Thanks, Al…

If you’re new to www.MountainRunner.us via Al Kamen’s In the Loop, welcome and browse a while. By the way, Kamen was referring to this post Fresh Start for the Broadcasting Board of Governors when he cited me and this blog. As noted in the post, Michael Meehan, like some other BBG nominees, was previously nominated to the Board by President George W. Bush. The potential (and informal) link between the BBG and State Department’s public diplomacy office may ultimately benefit State’s public diplomacy bureaucracy and mission.

See also:

Smith-Mundt Act: Facts, Myths and Recommendations

The Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 is the authorizing legislation for America’s public diplomacy and strategic communication. This three-page information sheet addresses confusion surrounding the Act and makes recommendations that are fundamental to any improvement to US public diplomacy and strategic communication. It is ironic that legislation intended to counter misinformation is itself subject to misinformation to the point few know the Act’s purpose and true application.

The following is a short three page overview written at the request of and for a (pro bono) client who is neither the State Department nor the Defense Department. Download here or read below or at Scribd.

Continue reading “Smith-Mundt Act: Facts, Myths and Recommendations

Cynthia Schneider on Cultural Diplomacy, including the surprising spread of “Idol” TV

Ambassador Cynthia Schneider looks at two international “American Idol”-style shows – one in Afghanistan, and one in the United Arab Emirates – and shows the surprising effect that these reality-TV competitions are creating in their societies.

More required reading on cultural diplomacy from Cynthia:

Cynthia gets it. Public diplomacy is about more than direct engagement and building relationships. The tactical desire to focus on the immediate payback of our policies blinds us to the slow yet enduring benefits of indirect empowerment of others.

See also:

White House nominates a new slate to the Broadcasting Board of Governors

The Broadcasting Board of Governors oversees the United States Government’s non-military broadcasting. Its function is to provide managerial guidance from talented private sector leaders. The combined audience of the broadcasting it oversees is over 171 million, an increase of 71% over 2003, according to the BBG. Programming is in 60 languages and is provided though online media, satellite, terrestrial and cable television, as well as shortwave, AM, and FM radio. Like most advisory boards, the Governors, including the Chairman, are part-timers.

The Board is to have eight members, including the Chairman, plus the Secretary of State as an ex officio member. For over a year, however, the Board barely had quorum, and only if the Secretary of State was included. Four seats on the Board have been vacant for between one year to nearly 4 years while the terms of the seated Governors expired between 3.5 and 5.5 years ago. For all the lip service to the urgency to communicate with the world, the Board has been long neglected.

Yesterday, the White House announced a whole new slate for the Broadcasting Board of Governors: Walter Isaacson, as Chairman, Michael Lynton, Susan McCue, Michael Meehan, Victor H. Ashe, Dennis Mulhaupt, Dana Perino, and S. Enders Wimbush. The announcements and bios are here and here. Isaacson has been a candidate for over six months but has rumored to have held out until all the vacancies were filled.

Change is good, but more change is needed: the Chairman must become a full-time position in order to fully support and champion the needs of US Government broadcasting.

Let’s hope the nominees are confirmed quickly.

Will the US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy be getting some attention soon?

See also:

Risk Communication in a Constrained Information Environment

Last week at the Heritage Foundation, I sat on a panel with CBS News correspondent Kim Dozier, former Director of External Affairs for FEMA Jonathon Thompson. The panel was moderated by my friend Dennis Murphy, professor at the US Army War College. The two-day event, Homeland Security’s Wicked Problems:  Developing a Research Agenda for Homeland Security, was webcast live. Our panel was on day 2 of “Wicked Problems” and is now available here or below. 

I am third to present, after Jonathon and Kim, and come in around the 43rd minute.

The proceedings for Day 1 are not yet online.

Public Diplomacy: Books, Articles, Websites #48

Courtesy of Bruce Gregory, Professor of Media and Public Affairs, George Washington University.

November 16, 2009

Intended for teachers of public diplomacy and related courses, here is an update on resources that may be of general interest.  Suggestions for future updates are welcome.

Bruce Gregory
Adjunct Professor
George Washington University
(202) 994-6350
BGregory@gwu.edu

Continue reading “Public Diplomacy: Books, Articles, Websites #48

Where’s the value added here?

There’s an interesting event tonight at Johns Hopkins, Communication Roundtable- Winning Hearts and Minds: American Public Diplomacy in the 21st Century:

What are the biggest challenges for American public diplomacy in the coming years? How will we engage with an increasingly younger and technologically savvy, global population as we move into this increasingly challenging century. Are we winning the battle for hearts and minds? And if so, whose hearts and minds are we winning?

