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Learning from Diplomacy 1

May 24, 2010

In reading through the PR literature you see that over the past thirty years or so the field has been keen to move away from the idea that PR is about companies trying to manipulate their publics through the use of the media.  One idea that you  find recurring is the companies (or other organizations) need two way relationships that is they need to, at least, listen to their publics and preferably engage in a dialogue with them.  Further these relationships should be symmetrical which means it is not just up to the public to adapt to the organization but the organization needs to adapt as well.  The extent to which PR lives up to this in practice is another matter.

In thinking about the relational turn in both PR and PD I was struck by the importance of turning to  another literature on relationship management – diplomacy.

A few aspects of diplomacy immediately come to mind.

  1. Diplomacy in the modern international system has symmetry and ‘two way’ built into its DNA through the doctrine of sovereign equality.  In legal and protocol terms all states are equal.
  2. Diplomacy is used to dealing with conflictual or mixed relationships that endure for extended periods.
  3. One of the most characteristic tools of diplomacy is negotiation.   This points us to modes of influence and communication that come neither from interpersonal communications or models of mass communication.  Negotiation can involve both a redefinition of situations, interests and identities through dialogue and information exchange  and bargaining.
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