Public diplomacy, soft power and sociological globalism: where they integrate with public relations.

While in Lisbon last week I met Gregory Payne, with whom I had the privilege to share the panel at the conference.

Gregory teaches Organizational and Political Communication at Boston’s Emerson College.
An articulate thinker and a truly excellent class/conference motivator, I watched him very carefully as he lectured, and really learned a lot.
In any case, during our conversation based on the new challenges facing the concept and the practice of public diplomacy, he mentioned a recent paper by Elizabeth Toth (University of Maryland) and Seong-Hun Yun /Kansas State University) titled: Future Sociological Public Diplomacy and the Role of Public Relations: evolution of public diplomacy.
He was kind enough to hand me a copy to read and –wow!- what a stimulating paper this is.
I will be meeting Elizabeth in Bled next week, so I will ask her permission to link to her paper from this blog. It is really worth it!

In short (and I hope I am not misunderstanding her thoughts) Elizabeth introduces us to three different public diplomacy approaches:
°that of realism;
°that of international liberalism; and
°that of sociological globalism.
The recent advent of the latter approach, according to the author, and principally because of migration, will be the future of public diplomacy.

Lets take a bird’s eye glance at threes three concepts:

°realist public diplomacy is based on two assumptions: the State is the most important actor; and power politics as well national security are its paramount concerns. Foreign publics thus become a conduit to change the policies of their respective governments;

°the international liberalism concept considers the State only as one important actor in world politics but on the decline, as complex communication with foreign citizens and other non-state global entities such as NGO’s grow in relevance, while the crude projection of military force has become diluted as soft power (i.e. the ability for a country to get what it wants through attraction rather than coercion) tends to take its place in world politics.
For liberalists, the role of public diplomacy is to create attraction for a country’s culture (values), ideals (political, economic, social systems) and policies to build an enabling environment for national interests;

°today, a growing trend of liberalist thinking rationalizes sociological globalism which is attracting strong attention.
Migrants are a powerful agent of inter country and intercultural communication which is no longer a simple one-way transmission of their cultures through mediated communication, but turns into a direct interaction and negotiation between cultures.
There are four major drivers of current human mobility:
°widening income disparities;
°exacerbating labor shortage in difficult, dirty and dangerous industries;
°accelerating aging population of the north and high income southern countries;
°easy migration, due to reduced costs in transportation and communications.

A country’s soft power resources are nakedly exposed to migrants’ living experiences …thus migration, more than any other, can be the most conducive or destructive channel of communication.
Therefore a new meaning for public diplomacy is emerging, and its traditional ‘outward’ orientation will need to include an ‘inward’ orientation thus integrating domestic public diplomacy as part of public affairs.
One implication is that governments will communicate with these foreign publics as an end communicator and no longer only as a conduit.
In such process, the convergence between public diplomacy and public relations will increase, as both communication practices share the same operational environment.

Sociological globalism drive governments into more introspection, pushing them not to rely on image management but to build the substances of soft power.
Relationship building will be much less based on showcasing and proliferating one’s own culture, values and ideas, and much more focussed on the creation of substantial and practical channels and linkages among people.

I believe this is a very stimulating approach and seems to be close to what I had tried to argue in a recent post on this blog when I elaborated on the concept of an immaterial public relations infrastructure of a country.
Would you care to comment, elaborate and offer you insights? As I am sure you will agree that there are many opportunities for our profession within this framework.

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