Why is this interesting? Excluding the conversation that will take place during the two-hour event, this is interesting because of the framing by the organizers of the discourse. I’d say the biggest challenge for American public diplomacy today and the coming years is getting away from “battle for hearts and minds”, a quaint concept the event’s organizers are breathing life into. This is neither a battle to be “won” or “lost” nor do we care about their hearts and the implication of likability. The enduring struggle of the modern world is centered afar and is less about us than enemy propagandists would have us or their target audiences believe. We do not have the luxury of “winning” or “losing” and walking away to celebrate or mope.

Continue reading “Where’s the value added here?

On the road

I’ve been in DC since Sunday and haven’t had the time (or energy) to blog. I may write something tonight or tomorrow on the plane home, but more than likely not until Monday afternoon (Los Angeles time). A symposium and a conference bookend the trip, with my teaching seminar and (off the record) meetings fill the between time. 

By the way, if you think my seminar on understanding and engaging in the “now media” environment is interesting, then you’ll probably find this of interest as well.

If you are new to the blog, I suggest you explore not just what’s on the front page (including the “pinned” items at the top of the front page) but also the “Featured Posts” available from the menu bar of the blog. While all archived posts on this blog are worthwhile reading repeatedly, the Featured Posts are in some way exceptional, either because of discussions they created or shaped (online or offline) or because the content remains timely. The list is intentionally kept short, so items will drop off over time. Of course, there’s also the “popular” article Hitting Bottom at Foggy Bottom to read if you missed it before (see also this related post).

Event: Homeland Security’s Wicked Problems

Homeland Security’s Wicked Problems: Developing a Research Agenda for Homeland Security” is a two-day event co-hosted by The Heritage Foundation, Center for Strategic and International Studies, The U.S. Army War College’s Center for Strategic Leadership, and The George Washington University’s Homeland Security Policy Institute.

The location is The Heritage Foundation’s Allison Auditorium and the dates are November 12, Thursday, 9a-4p and November 13, Friday, 9a-12:30p. RSVP to attend.

I will be on the first panel Friday morning at 9:30a: Communications During Crisis: Roles, Responsibilities, and Capabilities. On the panel will be Jonathan Thompson, Executive Vice President, Systems Media Group, and former Director for External Affairs, Federal Emergency Management Agency; Kimberly Dozier, CBS News Correspondent; and Matt Armstrong, Armstrong Strategic Insights Group, LLC. Moderating is Professor Dennis Murphy, Professor of Information in Warfare, United States Army War College, Center for Strategic Leadership.

Event: iDiplomacy: empowering the private sector and citizen diplomats in the digital age

An invitation-only event of interest:

“iDiplomacy: empowering the private sector and citizen diplomats in the digital age” is a two-day symposium that will take place at The Gallup Organization in Washington DC on November 9th & 10th, 2009.  Participants come from gaming, filmed media, social media, music, tech, the Military, State Department, the Hill and the private sector.  This small, invitation-only symposium will help determine the agenda, host(s), plenary speakers, sponsors and invitees to a much larger conference to take place in 2010 that will be open to the public.

Agenda and presenter bios (which I am one) are here. Symposium attendee bios are here.

Quoting history: engaging in the information sphere

Years ago, the House Appropriations Committee opened an inquiry into “cultural diplomacy.” The response from the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs at the time was that it was a necessary response to the “enormous sums” our adversary was spending on propaganda, “possibly more than the rest of the world combined.” Below is an excerpt from the newspaper story reporting on State’s defense of its cultural efforts (details on the story are below the fold):

[Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs] said the giving of “ideas” or “propaganda” to other countries had become the “fourth arm” of foreign policy. … Congress and even the State Department did not fully appreciate its value, [the Assistant Secretary] said.

[The House Appropriations Committee Chairman] contended that most of the information [from the State Department] was “slanted” to favor the department’s views and thus constituted a “ministry of propaganda.”

[The Assistant Secretary] replied that everything that emerged from his office was “straight information”; that
any “slanted or one-sided information” always gave the source, thus removing it from the “propaganda classification.

[A]sked why [State’s Public Affairs] had more employees – 3,000, – than the entire State Department had [only four years prior], the [Assistant Secretary] explained the State Department rarely received requests for information [before] but now got an average of 34,000 a month.

Continue reading “Quoting history: engaging in the information sphere

Events: Culture’s Purpose and the Work of Cultural Diplomacy

Tomorrow, 5 November 2009, from noon to 4p at the SIS Lounge at American University is “Culture’s Purpose and the Work of Cultural Diplomacy”:

During a moment of the apparent recommitment in the United States to soft power, smart power, and the relevance of cultural diplomacy, this conference brings together key stakeholders in the future of cultural diplomacy, including members of the policy community, practitioners in public diplomacy, and academic researchers, to examine the relationship between our understanding of how culture works, the expression of democratic ideals, and how cultural diplomacy functions as part of U.S. public diplomacy.

