Public Diplomacy: Between IR and Communications

April 28, 2010

A quick thought on conceptual frameworks:

Public diplomacy stands between International Relations (including Diplomatic Studies) and Communications.

Communications deals with what public diplomacy activities are,   how they have influence and the media environment.  IR provides the legal framework and political context for these activities.

On its own IR operates at too high a level of analysis to say very much about how PD works.  Without IR Communications fails to understand the specific problems, context,  significance of PD.

The interesting thing is that if we go back to the ‘behavioral revolution’ in IR in the 1960s this divergence between IR and Communications is much smaller but that’s a subject for another post.


  1. I just finished reviewing a book manuscript and the distinction you point out between IR and Communication studies was quite pronounced. Both IR and Comm appear concerned with image and how to improve it. However, IR approached image via soft power theoretical analysis and country-level opinion surveys, while Comm approached image via campaign design and messaging strategies and analysis. My overall conclusion was that PD needs the cross fertilization of IR (30,000 ft theoretical view of PD)and Communication (on-the-ground PD application). The challenge is finding ways to respectfully bridge the two so that that cross fertilization can occur. Yours and Hayden’s work may be the place to start or continue …

    • Thanks for the comment – your work on relational approaches is a big part of why I started thinking about these issues.

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