“In the 21st century, success in the international arena will belong to those that know how to successfully identify, use and deploy soft power, and maintain it via public diplomacy and the use of digital tools.” – Arturo Sarukhan
Source: (USC Center on Public Diplomacy, 2017a)
Public diplomacy is defined as ‘the public, interactive dimension of diplomacy which is not only global in nature, but also involves a multitude of actors and networks’ (USC Center on Public Diplomacy, 2017b). Berridge’s definition is more radical, he defines public diplomacy as ‘propaganda which is to manipulate public attitudes through the mass media for political ends’ (Berridge, 2015, p. 198). However, the term ‘public diplomacy’ was ‘coined in 1960s by former U.S. diplomat Edmund Gullion to distance overseas governmental information activities from the term propaganda’ (USC Center on Public Diplomacy, 2017b). He aimed to distinguish these terms, because propaganda is often connected with political advertising during the World War II and during the Cold War which can give negative impression. In contrast, ‘public diplomacy’ not only sounds more positively, but also has proven itself successful on many occasions.
Since 1960s public diplomacy has developed into useful tool to influence opinion of foreign as well as domestic public through variety ways such as radio broadcasting, television (TV), culture events, literature, newspapers, magazines, and recently through social medias. For example, American TV shows and movies played important role in spreading American culture values and created image of how the United States (U.S.) wants to be pictured by the foreign public. For instance, children’s TV show Sesame Street opened platform for U.S. cultural diplomacy in approximately 145 countries all around world including those U.S. has though relationship with (USC Center on Public Diplomacy, 2017a). Success of Sesame Street led to the launch of Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization which promotes learning and education. The similar triumph U.S. celebrated with TV show Friends which won the attention of teenagers as well as adults worldwide. The Central Perk coffee house, in which 6 main characters of this sitcom used to hangout, has inspired various imitations all around the world including countries with anti-western values such as Iran, Afghanistan and Dubai. These cafes carry not only design of The Central Perk coffee house, but also the American vision of young people’s lifestyle.
Public diplomacy allows diplomats to take away the privilege to control information by those is power (Kerr and Wiseman, 2013). Moreover, it enables involvement of variety of actors in diplomacy. Public diplomacy can be practised by anyone from world leaders, politicians, ambassadors, diplomats and multinational corporation to non-governmental organisations, celebrities, religious figures, local activist groups, and so forth. In past few decades more and more public figures got involved in international affairs to bring attention of wide public on to the important issues. For example, Princess Diana, who was heavily involved in humanitarian aid. More recently, actresses Angelina Jolie and Emma Watson both working for the United Nations to bring into world’s attention the refugee crisis and women rights issues. Women rights and girls power were also brought into the light by Malala Yousafzai, a survivor of assassination attempt by the Taliban, who is now running campaigns to allow every girl in the world to access education. The involvement of public figures also plays important role in promotion of human rights. Nelson Mandela, president of South Africa, inspired many by his brave lifelong fight for human rights and justice. He was able to bring people together and to spread his vision to live in peace.
Public diplomacy is important for current world affairs because it achieves long-term changes in opinion. It also opened the door to the diplomacy for wide public and allows anyone to get involved. It also raises the level of interest of wide public in world affairs, which can lead to the solutions of some of the world’s issues. As Philip Seib, a professor of Journalism and Public Diplomacy, said: “When public diplomacy changes lives constructively, it is doing its job” (Seib in USC Center on Public Diplomacy, 2017a).
Berridge, G. (2015). Diplomacy: Theory and Practice. 5th ed. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Kerr, P. and Wiseman, G. (2013). Diplomacy in a Globalizing World: Theories and Practices. 1st ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
USC Center on Public Diplomacy (2017a). 10 Biggest Public Diplomacy Stories of 2013. [online] Available at: https://uscpublicdiplomacy.org/pdin_monitor_article/10-biggest-public-diplomacy-stories-2013 [Accessed 16 Mar. 2017].
USC Center on Public Diplomacy (2017b). What is PD?. [online] Available at: https://uscpublicdiplomacy.org/page/what-pd [Accessed 16 Mar. 2017].