It is clear from the general discourse surrounding the terms public diplomacy, strategic communication (and a recommended alternative “Signaling Integration” to be announced), and global engagement that each of these terms face their own inadequacies. None of them can be used to capture the essential elements required to convey the value, importance, and imperative of addressing the failings at the strategic down to the tactical levels, overcoming the institutional friction to adapt to modern requirements that may be simultaneously local, regional, and global. As each of the aforementioned terms are tainted in some way or another, I recommend a new label that is comprehensive, simple, and flexible.
Communication and Engagement captures the essential elements of public diplomacy and strategic communication and moves beyond issues of “ownership” (is it State, Defense, Homeland Security, etc), geography, temporal issues (tactical or strategic, of the moment or enduring), and means.
Communication and Engagement encompasses information activities from government broadcasting to interaction with audiences and media, humanitarian aid and disaster relief, cultural and educational and military exchanges, foreign aid and development programs, global information campaigns on water and food challenges, and more. It is medium inclusive in that it encompasses online and offline interactions without concern of scale from the individual to the global level.
We are mired in definitions and while introducing a new term poses its own risk, Communication and Engagement is generic and simple enough to efficiently and effectively convey its purpose and meaning.
The absence of guidance and direction for the US Government’s interaction with global audiences in the National Security Strategy in favor of a “federated approach” highlights the need for clear national guidance and direction. In a previous post, I asked whether we should have a national strategy for public diplomacy and strategic communication. Dennis Murphy, a professor at the US Army War College, echoed Dan Kuehl, a professor at the National Defense University (note a pattern?), in suggesting we need a national strategy on information. Scott gave examples of the absence of “integrated plans and approaches” that consider tactical, on the ground realities.
A National Strategy on Communication and Engagement would naturally sit above the current constrained discourse about what is and is not included and provide the necessary support and impetus to move truly comprehensive and integrated efforts.
What are your thoughts?
- Do we need a National Strategy on Public Diplomacy and Strategic Communication? from 24 May 2010.
- Defining Public Diplomacy (again) from 14 July 2009.
- Defining Public Diplomacy from 17 November 2008.