Defining Public Diplomacy
Public diplomacy is the direct and indirect engagement of global audiences to further America’s national interest. Public diplomacy is about marshaling the resources of the Government to engage through communications and exchanges and other activities foreign publics, including current and future foreign public opinion leaders.
Public diplomacy is based on building trust and credibility to establish relationships with ideas and people over the long term through consistent activities. Public diplomacy is only be effective when acting in support a foreign policy that is, on its own, agreeable by relevant target audiences. Public diplomacy is conducted both directly by Americans and by, with, and through foreign populations.
Public diplomacy does not operate in a vacuum. It must proactively, as well as reactively, engage global audiences in a struggle for minds and wills. It is how we combat misinformation and distortion so that our smart foreign policies can be seen for what they are: beneficial for the affected population(s). Public diplomacy is also about exposing the real world to local audiences to empower them into making informed local decisions. Public diplomacy is about bolstering morale and extending hope in depressed areas in support of a variety of efforts from education to capacity building.
Properly funded and conducted, public diplomacy provides the “feel for the street” and connections to current and future public opinion leaders. The failure to provide this today, as a result of budgetary constraints and other pressures, has allowed, even required, the intelligence community to step in, in other words, American public diplomacy wears combat boots and a cloak. Public diplomacy is about more than countering violent extremism just as America’s national security is dependent on more the use of arms.
In rethinking public diplomacy in the global “now media” information environment, it is time to reconsider the label public diplomacy and consider the term “global engagement.” This is what public diplomacy is about and effective public diplomacy requires a global approach and not a separation between so-called domestic communication offices of public affairs that “informs without influence.”