Back to the Future of Public Diplomacy

The following post was written by Global Wire Associates Managing Director Talia Whyte.

In preparation for my “busy season” – UN Week – I do my usual research on the latest trends in public diplomacy, media development and strategic communication.  As you may recall from last year, I did some interviews with those working in those fields and wrote an article on how technology is redefining diplomatic relations.  New media has created some opportunities, as well as new challenges, for public diplomacy officers worldwide.  However, in order to understand the future of this ever changing field, you have to also understand the history of strategic global communications, especially with regards to the United States.

The latest book I was given to review is also relevant to my research.  Justin Hart’s new book, Empire of Ideas: The Origins of Public Diplomacy and the Transformation of U.S. Foreign Policy, covers the origins of the “America Century, a period between 1936 and 1953 first introduced by media mogul Henry Luce, when foreign policymakers began to think about America’s image in the world and how to shape it.

Public diplomacy is a very broad term, and means different things in different countries.  For the purposes of this article, I will use definitions used by the U.S. State Department over the years.

According to the Planning Group for Integration of USIA into the State Department (June 20, 1997), “Public Diplomacy seeks to promote the national interest of the United States through understanding, informing and influencing foreign audiences.”

The United States Information Agency (USIA), the U.S. government’s public diplomacy arm and, from 1953 to 1999, the largest full service public relation organization in the world said this about their mission: “Public diplomacy seeks to promote the national interest and the national security of the United States through understanding, informing, and influencing foreign publics and broadening dialogue between American citizens and institutions and their counterparts abroad.”

Also, “Public Diplomacy refers to government-sponsored programs intended to inform or influence public opinion in other countries; its chief instruments are publications, motion pictures, cultural exchanges, radio and television,” according to the 1987 edition of the Dictionary of International Relations Terms.

To read the rest of this article, click here.

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