Sometimes understanding the difference between public diplomacy, public affairs and strategic communication can be challenging. This is especially true in the absence of accepted principles and practices. The result is confusion on the roles and responsibilities and misaligned titles.
The below quote is real and from a conversation I had a while ago about an setting up an event to communicate directly with the public, bypassing mainstream media. The person in question could not green light the event, because, as the person said,
I have to run it by public affairs because I don’t do public diplomacy.
To make this a hat trick, the speaker was a Director of Strategic Communication. Some readers will look at this and say, “huh?” while others will get it (and even say “OMG!”). The only way this could get more convoluted is by adding Information Operations or PSYOP to the sentence.
The purpose of this anecdote isn’t to mock the person in question but to highlight that we still have a way to go to get on track.
One thought on “Communicating with the public”
By the same token, the State Department’s Dipnote blog is run out of the Public Affairs section, so it has a defacto within-country communication mission. Yet it attracts a lot of viewers and commenters from people in other countries. Doesn’t that make it a public diplomacy effort, too? Folks I’ve talked with at State don’t have a problem with this, so maybe there is hope that these anachronistic “cylinders of excellence” are beginning to dissolve in certain areas of the gubmint.
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