Anglo-American Youtube Diplomacy: Work in Progress

April 5, 2011

Thanks to the wonders of Twitter I keep finding links to new MFA videos clicking on them and wondering  what the point is…

Partly my reaction is driven by the view that web video is an incredibly inefficient way of communication mostly you could describe the content in a paragraph that could be read in a fraction of the time that it takes to watch the video.  Also public diplomacy researchers are not the key audience for PD video so what I think is not that important.

Anyway here are a couple of examples that I found in the inbox in the last few hours.  First Up the US-European Media Hub in Brussels.  Its Facebook page describes it thus

The U.S.- European Media Hub connects journalists in and around Europe with access to U.S. policymakers and perspectives. The Hub is part of the International Media Engagement Office of the U.S. Department of State.

Their Youtube channel is here.    This has a lot of very serious talking head  videos about issues such as the role of the American Chambers of Commerce – some of which have accumulated as much as 45 views in a month.   This triggers a few thoughts.

  1. Who are you trying to communicate with?  The people that are interested in some of these issues are not going to learn anything from these videos and there’s nothing to draw in people who aren’t interested.
  2. How much does it cost to produce this material?  It maybe that it’s so cheap that the opportunity cost of production is so low that you might as well make them as not..but if there is a resource implication is this the best use of resources?
  3. The usual constraint of web activity applies how do you attract attention? I happen to follow the US Embassy in London on Twitter and so got the link but what if you don’t.

Over at the Foreign Office they are busy with their Olympics Campaign and Jimmy Leach the head of Digital Engagement tweeted a link to this Celebrating Britain video yesterday if you looked at the Olympics PD plan you will see some of the themes about connection coming out – also see the words that flash on the screen – ideas that you are supposed to take away.

Three  thoughts about this one.

1) Firstly, the video could be shorter and sharper (it’s actually a compilation of other films) – it’s not as if we don’t make lots of pop videos.

2) it faces the usual problem of UK branding, the tension between well established perceptions of the UK as a conservative country with a long history and the desire of government to make it look modern, cosmopolitan, connected, creative and high tech.

3) This is very much outward facing communication – one of the rules of nation branding is that you need to get buy in from the population and  its probably best that this doesn’t get too many views from the UK so that the comments don’t fill up with sarcastic comments.

The FCO produces quite a lot videos of various types –  their channel is here


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