As Blake noted yesterday, the U.S. State Department’s disappointing new blog Dipnote does not mean that the new genre of diplomatic blogging has no potential. To see how it’s done right, check out the site of Sherard Cowper-Coles, the UK’s ambassador to Afghanistan.
Cowper-Coles has been blogging regularly from Kabul since Sept. 26, including four self-made YouTube videos. He has conducted interviews with a British military commander and the staff of an Afghan TV station, and shared some of his observations on Afghanistan’s culture and current events. Cowper-Coles is an engaging writer and comes off as genuinely excited by the potential of the medium.
Is it just PR? Of course. But Cowper-Coles proves that public diplomacy doesn’t have to be limited to boring photo-ops and go-nowhere initiatives. The UK Foreign Office currently has six officials blogging, including Foreign Minister David Miliband, though none of the others seems to update as regularly. One hopes they’ll take a page out of Cowper-Coles’s book.
Interesting. Then again, the UK is a place where it’s common form to use your own voice and minimize agentry of spokespersons. For example, do you know who the UK Prime Minister’s spokesperson is, alternatively known as PMS or PMOS? Is this person a man or woman? There’s an ownership of words that the UK accepts that we do not (ever watch the PMQ?). It would be great to see the FCO model here, but there’s a cultural divide, and fear of mistake, at work here.
I haven’t put much thought into how that might be addressed or bridged. Have you?