Former Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Jim Glassman will give the keynote. Discussants include Nancy Snow (Syracuse University), Helle Dale (Heritage Foundation), and David Firestein (EastWest Institute, formerly Senior Advisor to the US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy), Frank Hodsoll (Resource Center for Cultural Engagement), John Brown (Georgetown University), Kathleen Brion (Public Diplomacy Alumni Association), and Lawrence Wohlers (Smithsonian Institution). Moderators include Craig Hayden, Amb. Anthony Quainton, and Robert Albro.

The full schedule is below. The event is organized by the International Communication Program at American University’s School of International Service and co-sponsored by the Public Diplomacy Council and www.MountainRunner.us (yes, I/this blog are co-sponsoring the event).

More information can be found at the website.

Continue reading “Events: Culture’s Purpose and the Work of Cultural Diplomacy

Reminder: Understanding and Engaging Now Media

A reminder that I’m teaching an evening course next week, Understanding and Engaging Now Media. Held over 3 consecutive evenings, each class is three hours long (6p – 9p) and is intended to make the student more aware and versed in a global information environment shaped by the convergence of “old” and “new” media.

The three sessions are divided into two modules each and include two guest lecturers.

Day 1 (10 November) covers the “Convergence of Old and New into Now Media” and barriers and constraints to operating in this environment that range from speed, trust & authenticity, legislation, and the blurred roles of consumer and producer.

Day 2 (11 November) begins with a recently retired State Department official briefing on State’s use of new media and the lessons learned. The second half of this session expands on this by examining the tools, methods, and reasons to track and engage people, sentiments, and information.

Day 3 (12 November) begins with a presentation, Adversarial Exploitation of Online Video, by an information operator. The session and the course concludes examples from the world outside national security and discussion.

If you are interested, email me or visit the website of the organization hosting the training.

Job opening: Strategic Communications Officer

Many use “strategic communication” (the singular form is most common) and “public diplomacy” as synonyms. While I have done the same, they are actually different. In the enduring debate over the definitions of “strategic communication” and “public diplomacy”, one thing is certain: strategic communication is global and public diplomacy is non-US (or external the geographic territory of the 50 United States but possibly not the territories and possessions).

It is then ironic and mildly amusing to find a job opening for a “Strategic Communications Officer” at State in USAJobs:

This position is located in the Office of Policy, Programs, and Resources supporting the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs and serves as Senior Advisor for Strategic Communications. The incumbent plays an important leadership role in proposing and developing programmatic public diplomacy initiatives within the Department and throughout the federal government.

The irony is that the Under Secretary does not to global engagement, specifically the Under Secretary does not do US engagement. That is the job of Public Affairs which she “owns” in title only. US (public affairs) and non-US (public diplomacy) engagement operations by the Under Secretary’s office is so bifurcated that the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs is operationally equal to rather than a subordinate under the Under Secretary. Unless the “Senior Advisor for Strategic Communications” is going to bridge the PA/PD gap in State, specifically within “R”, the title serves little purpose but to dilute and confuse the definition of “public diplomacy.” Is OPPR a step behind and adopting “strategic communication” at a time when the chief user of the title – DOD – backing away? Why is this position not the “Senior Advisor for Public Diplomacy”? 

US allocates more funds to anti-Iran broadcasts?

From PressTV:

image The United States has incorporated a bill into its annual military budget, which will allocate millions of dollars for Persian-language broadcasts. … US President Barack Obama signed the Victims of Iranian Censorship Act (VOICE) into law earlier this week. … Analysts in Iran say the move comes in response to the arrest of members of a US-based terrorist group — the Kingdom Assembly of Iran.

This take on VOICE by an Iranian government news agency is not surprising. What is surprising is the image in the Google News search (see above) that is a bit confusing. The image links to the same story as the headline, indicating they are the same and not a mash-up. It’s 2a, do you know where your brand is?

On VOICE itself, I wrote on the authorization for up to $55 million for State and BBG activities within the National Defense Authorization Act of 2010. As I noted before, the Senate and House defense appropriations committees – the people who put money into the checking accounts the authorizers open – did not go into their conference with VOICE on either agenda. They are unlikely to come out of conference with it, although if they did it would be significant that they are funding activities – activities they vociferously said should be funded – outside of their sandbox. Word is the defense appropriators won’t fund this but that the State Department appropriators – “foreign operations” – will, at least partially.