www.MountainRunner.us

A Blog on Understanding, Informing, Empowering, and Influencing Global Publics, published by Matt Armstrong

American Avatar: The United States in the Global Imagination


One of the most important public diplomacy books you have never heard of is American Avatar: The United States in the Global Imagination by Barry Sanders.  An adjunct professor of Communications Studies at UCLA, an international corporate lawyer, President of the Board of Commissioners of the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, Barry provides a unique, fascinating, and worthwhile exploration of the opportunities and risks of American global engagement.

In American Avatar, Barry looks at narratives, their foundations and  trajectories.  ”Now more than ever,” Barry writes, “foreign views of the United States also affects its national security.”

As a panelist at the November 2011 meeting of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, Barry explained that stories at the heart of everything: the study and practice of law, movies, group membership, and more.

Barry was in DC to discuss his book earlier this month.  Watch this meeting and read a discussion here.

I recommend Barry’s book for students and practitioners of strategic communication and public diplomacy.

Freedom of and to information and public confidence

On March 28, 2012, Gallup and the BBG will discuss how the world’s populations perceive media freedom within their countries and citizens’ confidence in their media.

The one-hour public meeting starts at 10:00am at the Gallup building at 901 F Street, NW, Washington, DC.  RSVP at this link.

Featured will be BBG Governor Michael Meehan, Gallup CEO Jim Clifton, BBG Director of Strategy and Director Bruce Sherman, and Gallup Research Consultant Cynthia English.

See also:

 

SAGE: independent strategic communication for America

Public opinion has always had a major role in foreign policy, national security, and a strong economy.  And yet, there is little argument that the United States lags in its ability to effectively understand, inform, engage, and empower people in the conduct of foreign affairs.  The notable exception is domestic politics, but success in the global arena has typically been the product of a few smart people often working around the system.  Call it public diplomacy or strategic communication, the ability to communicate and empower is essential to diplomacy, development, and defense, all of which are the foundation for any country’s, or organization’s, physical and economic security.

Strengthening America’s Global Engagement, or SAGE, is intended to provide America a “flexible, entrepreneurial, and tech-savvy partner” that can work in situations and other partners that the U.S. Government cannot or should not to “collaborate, support, and enhance initiatives” of engagement.

Yesterday, the business plan for SAGE was publicly released at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.  Speaking were Jane Harmon, Paula Dobriansky, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Brad Minnick, and Goli Ameri.

Download the final plan at MountainRunner: SAGE: creating an independent strategic communication organization for America (PDF, 1.3mb).
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A Call to Action on Public Diplomacy

By Morris “Bud” Jacobs

The mission of public diplomacy is generally described as seeking to “understand, engage, inform and influence” foreign publics and elites in support of national policy objectives. Public diplomacy has been practiced, in one form or another, for a long time – think Benjamin Franklin in France, charming the nobility to garner support for the American colonies in their struggle for independence. Its modern origins include the first broadcast of the Voice of America in February 1942 (VOA celebrates its 70th anniversary this spring) and the establishment of the Office of War Information in June of that year.

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The President’s National Framework for Strategic Communication (and Public Diplomacy) for 2012

It should be common knowledge that the “information consequences of policy ought always be taken into account, and the information man ought always to be consulted. This statement, from 1951, is reflected in Eisenhower’s dictum of the next year that “everything we say, everything we do, and everything we fail to say or do will have its impact in other lands.” It was understood then that words and deeds needed more than just synchronization: public opinion could be leveraged to support and further the execution of foreign policy.

What was true then is more so in a modern communication environment of empowerment. The interconnected systems of Now Media, spanning offline and online mediums, democratizes influence, and undermines traditional models of identity and allegiance as demands on assimilation fade as “hyphens” become commas. What emerges is a new marketplace for loyalty that bypasses traditional barriers of time, geography, authority, hierarchy, culture, and language. Information flows much faster; at times it is instantaneous, decreasing the time allowed to digest and comprehend the information, let alone respond to it. Further, information is now persistent, allowing for time-shifted consumption and reuse, for ill or for good. People too can travel the globe with greater ease and increased speed.

