Friday, April 24, 2009

Institutionalizing PD: One Boss or an expert in every office?

This week's guest post on MountainRunner, by Mark Pfeifle and Jonathan Thompson, discusses the importance of strategic communication and PD for US military operations, and the need for more institutionalized support for communications throughout the bureaucracy. I thought the post was interesting because it takes bit of a different view of how this should be done. We've talked a lot about Murrough's insistance that PD be in on the "takeoffs as well of the crashlandings," and have usually extended that idea to ask if there should be a "Secretary of Public Diplomacy" sitting at the same table with the Secretary of State, Defense and the rest of them.

Pfeifle and Thompson suggest a different approach. Rather than one PD boss with cabinet level authority, they argue that every agency should have at least one communications expert at the second tier. First on their list of recommendations is to:

"1. Require every military branch to create two active duty and reserve general officer positions in strategic communication, and make them eligible to reach the three-star rank. Likewise, the State Department needs at least two individuals of Ambassadorial rank dedicated to public and international communication."

They suggest more funding and control for the current Undersecretary for PD, direct from Congress, of course, but they also suggest more diffusion in the expertise and responsibility for Communication.

The idea is that these principles are important to every agency and department, military and civilian, State, Intellegence, Army, Navy, Airforce and etc, and that everybody needs to be practicing PD, rather than one PD department trying to put all these diverse activities into one package. The idea gets to the heart of the current debate about PD - is it one of the things countries do in the international arena, or is it a part of everything that countries do? The idea reminds me of Canada's approach of trying to get everybody in on the PD policy before launching it. All semester we've talked about the challanges of a country as big as the US condensing its activities into one message - maybe this more diffuse approach is one way to make that happen.

1 comment:

  1. The authors make an interesting suggestion. However, I wonder if the diffusion of "PD power," so to speak, would cause more chaos than it would prevent. As much as I dislike presenting PD as a marketing strategy, when several different leaders have the ability to make decisions on how their group's actions are presented, it's a lot more difficult to have a unified message. The authors do note that the designated military strategic communications officials should be highly qualified. However, it seems like these various officers of PD would serve more effectively as a supplement to a cabinet-level PD position, not simply as a substitute.