Thursday, June 23, 2016

Harnessing Communications and Public Diplomacy

Mark Seip,

image (not from article) from
Here is a synopsis of the four steps US policymakers should take when considering how to use communication and public diplomacy in today’s ever-changing environment:
Know the audience.
Be specific in its identification to hone public diplomacy and engagement efforts. Determine how that audience receives information and use that medium to reach it; do not expect the audience to come to you. Identify those who can influence the audience and, when necessary, leverage them as your primary instrument of communication.
Find the mutuality.
Understand what you and the intended audience wish to achieve in common and target that commonality in your narrative. Appreciate that you and the audience may be approaching the mutual action from different angles, but do not abdicate your values to achieve mutuality. Be prepared to walk away to hold your moral ground.
Create a space for sustainable conversation.
Champion policies that allow for a free exchange of ideas, which can endure over the long term, between you and the intended audience, as well as among the audience itself. Avoid inadvertently shutting down conversation by hiding behind walls. Understand that creating space for conversation may mean you are simply a facilitator and not an active participant in the dialogue.
Have a conversation, not a monologue.
Engage with the audience and solicit feedback. Do not preach from on high; talk at the same level as the audience. Have mechanisms in place to respond quickly and keep the conversation going, even as personalities change on both sides. Provide clear, succinct guidance and trust the senders at the local level who tweak that guidance to meet the needs of the local audience.
As the last few years have shown, the ability to influence others through public diplomacy and engagement is as powerful as other national elements of power, such as military strength or economic leverage. This is due to a greater understanding of the communication process and how when harnessed properly it can persuade audiences and shape their views of the sender. To use communications as part of public diplomacy effectively, US policymakers must likewise appreciate its elements and weave it into strategy development. Doing so will facilitate the policy goals of the United States and enhance their chance for success.
Mark Seip is a Nonresident Military Fellow with the Atlantic Council. The views expressed here are his own and do not reflect the Department of Defense.

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