It is in this evolving environment that the President issued an updated “National Framework for Strategic Communication” for 2012 (3.8mb PDF, note: the PDF has been fixed and should be once again visible to all). This report updates the 2010 report issued last March that was little more than a narrative on how the Government was organized for strategic communication. The report is required under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2009.

Some highlights from the 2012 Framework:
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A Brief History of the Smith-Mundt Act and Why Changing It Matters

Modern international relations lie between peoples, not merely governments.

The above quote comes from the State Department report entitled Memorandum on the Postwar International Information Program of the United States.  The report, completed in July 1945, stemmed from a growing belief in 1943 that the U.S. Government would need a peacetime information service after the war.  The report captured the contemporary communication environment, discussed proposals to make access to news and information protected by international agreements, and the need to provide news services to areas commercial media could not reach.

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Event: Global Reach: Innovative Communication for a New Diplomacy

Readers may be interested in an upcoming discussion with the French on their perspective of diplomacy in the modern communication environment.  Global Reach: Innovative Communication for a New Diplomacy with Bernard Valero, Spokesman, Head of the Press and Communication Office, Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, Embassy of France, will take place Thursday, Friday 23, at 10:30am – Noon at 1717 Massachusetts Ave NW in Washington (the Johns Hopkins DC Center).

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“An inch closer feels like a good mile” – Foreign Relations moves on Tara’s nomination

Today’s business meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee includes Tara Sonenshine, nominee for Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy (and Public Affairs).  While perfunctory and the time spent on Tara and her cohort will be measured in single-digit minutes (all the real work is done before the business meeting), it is a major move toward confirmation.

Indeed, by the time you read this, Tara’s nomination was already referred to the floor.  Next up: confirmation by the Senate.

How long will the Senate take confirm Tara?  No one knows.  The Senate has all but come to a halt on nominations, allowing only a few through.  One insider labeled the GOP hold on nominations as the “How-Dare-the-President-Make-SoCalled-Recess-Appointments Hold.”

The State Department, in a show of its confidence in the Senate last week, named Amb. Kathleenn Stephens as Acting Under Secretary.  Amb. Stephens, by the way, is a good choice, a Foreign Service Officer with the rank of Career Minister, whose service as U/S will undoubtedly be impacted by the unknown of how long she will serve, an unfortunate and common reality of this particular job.  Place your bets: Will she serve until the election, or beyond, or until the end of the month?

Continue reading ““An inch closer feels like a good mile” – Foreign Relations moves on Tara’s nomination” »

Whisper of America?

By Alan Heil

Under the Obama administration’s proposed FY 13 budget, the potential damage to the nation’s flagship publicly funded overseas network, the Voice of America, would be unprecedented if Congress approves it.  Contrast the reductions:  VOA faces net cuts totaling $17 million, compared with a reduction of $731,000 for its sister network, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

The Voice of America, now in its 70th year, faces a far larger reduction, proportionally, than either the U.S. international broadcasting administrative support bureaucracy or collectively, the four other networks in the system.  They are:  RFE/RL, Radio Free Asia, Middle East Broadcasting Network, and Radio-TV Marti.  Cuts of VOA staff who actually put programs on the air are the principal targets of the cuts, across the board.  Such hemorrhaging must be halted if the free flow of information from America to the world is to be secured for the millennial generation so curious about our nation and its role in the century ahead.

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R we to have a new “acting” Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy (and Public Affairs)?

There’s word there will be a new “acting” Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy (and Public Affairs) as early as next week.  The current “acting” for R, as it is known at Foggy Bottom, is Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Ann Stock.  I have not heard a single negative comment on Ann’s leadership while the “acting” U/S, except for early concerns she’d pay less attention to ECA.  However, I’ve also heard no complaints about the “acting” leader of ECA in Ann’s “absence,” Principle Deputy Assistant Secretary Adam Ereli.

So what is the reason for replacing Ann? Continue reading “R we to have a new “acting” Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy (and Public Affairs)?” »