Sunday, May 3, 2009

Web 2.0 and the White House

The Washington Post reported on the Obama Administration's new outreach approach using new Internet tools - It reports, "Establishing direct strategic presidential communication with the populations of other countries -- especially other countries ruled by hostile governments -- is a top foreign policy priority for the new administration." Macon Phillips works with Obama's National Security Council staff to turn new communications channels into important tools for winning friends and understanding abroad. He states, "We try to find the audiences where they are, and deliver the president's message to them at the best delivery point."

The objective of the administration is to reach out to global audiences through "unfiltered" communication. Obama's March 20 Navroz message directed to the Iranian people is a case in point. It has drawn over 500,000 viewers and Iranian viewers have downloaded the video, remixed it with their own comments and put it back on the Web, a sign of "engaging with the message." For someone like Obama who successfully employed the innovative use of Facebook and other online social networks, YouTube videos, and fundraising on the Internet in the 2008 presidential campaign, Web 2.0 should be a confident next step.

The Swine Flu and PD

How does an epidemic such as the Swine Flu affect PD for countries like Mexico and the United States? Mexico has been pleading for assistance and understanding, claiming that they are controlling the spread of the disease, while the United States has seemingly been deemed guilty by its proximity to Mexico for the rise and subsequent spread of the disease. The press has not been helping things since the number of cases in the U.S. skyrocketed over the past few weeks, reporting the "first U.S. death" due to the swine flu, despite the fact that the death was actually that of a Mexican child who came to the U.S. seeking better treatment for his condition. Now, even Canada is potentially at fault for inadvertently causing the outbreak of the disease (

Despite all the hoopla surrounding the disease, only ten people have died this year due to the swine flu, while nearly 36,000 people die of what we know simply as the "flu" every single year in the U.S. My question to you is this: although the disease has clearly been blown out of proportion, will it affect the way that countries interact with one another, as it has already prompted countries like Chile and Argentina to create special medical checkpoints for visitors from Mexico and the United States? What affect will this have on Mexican, Canadian, and American public diplomacy until the disease can be contained?

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Step Up 3: The Embassies

Looks like the State Department's ready to dance... or at least to use dance as a vehicle for cultural diplomacy. State's Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs and Brooklyn Academy of Music announced plans to launch DanceMotion USA to send dance companies on international tours. In a press conference on April 29, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Professional and Cultural Exchanges Alina L. Romanowski announced the three lucky dance companies that will begin the program in 2010:

1. Evidence, A Dance Company, based in Brooklyn, New York, will tour South Africa, Nigeria, and Senegal.
2. ODC/Dance, based in San Francisco, California, will tour Thailand, Burma and Indonesia.
3. Urban Bush Women, also Brooklyn-based, will tour Brazil, Venezuela, and Colombia.

Of course, these three dance companies weren't just lucky. They were chosen strategically to reflect values that the State Department wants to communicate through its cultural diplomacy. Both Brooklyn-based dance companies, for example, emphasize the experiences of African diaspora communities in the U.S. In its mission statement, Urban Bush Women states:
Urban Bush Women (UBW) seeks to bring the untold and under-told histories and stories of disenfranchised people to light through dance. We do this from a woman-centered perspective, as members of the African Diaspora community, in order to create a more equitable balance of power in the dance world and beyond...

The State Department's decision to create DanceMotion USA provides a global platform for these untold and under-told histories to be communicated.

Embassy Visits as PD (2.0)

I know Leslie talked about this too, but it deserves further discussion. I think embassy visits are PD efforts, however, since a lot of embassies are participating, they may not get the due credit. For example, I went with a Malaysian friend today to check out the Malaysian embassy, which had it's open house today, along with a bunch of others. So, today, I checked out not only this embassy, but also the Pakistani, Nigerian, Bangladeshi, and Ethiopian embassies.
Since the Passport DC event is so huge, (check out the website to see what was happening today: I think it drew attention away from events that would have been more informative. Also, it kinda made people compare countries, that would never be compared, just based on what their embassy event was like. Although, some may argue that these countries may never have gotten this attention had it not been for an event like this.
I think I was most impressed, from a PD perspective, with the Bangladeshi Embassy- this is because they greeted you politely; and by they, I mean a woman saying "Welcome to the Bangladeshi embassy, here is our Ambassador", who then shook your hand- even with the possibility of catching the swine flu! Additionally, there were people standing behind the ambassador handing out surveys about your experience at the embassy, what you already know about Bangladesh, and how you developed your opinion, of the country. Albeit there were many of these surveys that people did not bother to fill out, however there was a decent-sized box by the door full of people's precious opinions. This is information that is hard to get, and this was the only embassy that I visited that was doing it. Kudos Bangladesh!

The Best Job in the World

Stumbled upon a very interesting article about Queenslands latest global tourism campaign that, while not quite PD, is an excellent example of how utilization of the internet and social networking can work. Do you think this kind of campaign has any feasible implications for public diplomacy elsewhere?

What happens if a global tourism marketing campaign dresses up as a job recruitment drive? A global reality TV show gets under way.

Tourism Queensland launched its Best Job in the World competition in January hoping to generate fresh interest in Australia's sunshine state - a dream location, according to the locals, that is beautiful one day, and perfect the next.

The internet, and its social networking sites, then delivered. Within the first 48 hours, they had received more than 7,500 online applications.

Better still, more than 200,000 people logged onto the site in the first weekend alone, placing unexpected strains on server capacity.

