Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Five Questions for Chris Dufour

Chris Dufour wants to be AWESOME. The outspoken blogger, owner of, and frontman of what might best be described as a rock parody tribute band visited AU last week to shower our class with wisdom. I caught up with him afterwords to pick his brain about public diplomacy:

manIC: You recently said a PD career was the occupational equivalent of a double facepalm, but you're clearly enthusiastic about the subject. What fuels your interest/frustration in PD?

Du4: If there's something we as Americans do particularly well it's create culture that influences. We brought you Mad Men. We brought you Hollywood. We brought you Bob Dylan. PD, for the longest time, seemed to be the only place from which one could, theoretically, coordinate and leverage America's culture of AWESOMENESS into a global influence strategy. You saw elements of this with the old "jazz diplomacy" tours USIA instituted. The problem now is that in a Web 2.0, social world where we are ALL as interconnected as we want to be, EVERYBODY becomes a cultural influencer. US PD and communication agencies are poorly situated to deal with, much less take advantage of this social change.

As an expert in all things AWESOME, what is the most awesome change you've witnessed in USPD over the past decade?

Tough question. Jim Glassman is about as good as it ever got, and how he TOOK OWNERSHIP of the "War of Ideas" as opposed to the photo ops State PD does now. Even then, however, I think there were plenty of problems in the way Glassman executed things.

You're on the Board of citizen diplomacy organization Sister Cities International. What advice do you have for citizen diplomats who aspire to be awesome?

ENGAGE, ENGAGE, ENGAGE. Learn foreign languages. CONNECT with people. Start the easy way: via social media. Find like minded individuals in other countries and start building relationships. Share what YOU think is awesome with THEM and take in what THEY think is awesome. Share THAT back with organizations, corporations, everyone. BUILD something from those relationships that not only contributes to a socially AWESOME goal (free education apps! group buying systems! software dev training plan!) but also makes some money and contributes to a networked economy.

In your blog, you recently predicted that "Funding for [US] PD initiatives will continue to stagnate while implementers will find more creative methods of achieving strategic PD goals, mostly via the private sector tech sector and citizen diplomacy organizations. China and some European countries will continue to lead with non-obvious but concerted national efforts in global influence, the effects of which will remain undiscovered by their targets (i.e., US) for years." To what extent do you believe the U.S. public is influenced by the PD of China and other countries?

I think we are MASSIVELY influenced by other countries and we don't know it. How many products do you own that say "Made in China?" You probably own those because of a concerted manufacturing strategy laid out by Chinese economists 10-20 years ago, a currency valuation plan executed to this day by the Chinese government, and marketing & advertising schemes bought and paid for through American companies with Chinese dollars. I know that sounds reactionary and little paranoid, but all the evidence is there for people to see. It just takes a STRATEGIC eye to see how each continuum of influence (communication, economics, finance, legal, etc) works collectively to achieve a long-term goal. I actually don't think we know to what extent we're being influenced externally, be it by China or others.

How would you describe USPD using only rock lyrics? (Why can't we be friends? I want you to want me? One thing I can tell you is you got to be free?...)

"Little by little, we gave you everything you ever dreamed of.
Little by little, the wheels of your life have slowly fallen off."

-- "Little by Little," Oasis

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