The Foreign Service Journal - July/August 2017
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Hutson is no longer a part of our Service,

but I expect a higher standard from

AFSA. Lively discourse and self-criticism

are certainly welcome, but please do not

allow the


to be a platform for deri-

sion and outdated gender stereotypes.

Laura Malenas


Washington, D.C.

Let’s Talk about Modern

Public Diplomacy

I retired as a Senior Foreign Service

information officer with the U.S. Infor-

mation Agency at the end of 1988. I was

educated as a journalist and earned a

master’s degree in international relations

before joining the Foreign Service in 1963.

I was pleased to see the Speaking Out

in the May Journal, “Digital Diplomacy: Will State Ever Take the Plunge?”

I congratulate Amelia Shaw on her

sensitive and thoughtful observations and

conclusions. There is no doubt that, to be

effective, the tools of modern-day public

diplomacy must involve the so-called

social media. Digital and/or electronic

media would be a more accurate term.

We did not have those tools when I

was in the Service, but I see how effec-

tive they can be. I would hope, as Ms.

Shaw suggests, that State will find a way

to make the public diplomacy func-

tion more effective through the use of

modern methods. Our diplomats, in

particular those serving abroad, deserve

all the help they can and should get.

Though the atmosphere at the

moment is likely not conducive, I also

believe that it would be better for PD

to be, once again, made independent

from the State bureaucracy. In any case,

it should have a director who is knowl-

edgeable, if not currently involved with

digital media, and personally aware of

the complicated nature of communicat-

ing with foreign audiences.

Again, I applaud the inspiration Ms.

Shaw has provided with her article. I

hope that it is just a beginning.

Jon W. Stewart

USIA FSO, retired

Bothell, Washington

Practicing Public


Amelia Shaw makes some good

points about embassies’ social media

participation in her May Speaking Out.

Too many practitioners are “using

Facebook as a signboard on which to

cut and paste media content created in


At FSI, we teach embassy staffers to

do better in our information tradecraft

and other courses, as well as inmultiple

courses specifically on social media.

Every year, hundreds of FSOs and Locally

Employed staffmembers learn social

media strategies, techniques and analytics.

As I work with PD professionals in

strategic planning workshops and learn

of their products and methods, I think

that most of them do take engagement

seriously. We talk a lot about capturing

audience reaction to the full spectrum

of programs to evaluate results.

When Ms. Shaw gets into her first

public diplomacy assignment in Vien-

tiane, her production and marketing

skills will doubtless improve the Public

Affairs Section’s performance.

However, she will also learn that

posts, tweets and videos are tools, not

the end product of a PAS.

Diplomacy is a different business

from journalism.


Joe B. Johnson

FSO, retired

Instructor, Public Diplomacy

Division, FSI

Arlington, Virginia