Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Digital diplomacy: why does it matter?

Andreja Bogdanovski, analyticamk.org

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DIGITAL diplomacy is quickly grabbing the space in the public diplomacy arena. As such it is becoming an extremely important segment in conducting international relations in today’s world where conventional wars are loosing on strength and “propaganda war” is becoming much more important. That being said “winning hearts and minds” is the prevailing modus operandi.
Many countries around the world are seizing the moment and actively pursuing their foreign policy objectives and possibilities for positive outlook through the use of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. The primary use of social media as an online platform makes this part of public diplomacy also easily reachable, meaning that it does not rely that much on resources or national GDP. Whether it is a small country or large super power is something that is slowly loosing significance in the digital world. The reason behind this is because most online material is not as expensive as traditional diplomacy and it can reach masses in no time. ...
There is very thin line between public or digital diplomacy and actual propaganda. Acknowledging that propaganda can be the other (negative) side of the same coin additionally reinforces the need to invest resources and work with innovative ideas on the best way to get the message across and change the narrative. A shining example of digital diplomacy in practice is the use of social media platforms, such as Twitter by diplomats, usually Ambassadors, who thereby engage with the nationals of the country to which they are accredited with the aim of promoting and fostering their own national foreign policy objectives. What is essential in this digital outreach is the lines of direct communication and access to influencers, journalists, national politicians and at the end of the day regular people. The reason why digital diplomacy can be so attractive is because unlike the traditional style of conveying a message, through a statement or event, it can also offer a personal view on current issues and a sneak peak at the “secretive” diplomatic world. Lastly, the need for strengthening digital diplomacy efforts is especially important taking into account the lack of resources for the conduct of traditional diplomacy. This is especially relevant when taking into account the need to close down embassies or cut down embassy staff, especially in tough economic times.

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