Thank you, Mom (from P&G)

If you have not seen the Proctor & Gamble marketing campaign entitled “Thank you, Mom“, you really should. An Olympic Partner for London 2012, the campaign will run for these last 100 days before the start of the summer games.  It is the largest campaign in P&G’s 174-year history.
The campaign launched with the digital release of the short film “Best Job,” a moving celebration of mom’s raising great kids and Olympians, according to a press release. The video was shot on four continents with local actors and athletes from each location — London, Rio de Janeiro, Los Angeles and Beijing — and will be found online, across social media, TV, and print.*

How might the State Department produce similar vignettes that could translate policy initiatives including women’s issues, empowering young people, and other democracy and civil society issues?

The Bureau of International Information Programs has both the technical capacity, including a HD studio and post production suite, and the creative capacity. Madison Avenue agencies (both literal and figurative) would be willing to help, as private discussions have raised and previous efforts demonstrate. This partnership would not be unusual as there is established, if perhaps forgotten, precedent that extends at least to 1951, before the USIA was established, in the form of both formal and informal advisory relationships.

Such cross-cultural outreach like this P&G campaign that supports and praises moms would likely enjoy the support of senior leadership in DC and the field. It would likely have traction with Ambassador moms and Ambassador wives. The vignettes would have a ready audience to the growing number of Facebook friends of the various State Department sites, many of which need content.

What do you think?

*Does this make the ad “old media” or “new media”? Try “now media”…

With U.S. Absent, China and Qatar step-in at UNESCO

UNESCO's Declaration of Human Rights, held by Eleanor Roosevelt
UNESCO’s Declaration of Human Rights, held by Eleanor Roosevelt

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, was established over six decades ago to be the public diplomacy organization of the West, countering the influences and false promises of Communism.  Last year, the U.S. cut its funding to UNESCO resulting in a severe budget shortfall and program elimination by the agency.
Defense News reports that immediately after the U.S. cut, China stepped in with “a first-time $8 million funding for the U.N. agency’s education program, while Qatar chipped in $20 million.”

The State Department’s “Smart Power” policy relies on UNESCO as a partner and facilitator for informing, engaging, and empowering people around the world, particularly in difficult places often low on the list of priorities.  Today, UNESCO has a role as an anti-extremist organization through developing civilian capacity and self-governance.  This mission fits in with and compliments the Departments efforts found mostly in the ever-expanding and increasingly central Office of the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights.

It is unlikely the timing of the Chinese and Qatari contributions are coincidental.  Rather, they are surely taking the opportunity to gain influence with the U.S. withdrawal.  Last month, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice testified to Congress that a “loss of U.S. clout is the price for axing funding.”

Almost exactly sixty-six years ago today, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs William Benton also urged the House Foreign Affairs Committee to support the then-proposed international agency.  The State Department was vigorously supporting UNESCO.  Some in the Department even suggested the U.S. should drop the idea of establishing a cultural and affairs office, then being debated, in favor of relying on UNESCO.

At the Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, Benton presented a statement from Secretary of State James Byrnes that UNESCO was designed to carry out recommendations of the President and others for an agency “for consistent and thorough interchange of thought and ideas.” Benton listed three basic purposes of UNESCO:

  1. Stimulate the use of the media for mass communication to advance mutual knowledge and wide true understanding among the peoples of the world;
  2. Encourage schools and other educational institutions to build “defenses of peace” in the minds of children as well as adults; and,
  3. Cooperate in the growth and sharing of useful knowledge to the peoples of the world may strive together for a better life.

Today, the concept UNESCO appears to have completed a circle, moving away from the radical opposition of the past.  Once again, it is poised to have an important role in the struggle for minds and wills.

But with the U.S. withdrawal, the need to engage and empower people, and build more secure regions, has not gone away.  Neither has the need to have other actors do the work.  Are we safe in the implicit assumption that China and Qatar will support America’s interests?


(Note: a research paper on how UNESCO was transformed from supporting anti-communism to support communism might be interesting for public diplomacy. Did the East “capture” UNESCO due to poor strategy, possibly of focusing on governments rather than people?  Are there lessons to be learned today?)

The Future of Public Diplomacy, a USC conference

The Association of Public Diplomacy Scholars at USC has their annual conference tomorrow, April 6, 2012.  The conference will provide a discussion on new technologies and emerging actors in the amorphous “thing” sometimes called public diplomacy.

The Association of Public Diplomacy Scholars invites you to join the discussion, with a half day of panels and speakers from around the world. The conference will feature an opening address by Dr. Nicholas J. Cull, director of the Master’s of Public Diplomacy program at USC, and keynote speaker Ben Hammersley, the U.K. prime minister’s ambassador to East London TechCity. We will also have panelists from the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs, United Nations Global Pulse, Facebook, Carleton University, the South East European Film Festival, the Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles, and the Brazilian Consulate in Los Angeles.

Attendance to the conference is free, but you are requested to RSVP with the USC Association of Public Diplomacy Scholars by going to this RSVP link.

The phrase “public diplomacy” is variously viewed as a concept, a bureaucracy, and/or a practice. The community craves to see the word “diplomacy” follow the word “public” and debates when the phrase does and does not appear.  Is it something defined by the objective, as Betty Hanson eloquently asked this week? Is it defined by means, by the actor? Is the term “public diplomacy” itself problematic and self-limiting, suggesting an adversarial bureaucratic relationship with other agencies, a use of the softest of “soft power” to “win hearts” and be “liked”, or activities that “influence” rather than merely “inform”, or all of the above?

Unfortunately, I will not be at the conference but I look forward to the discussions and hope the students press the opportunity to engage the uniquely qualified speakers beyond the soft and fuzzy.