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Integrating PD2.0

July 15, 2010

In the last week or so there have been kerfuffles about the blogging British ambassadors and the twitterific cake eating Americans.

In both of these cases the PD2.0 activity has been picked up by audiences other than the intended ones.  This is an issue that is especially intense in  a digital communication ecology but it is not a new one.  The history of public diplomacy programmes is full of this type of incident where audience at home raise questions (sometimes with good reason) about the activities of their external representation.

The key to dealing with this is through the development of a strategic perspective on how PD2.0  should be used.  MFAs have to be able to turn round to external critics and justify what they are doing… the challenge is that this requires them to have an understanding of what it is they are trying to do themselves.     One of the criticisms  that is made of the FCO embrace of digital media is that it was really driven by fashion and the desire to make the organization look modern in the eyes of the people back home (and in the eyes of other MFAs?) rather than in a proper analysis of what the medium could do in diplomatic terms.

The development of  organizational PD2.0 strategies needs to bring together web 2.0 and diplomatic expertise.  It also needs to be rooted in a decade and a half of research on what people actually do with new communications technologies in the real world and not on the anecdotes favoured by new media gurus.  These strategies need to go beyond a set of rules about what can and cannot be posted and need to give guidance on the level of resource that should be put into PD2.0 activities (with the recognition that answer may be none).   I get the impression that particularly at embassy level  a lot of activity really depends on individuals putting in the effort on their own initiative with the problem that at the end of their posting successful initiatives atrophy.  If these activities are worth doing they have to be incorporated into the routine organizational activity (eg workload models) and properly documented to ensure continuity.   PD2.0 has to be integrated into the total package of diplomatic activity while recognizing that a changing communication environment will change how we think about diplomacy.

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