THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
than done. How-
ever, other highly
figured out how
to do this, like the
and the Depart-
ment of Defense.
Even the CIA has a
pretty funny Twitter
they even post cat
So What’s the Fix?
A lot of things could be done. Here are
a few ideas worth considering.
First, tweak training.
training should be both compulsory and
feature prominently in all PD prerequi-
sites. Tradecraft courses should also capi-
talize on the expertise of digital media
professionals from the private sector, as
FSI’s public speaking and press relations
curricula already do.
The goal should be to equip all PD offi-
cers with the basic technical skills to create
digital content across multiple platforms
andmanage baseline analytics. Clearly,
there are equipment and software consid-
erations, but one idea is to cover skills in
common, industry-standard production
and analytics technology like Hootsuite,
Adobe Creative Suite and others.
Second, have a cache of best prac-
tices at the ready.
There are missions
where courageous, tech-savvy officers
have done innovative, spectacular work.
Too often, though, we don’t know who
those officers are, what they did or how
they did it—so we miss a valuable chance
to learn from them.
The use of digital media in diplomacy
is in many ways an experimental field.
We can and should
find ways to capi-
talize on our own
promote them from
ture PD shops at
can take a lesson
from the private
sector, where the
team would have
at a minimum a
creative director, a Web designer and a
Imagine a scenario where a PD officer
oversees two or three local media spe-
cialists whose sole job is to create digital
content and track analytics. In addition
to their media production skills, these
professionals would have a deep under-
standing of the local media market, strati-
fied target audience, media consumption
habits, and language and cultural norms.
The officer would guide the content,
using data from the analytics to drive the
message forward while clearly linking it
to strategic mission objectives from the
Integrated Country Strategy. The aim is
to engage with audiences daily to create
communities of interest on matters of
U.S. foreign policy, not just publicize
ongoing embassy activities.
Fourth, reconsider hiring practices
for PD professionals.
Yes, I know: This
one may be total pie in the sky. But there
is just no denying that public diplomacy
is becoming an increasingly technical
field. The private sector certainly gets
this, and hires only the best people in
video production, graphics, marketing
and Web design.
So State should consider either mak-
ing the PD cone a specialist category,
or creating a new specialist career track
focused solely on digital production
and engagement. Or, at the very least, it
should hire people into the PD cone who
already have significant backgrounds
in communications fields like journal-
ism, broadcasting, marketing, campaign
managing and so on.
This would significantly reduce the
pressure to train officers in a field that
changes every day (and leave FSI free to
do what it does best: train Foreign Service
personnel in the art of being diplomats).
of Leaning In
Let’s face it: the Cold War is over and
USIA is dead. It’s time to overhaul the
way we do public diplomacy. We are the
United States of America. We are lead-
ers in the field of branding, marketing,
advertising—we are better than anybody
at selling stuff. We have Silicon Valley,
we practically invented the internet,
and we are conquering the world with
Given this, we at the U.S. State
Department should be writing the book
on digital diplomacy—not wandering
the halls of the Harry S Truman build-
ing, lost somewhere between the Ralph
J. Bunche Library and 1993.
Nothing I’ve written here is a surprise
to anyone working in PD. The question
is, how do we get from knowing what the
problem is to actually fixing it? Person-
ally, I think that we FSOs should not
just stand around and wait for change
to come. We have the option, as Sheryl
Sandberg would say, to lean in and
advocate from the inside.
It’s important; there’s a lot at stake. In
the battle to win hearts and minds, we
cannot afford to be 20 years behind the