Monday, February 22, 2010

An Ounce of Prevention

I had the pleasure this evening of listening to John Trattner (of the Council for Excellence in Government) speak about public diplomacy. He raised many interesting points, two of which I'll highlight here.

The first regarded the relationship between journalism and PD. Like Philip Seib, Trattner argues that successful public diplomacy and successful journalism rely on many of the same characteristics, including clarity, consistency, credibility, accuracy, fairness, knowledgability and integrity.

His second point focused on the relationship between PD and policy formation. Communicators, he said, think differently than their colleagues. They have greater awareness of how policy announcements are likely to be received by the public. And for this reason, they ought to be included in the policy process from the beginning, and not treated like a haz mat crew whenever toxic reactions catch policymakers off guard.

The fact of the matter is, diplomats (both public and traditional) are likely to have a better understanding of attitudes within a country than politicians who have never visited it and whose attention is divided between multiple competing interests. By weighing in at the front end, they could provide valuable insight into probable responses to foreign policy announcements before they're made.

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