Soft Diplomacy Skills Brief

By Ines Pires-Urquiza*

We live in a globalized society where being professional is no longer only about performance, but as well about the perspective of that performance in the public spectrum. People are the most important asset in a company, an embassy or any other institution. We passed from a people Era to an IT Era and we are back to underline the importance of people in the market spectrum valued by high achievement and deep understanding of reality.

The term Public Diplomacy is now on the lips of the world. Just 10 years ago this term referred only to a public service specialised actions. However, the need of the transparent communication between governments, countries and citizens in this global international system influenced by soft diplomacy is increasing. What people expect from their representatives is them to be proactive first and not reactive in essential matters such  as the democratisation of diplomacy, the overall globalisation, the accurate methods of diplomacy, bilateral, multilateral, and regional strategies both in external and internal communication that intimate and affect governments in their decision making perception.

More and more civil societies are focused on the public interest in an open foreign affairs policy. Governments are demanded to respond with accurate and transparent approaches to the national branding transferred by a public diplomacy policy identified with realistically and workable tools and methodology for different situations such as the country image-building activities grounded on international best practices. The emergence of public diplomacy acknowledges the importance of multiple actors, especially those that do not represent governments, like NGO’s, non-governmental agencies, foundations and think thanks that influence deeply governmental decisions. Those organisations have always existed, however, their influence became exponential paralleled to an open and inclusive diplomatic legitimacy of all the civil society actors. More than ever the communications departments of each government should be based on an intelligent plan of strategic openness based on soft skills that supports the building of a strong National Brand. Being public diplomacy cantered in an Image-building backed with funded clear policy. One of the questions to ask to all countries that have a clear understanding of their priorities is how brand building directs them to make a difference in international negotiation and interest defence.

However, public diplomacy is not a solution to all state ills, the border of communication and propaganda is a thin line. While sophisticated hard communication does not guarantee results, listening to the public and civil society offers a high success of true promises whether they are national or international. Living in an age where information is spread like a disease and the noise of news, internet and 24 hour news services inflict on civil society about international and national events, people are less inclined to accept official statements without questioning the governmental positions. At the same time, non-governmental actors increase their international activity and expertise. Public Diplomacy is crucial in organisations such as the United Nations, NATO, and the EU that are in the course of evaluating the challenges to satisfy country members and the civil society of each country while projecting a persuasive, informative and clear public image.

Public Diplomacy term was born in the USA supported by activities promoting both policies and society values. After a strategic implementation of a public diplomacy plan governments need to measure the impact of that implementation strategy. Foreign Ministries should accurately review their strategies, messages, partners, society and targets followed by implementing them appropriately.

*About the author:

Inês Pires-Urquiza is Co-Chair and Founder of the International School of Protocol and Diplomacy

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