, the viewer was reminded of the fragility of life and the imminent and terrible danger of nuclear weapons. The exhibition was parlayed into a book with an introduction by the poet Carl Sandburg (coincidentally, Steichen’s brother-in-law). The book, which is still in print (and available on Amazon for $19.55, according to Dr. Langa), holds the Sandburg poem, Names, which includes these lines:

“There is only one man in the world and his name is All Men/There is only one woman in the world and her name is All Women/There is only one child in the world and the child’s name is All Children.”

So as Professor Langa talks about how this amazed her ten-year old self and I think how this book amazes my twenty-one-year old self, Langa continues that while Steichen did curate the exhibition, there was a large interplay between the MoMa, in particular, Steichen, the State Department and USIA (the United States Information Agency). The exhibition while depicting the universal traits of man, was also an incredible achievement for U.S. cultural diplomacy. The exhibition was part of “winning the hearts and minds” of people around the globe and instilling American, democratic values during the Cold War. As the exhibit traveled across the world, at its various installations the museums/galleries would emphasize its ties to the locale, thereby showing the similarity of American values to the values of the specific area (Kennedy). The Family of Man was not the first or last exhibition of photography used to showcase U.S. cultural diplomacy. In fact, an exhibition of photography from Ground Zero named, After September 11 also toured the world from 2002 to 2004 and visited nearly 60 countries. (Kennedy)
On a side note, as Dr. Langa rightfully pointed out, though the exhibition displayed a wide range of human emotions and experiences, there was no representation of injustices occurring around the world. Especially during the time of segregation, the start of the second wave of the feminist movement and that is the U.S. alone, not to mention the troubles and human injustices in other countries, it is telling that photographs of these moments were never shown.

Alas, I digress and there is only so much time you can spend procrastinating on blog posts instead of doing homework and applying for jobs (and by that I mean, scouring for jobs and realizing that you should have just applied to grad school right away and that no, it is not realistic that the Travel Channel will call you and decide that you are the perfect new host for a show about eating and traveling abroad on a student budget). Though, perhaps the State Department is looking for a normally quite chic, right now quite disheveled recent graduate who would like to assist in the exhibition of The Family of Man 2.0??? One can hope!

Liam Kennedy
International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944-)Vol. 79, No. 2 (Mar., 2003), pp. 315-326

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Credibility is Key

In a recent post by Marc Lynch, he writes about U.S. public diplomacy in the Arab countries and towards the Muslim population in general. Lynch discusses how the U.S. has been successful in their PD efforts, which is quite a positive view in my opinion because more often I have heard negative feedback from the wake of the post-Cairo speech agenda. The U.S. is due some credit because we have taken strong steps by way of engaging youth, focusing on entrepreneurship and science and technology promotion in Arab nations. As Lynch indicates, “there are pockets of progress, but overall public diplomacy in the region has been distressingly weak”, thus what is the next step for the U.S.?

Recently, at the U.S. Islamic-World Forum, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, set forth her vision on how to deal with the changes that resulted from the uprisings. In her speech, Clinton stated that the United States would stand firm with the people of Tunisia and Egypt to ensure their rights and liberties, which is an important message for the people within those countries to hear. It is important for our PD efforts to say this, but words are not the only important thing. Rhetoric only goes so far. Like with Obama’s groundbreaking Cairo speech, which promised new beginnings, there needs to be significant action behind our rhetoric to ensure we maintain the credibility of our PD. Credibility is vital because without the efforts of the U.S. mean nothing. Post-Cairo speech, there was disappointment because many felt that the U.S. had not lived up to Obama’s many promises. The U.S. has made strides in engaging the Arab and Muslim world, but there is still a lot that needs to be done. Thus Secretary Clinton’s words are powerful, but there needs to be visible action behind them if the U.S. really wants to make progress in the Middle East.

Related Links:

Monday, April 11, 2011

Queen Bees and Wannabees

Professor Gary Rawnsley, from the University of Leeds, recently posted on his Public Diplomacy blog his thoughts on the recent U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations report on Chinese and U.S. public diplomacy. Rawnsley asserts that the report suggests that China is winning a battle of public diplomacy, while the United States is lagging behind and must “catch-up.” “This a peculiar attitude towards public diplomacy and soft power which should be designed around foreign policy objectives, not who is perceived to be more popular or whose public diplomacy is attracting more government resources” (Rawnsley 2011).

After perusing the report, I must agree with Professor Rawnsley. The United States does not have to act the role of the ‘queen bee’ to assert its dominance in the world arena. By turning on the television in another country one can see the far-reaching power of American soft power and public diplomacy. While MTV and Grey’s Anatomy may be in different languages, they are still American television shows and still presenting American values and norms. However, when turning on the television in my apartment in the United States, or my flat in London, or my tiny room in Berlin, I did not encounter any Chinese television shows dubbed in English or German.

This is not to say that China has not been active in its assertion of its soft power or that it has no public diplomacy. Senator Lugar stated in the beginning of the hearing “the United States has only five American Centers in all of China, while China has some 70 Confucius Institutes throughout the United States” (Foreign Relations Committee—Lugar, 15 Feb 2011). Lugar presents this as China’s aggressive push to increase its presence on the world stage. Unlike Lugar, I do not see much in the way of devious intentions behind the Confucius Institutes. The United States does not need to build 70 American Centers in China, but can, as Rawnsley argues, work on its credibility and message in the realm of Public Diplomacy and foreign policy, in general. China has its own Public Diplomacy problems to deal with—mainly its mixed message as a wise and sophisticated ancient culture, while also inhibiting free speech and expression.

There is no need for the United States to engage in competition with China in its Pubic Diplomacy. After all, we have all seen the ending of Mean Girls and know what becomes of the overzealous queen bee—they are hit by a bus and/or are ostracized by their high school and must return to their friends on the math team and both the United States and China can do better than that.