Action diplomacy, just like action PR

As I was reading the thoughtful article by Carne Ross in Europe’s World on the need to re-think national diplomacy, I was struck by the parallels with discussions of the evolving role of public relations as a profession. For instance, he states, “For some reason, diplomats and governments have believed that somehow the message about the role of governments can be separated in the public’s mind from what they actually do.” You could easily substitute the words “senior executives” and “corporations” in that sentence.

He also evokes the need to “abandon the notion of public diplomacy altogether, and replace it with a more interactive and frankly humble approach”, which again echoes calls by PR professionals to engage stakeholders in an authentic, two-way exchange rather than talking at them.

Ross calls into question whether national diplomatics can legitimately claim to “represent” increasingly diverse and multicultural populations and ends with his recommendation for moving forward: “Success will go to those who use mass networks effectively, build coalitions of states and concerned non-state actors, corporations and NGOs and can credibly lead opinion.”

Hear, hear.

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One Reply to “Action diplomacy, just like action PR”

  1. Very interesting Kristen.
    Many of Ross’s points, as you rightly point out, sound very familiar…
    In fact, if you take the parallel all the way, some arguments would lead to conclude that for similar reasons, diplomats and public relations people are being disintermediated precisely because organizational messages can no longer be separated from what the organizations actually do.
    Thus, if doing implies something different from communicating or viceversa then the two professions are doomed.

    From this point of view I think that the recently concluded five year research program by our swedish colleagues on the concept of the communicative organisation (
    constitutes a major step forward of our body of knowledge in stating that the two (organizational communication and action)are totally interrelated and embedded one on each other.

    If this is so, and what we have been trying to argue over time seems to confirm, then public diplomacy has not in itself reached the end but simply has changed paradigms and processes (see the materials developed for a recent public diplomacy workshop with Italian diplomats

    And this is happening also to public relations.

    Very suggestive are also Ross’s points about nation states losing their grip on global events and diplomats not being representative of their multicultural societies.
    These are both also very familiar to our profession.

    The generic principles and specific applications paradigm we have been working on for some years now confronts the first issue, while the quest for diversity in the profession, which is so important and urgent for us, is just as important for the diplomatic profession and deals with the second one.

    Yes, you are right, we do have a lot in common, including an abismal reputation, and this should come as no surprise. Rather it should stimulate more interaction and exchange. Excellent post.

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