No wonder. In these "feel-bad" times, Tourism Queensland had opened up the ultimate feel-good job: the post of 'caretaker' at the blissful Hamilton Island on the Great Barrier Reef, with a six-month contract worth a handy Aus $150,000 (US $110,000).

Wild card

Then there's the three-bedroom beach home you get to luxuriate in, which comes with a swimming pool and golf cart.

The successful candidate must also be willing, in the words of the online advertisement, 'to explore the islands of the Great Barrier Reef, swim, snorkel, make friends with the locals and generally enjoy the tropical Queensland climate and lifestyle.'

Nice work, if you can get it, and 34,000 applicants from over 200 countries thought they stood a chance.

Now the field has been whittled down to 16 finalists, including a wild card entry chosen, in true reality television style, through an online poll.

They include a receptionist, some students, a teacher, a charity event manager, and an actress. And on 3rd May, they're all due to converge on Hamilton Island for the final.

The biggest winner, though, is Tourism Queensland, which reckons that for US$1m, it generated US$70m of global publicity.

Osama hoax

"We did it on the smell of an oily rag", says Danielle Kootman of Tourism Queensland. "We pitched it after Christmas in the northern hemisphere when there is not much news around, and so amidst all the cold and gloom here came the dream job.

"It really captured the imagination of the world."

It also helped that the organisers received a hoax application from a man purporting to be Osama Bin Laden, while Tourism Queensland generated even more headlines by concocting a story that one applicant felt so passionately about the job that she tattooed an advert for the Great Barrier Reef on her arm.

Imitation is the highest form of flattery, so it's no surprise that other have sought to replicate the success of this viral campaign. The 'NEXT Best Job in the world,' a short-lived Canadian venture, has now been postponed.

Russell Howcroft, an advertising executive who is a regular panellist on the hit Australian show, The Gruen Transfer, says Queensland's online campaign has been so successful because "it isn't an overclaim".

"All the best advertising makes a legitimate claim, and for many people this really is the best job in the world. The proposition is supported."

The challenge now for tourism chiefs is to convert interest into visitation, a tough task for such a long-haul destination and at a time when there are fears within the Australian tourism industry that visitor numbers could drop by 250,000.

But Tourism Queensland says it has received heightened interested from airlines, which might look to establish new routes serving the sunshine state, and from global travel companies.

Once again, the campaign has demonstrated the power of the internet, and of viral marketing.

President Barack Obama harnessed the power of the web to win the most powerful job in the world. Now Tourism Queensland has used similar techniques in what it claims has now become the most sought-after job in the world.

Friday, May 1, 2009

What about Sec. Clinton’s First 100 Days?

With all the media hype surrounding President Obama’s first 100 days in office, it seems like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's first 100 days have been somewhat overlooked.

Interestingly, the State Department posted a 100-day report outlining Secretary Clinton’s accomplishments.  The report also provides an overview of public diplomacy accomplishments, stating that engaging in public diplomacy is a priority and that some “early and significant progress” has been made in that area.  Here is the section of the report, specifically focusing on public diplomacy:

“Placed New Emphasis on People-to-People Diplomacy: While Secretary Clinton and the entire State Department are engaged in vigorous government-to-government diplomacy, Secretary Clinton has also invested unprecedented amounts of time and energy into engaging in people-to-people diplomacy in countries with whom we seek partnerships.

Hosted Town Halls, Webcasts, Roundtables, and More: On the first day of Secretary Clinton’s first trip, she hosted a town hall meeting with students at University of Tokyo where she answered questions from a diverse group of students ranging from US-Tokyo relations and the financial crisis, to nuclear power and gender equality. The Tokyo Town Hall launched a series of town halls hosted by Secretary Clinton at a university in Seoul, South Korea, in Brussels with European Parliament interns, and in Mexico via webcast with students across 40 educational campuses. Secretary Clinton has also hosted roundtable discussions with women leaders in Seoul and Beijing, students and teachers in Mexico and the West Bank, and with women entrepreneurs in Israel.

Leveraged Non-Traditional Media to Reach New Audiences: Through non-traditional media, Secretary Clinton is spreading the Administration’s broader diplomatic efforts by targeting audiences previously ignored. Secretary Clinton’s interview on the Turkish version of ‘The View’ reportedly caused positive ripples throughout the country. The Secretary’s appearance on the Indonesian pop culture television program, ‘Awesome,’ reached youth throughout the world’s most populous Muslim nation and beyond and her appearance on Telehit, the MTV of Mexico, likely targeted audiences otherwise unaware of her goals visiting Mexico.”  

Reviews for Secretary Clinton’s work so far have been mostly positive, but it remains to be seen how much of a priority engaging in public diplomacy will truly be for the State Department over the next four years.  After learning about the importance of practicing effective public diplomacy and the benefits it yields, I am hoping for the best.

Embassy Visits as PD?

I was in the Swedish Embassy on Wednesday and saw a flier for this event. Looks like a good event;
It is an open house on Saturday May 9th from 10am-4pm at the EU nation embassies here in DC, they have shuttles to bring people on different routes to visit embassies. Its an opportunity to "look behind the gates."
What do you think? Is it PD? I think so, they are connecting with a foreign public and its a good pull technique. People choose to go into the embassies and perhaps they'll walk out with a more positive view of the nations of the EU.
Any thoughts? and Anyone going to go?