Integrating Public Relations and Public Diplomacy: a workshop in Rome for 25 diplomats by FERPI, the Italian professional association

In agreement with the Diplomatic Institute of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, FERPI -the Italian Federation of Public Relations- is holding in the English language, on March 3,4,5,and 6 in Rome a four session workshop on Public Diplomacy for 25 mid career Italian diplomats according to this program.

Tutors of the course will be Toni Muzi Falconi and Fabio Ventoruzzo, both representing Ferpi.

Four guest lecturers have agreed to participate: Dejan Vercic, Mindi Kasiga, Sriramesh Krishnamurthy and Roger Hayes.

RAI, the Italian national television, will film the whole workshop and produce a 6 hour dvd for further professional training use by the two promoting organizations.

This is only the first of a series of Ferpi initiatives in the Foreign Affairs Ministry according to a memorandum of understanding recently signed by Gianluca Comin, president of Ferpi and by Emanuela D’Alessandro, director of the Diplomatic Institute.

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14 Replies to “Integrating Public Relations and Public Diplomacy: a workshop in Rome for 25 diplomats by FERPI, the Italian professional association

  1. Toni,

    Thank you for your very thoughtful response. I agree that corporate PR and government PD are more intertwined, but there is nonetheless a difference. I don’t even think it is one of scale since the international corporate PR of IBM or an oil company would dwarf most PD budgets of even middle sized countries. So, there must be something else to differentiate the PR of governmental and non-governmental organizations since the techniques of relationship-building through media relations officers and public affairs programs (e.g., sponsorships, speeches, supporting scholarships as Coca Cola does in Mexico, for example) are largely the same. I would therefore conclude that a salient difference is that public diplomacy is done on behalf of a nation or a province or a set of nations (in the case of the UN or other intergovernmental orgs such as NATO, OSCE). At least a portion of the PD of a nation will embody the representation of national values – i.e., representing all the citizens and not just representing the interests of a single corporation. In any event, that’s what I concluded in the Branding Canada book.

  2. Thank you Evan,

    This neat distinction, however reasonable, strikes me to be difficult to sustain from an operational perspective.
    Not only are government public diplomacy and corporate public relations more and more interconnected and often embedded one into the other, but social organizations, foundations, local authorities and a number of other organizational subjects are proactively present in the same practice.
    Organizational porosity, once more from a purely operational perspective, does not allow such a net distinction.

    On the other hand, if you consider public diplomacy as all those efforts by organization to develop relationships with non institutional publics from/and in other countries/cultures, then you are more able to capture the essence of the subtle difference between public relations and public diplomacy.

    By the way, a four hour dvd, entirely in english, of the 12 hour four workshop sessions, will be available for distribution in a couple of weeks.
    If any of you are interested in receiving one or more copies of this, courtesy of Ferpi and the Italian Foreign Ministry, please let me know at

  3. An interesting conversation. I would make a clear distinction between pr performed by corporations in their international operations and PR performed by government to influence non-government audiences abroad. The latter is public diplomacy because it is undertaken by a government entity which represents a broader population and not just a corporate interest. This is explained in my book, “Branding Canada: Projecting Canada’s Soft Power through Public Diplomacy.” Evan Potter

  4. Update: the workshop was concluded yesterday.
    Happy to send presentations to anyone who is interested. Please email me at
    This was an innovative and challengin pilot project which led to significant participant satisfaction as well as the need to improve and better balance concepts and operative tools.
    The four guest lecturers were highly appreciated.
    A dvd, entirely in english, will be forthcoming.

  5. Hello Brian, how good to hear from you.

    As you say. there is no doubt that the term public diplomacy historically applies to government activities.

    However, as you know better than I do, there are out there a significant number of corporations and ngo’s whose impact on both foreign governments and publics are much greater than that of most other governments.

    In Italy, for example, since the immediate post second world war, ENI (our oil and gas company) has always been more powerful than the Italian company in many northern and mid Africa, Middle East and, more recently, Asian states, than the Italian Government.
    Eni has always conducted its own public diplomacy, not necessarily in line with our foreign policies and sometimes directly in conflict with it.

    I believe the same can be said for many other huge organizations, including the WWF’s, the Greenpeaces and so on.

    This phenomena is increasing and many Governments are striving to reach out to other organizations in order to finetune their foreing policy efforts.

    Even more so, the migration tsunami of recent years, with all its inherent contradictions and social, economic and cultural consequences, has created a very powerful new ongoing communication channel between migrant communities and their home publics, enhanced by the Internet and mobile phones, which does not respond to any governance (certainly not the government, not the organizations nor the traditional media).

    One recent example: the venezuelan community in the USA and its intense direct relationships with their families and friends at home, is credited by observers to have impressed a huge public opinion turnaround in the Chavez referendum of 2007 (of course not the most recent one).

    So scholars today, as well as professionals from large public, private and social organizations are involved in what we reasonably call public diplomacy activities.

    Of course, if you segment, you can talk about corporate diplomacy, cultural diplomacy, social diplomacy, economic diplomacy etc…

    Yet the aim of the workshop, which by the way is beginning this afternoon, is to argue the challenge of combining and aligning all these efforts under one mega umbrella which include similar professional competencies and skills.

  6. Toni, your group is welcome, of course, to make up its own definition. Lots of people make up different definitions of public relations, public affairs, corporate communiction, and so on.

    But if you want to make up a new one, plese make sure you type it out at the top of the opening page of any papers coming out of the conference, so we’ll know.

    In my world — Canada based, national in scope, pretty much non-political — I think of Public Diplomacy in pretty much the same way as Bruce.

    My recollection is that there was a Texan named Karen Hughes who was in charge of public diplomacy (or Public Diplomacy) in the USA for part of the time when George II was king, and she was responsible for propaganda devices and organizations (see Murrow quotes already provided by an earlier correspondent)such as the Voice of America radio network.

    I was almost a “Public Diplomat” maybe… depending on definition.

    In the summer of 2001 a colleague, much better connected than I, and I were collecting thousands of dollars from big Canadian businesses, for us to use for our own fees and travel and related expenses. We were planning to travel thoughout much of Asia, meeting primarily with business leaders but also with journalists, politicians, and government officials, for several purposes.

    Our story was four fold: 1/ Canada is not the United States, by any stretch of the imagination. 2/ If you invest in, or otherwise do business in, North America, you need two differnt (USA and Canada) programs, startegies, teams. 3/ If you run a US-related program that skips Canada, you are missing a good opportunity to do business in an important country. 4/ Disliking Americans and / or not trusting Americans is no reason to skip Canada, because we’re likable and honest, and not evangelical crusaders shoving our weight around.

    The reasoning behind our program could be summed up, I guess, based on Bruce’s definition; the government of Canada was doing a bad job telling these three stories, so a retired public servant / diplomat and a PR guy who knows his country pretty well, were going to do it instead.

    As with many things, world-wide changes in business and politics on and after September 11, 2001, killed out project and we returned the money to our sponsors.

    We certainly were not using the term “public diplomacy” when raising money and making plans. Public diplomacy was supposed to come out of Canadian embassies and consulates around the world; not from two carpetbaggers touring China and Japan and Vietman and Korea… and some other countries.


  7. Toni

    We treat public relations, public diplomacy and public affairs in parallel fashion. I usually train diplomats and goverment officials across SA, Botswana, Ethiopia, Nigeria, et cetera, what the degrees of difference are when we discuss these concepts, but what their roles and functions are in the encompassing environment of global diplomatic communication.

    Hope this assists and does not confuse more….

  8. Toni, the def provided by Bruce above is the 22yr-old def of the U.S. Department of State, Dictionary of International Relations Terms, 1987, p. 85.

    A few snippets that might be interesting for purposes of your workshop: The term `public diplomacy’ was first used in 1965 by Dean Edmund Gullion of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, upon the establishment of the Edward R. Murrow Center for Public Diplomacy.

    In one of its earlier brochures, the Murrow Center described public diplomacy as follows:
    “Public diplomacy . . . deals with the influence of public attitudes on the formation and execution of foreign policies. It encompasses dimensions of international relations beyond traditional diplomacy; the cultivation by governments of public opinion in other countries; the interaction of private groups and interests in one country with those of another; the reporting of foreign affairs and its impact on policy; communication between those whose job is communication, as between diplomats and foreign correspondents; and the processes of inter-cultural communications. Central to public diplomacy is the transnational flow of information and ideas.”

    On the question of whether public diplomacy and propaganda is one and the same: In testimony before a Congressional Committee in 1963, Murrow (at the time Director of the United States Information Agency said the following:

    “American traditions and the American ethic require us to be truthful, but the most important reason is that truth is the best propaganda and lies are the worst. To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; to be credible we must be truthful. It is as simple as that.”

    There is more on the website of the Public Diplomacy Association

  9. Bruce, I am sorry to say that I couldn’t disagree more with your definition of public diplomacy.

    In fact the whole argument which lies behind our workshop is that public diplomacy today is not related only to, as you say, ‘government sponsored programs’, but also to the growing activities of many corporate and social organizations who strive to develop relationships with foreign publics in their respective countries, as well as with migrant communities in the country of the organization.

    Also, we do not use the term influence or persuade but that of con-vince, in the sense of the latin vincere cum.

    Finally, Public Diplomacy’s general aim is to develop relationships with those publics and the instruments you cite are only but a few, and the more traditional ones, of those it deals with.

    For example the Internet, word-of-mouth, the creation and development of real and physical ‘spaces’ in which those publics are stimulated to dialogue and debate issues of interest (also to the organization) are only some of the more relevant instruments.

    The conceptual basis which lies at the scope of nest week’s workshop is to argue the progressive integration of a twentyfirst century approach to public relations: i.e. as often argued in this blog…the link between stakeholder relationships governance and the generic principles and specific applications public relations perspective, and a twentyfirst century approach to public diplomacy, which is another ball game from the one you offer, inclduing at least three different models (realism, international liberalism, sociological globalism).
    As always happens, the real world is somewhat more complex than it appears..
    thank you for your interest

  10. Well,this will help more-“PUBLIC DIPLOMACY refers to government-sponsored programs intended to inform or influence public opinion in other countries; its chief instruments are publications, motion pictures, cultural exchanges, radio and television.”

    Public diplomacy differs from traditional diplomacy in that public diplomacy deals not only with governments but primarily with non-governmental individuals and organizations.



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