Sunday, April 26, 2009

How diplomats should use the social media - practical guide

Let's say you are assigned to a new diplomatic position abroad. Your responsibilities include public relations, or media, or both. What is even more important - you've decided to engage with the new world of social media which you see as a useful tool in your job.

I would like to suggest a few possible guidelines on how you can use social media. The tips Iprovide are based on my personal and work experience with the social networks. If you already have experimented with it, please see this post as an invitation for open discussion on the topic.

1. Social media is a useful tool, not an end in itself, for your proffesional puproses. Therefore, the first task is to decide who is your audience and what are its characteristics. It could be people of certain age group, it could be students, it could be your colleagues from local diplomatic corps, it could be an ethnic group, it could be anything you think is important for your country and your mission. You should be very specific when identifying the audience. At the same time, remember that the social media, because of its "internet nature", is an open sourse, and anybody can see your messages, so the potential scope of your outreach is far beyond your planning. So are the possibilities of backlash in case you add there some sensitive or incorrect materials.

2. Assign one of your local employees (or more than one - if you can afford!) who will be dealing with the social media.If you are serious about your engagement with social media, you should make sure it's updated and checked on the dayly and hourly basis. Social media is about your presense there. Keep inmind that if you are not there - somebody else's posts/blogs/pictures will be impacting the audience.

3. The next important task is to define the code of conduct in dealing with social networks. Some Ministries of Foreign Affairs already started to think on the issue, but if you don't have something written and approved, take as your pointf departure the code of conduct you apply in the real world and adopt it to the virtual one. You will see that it is all about common sense. It is obvious and goeswithout saying that as a diplomat or an employee in a diplomatic mission you should act in certain way and have some limitations - apply them accordingly in the social media environment.
Moshe Dayan, Israel's defense minister, was asked onceby a journalist what does he think on the possibility of another war. He said that as a defense minister he can answer the question. So the journalis asked what does he think as a private citizen. On that he replied: "As a private citizen I am a minister of defense". The lesson: nothing is private when you represent the government.

4. Local staff could and should be your facilitator in dealing with local audiences through the social networks. See if they are using social networks and try to engage them in spreading the word about the mission website, facebook page or blog. If you feel thay are not interested in this, at least give them the"red lines" based on code of conduct that was mentioned above. Even if at the first glanse this suggestion looks to you "non-democratic", think that there is something non-democratic in working in any organization. After all, many private companies defined policy on the use of the social media by the employees. They want employees to be there, but define rules and code of conduct. Examples: IBM, Sun Microsystems, and many others (see Larry Weber's "Marketing to the Social Web":

By the way, you can read more about this and other useful insights onusing the local staff here:

5. Facebook could be used in many ways. First of all, open your private page, and invite your friends from your own country to join. You will see that some of them could have interesting and helpful connections in a country of your mission. When you meet local counterparts ask them if they are on facebook. If yes - ask to be their freinds. In your profile you don't have to appear blacktie, casual dress will be good enough. However - no nude or beach style photos! May be one day the standards will change, but don't try to be the first who changes them...

Second of all, Facebook should be used for opening the page for your diplomatic mission. This page will look more officially than your private page. You can create your mission's community with the help of this page. Facebook is especially useful tool because of its global outreach - it has versions in 95 languages, and is very popular in non-English speaking countries. Facebook can be used as your official website, as your own news agency, as your message will be defined by you and not by the media outlets. In order to expand your community you have to spend time, but the effort pays you back.

6. LinkedIn, however, is better for opening personal page, even though many compaines have their pages there. I think that diplomats can find interesting professional information and ties through LinkedIn. It could also be a good tool for recruitment local staff, at least in US and Canada, since this network functions as a huge Human Resourses agreggator. There are also very good groups dealing with different aspects of Public Diplomacy which I find useful and insightful. Diplomats from different countries can create there own groups. As the trend of localization in social media becomes more dominant, diplomats based in certain city can comminucate through the group they can create on LinkedIn.

7. Twitter is something so new and the people are so involved with Facebook and LinkedIn, that many are not running to this new tool of social media. The greatest advantage of Twitter is that it could function as mission's news agency. It's the best way to connect to the young generation and to the most advance audiences. By the way, it's also a good way of being updated on-line and for free - while the sourse of information could be quite valuable. For diplomats, the twitter of Hillary Clinton could be very interesting, nottomentio all the interantional agencies that started opening their twitters.

Probably I'll stop here. There is much more to add and say - but next time...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

diplomacy and green politics - by Secretary of state

Insightful sppech about green diplomacy by Sec. of State Hillary Clinton:

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Twitter and handling public relations

I'm bringing for your attention an article from LAT about Twitter and how big companies deal with its impact on PR and branding. There are some insights that could be applied in public diplomacy:,0,2701874.story

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Virtual worlds and international affairs

Dear friends,

I would like to introduce to you the virtual reality project that deals with journalism and international affairs. I had a priviledge to meet project's founders, Joshua Fouts and Rita King. And even to give short interview to the virtual world...

To say it briefly: this stuff is mind-opening and breath-taking. Simultaneously.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

personal branding by diplomats - is this part of a country branding?

Diplomats, like anybody else, create their Facebook and Linkedin pages. They even happen to like it...

Whenever diplomats participate in the social networking, they do it not just as private citizens. they are always seen as their countries' official representatives. However social networks are non-formal forums, where personal and public areas are interwoven. This condition allows soft influence, as opposed to imposing opinions and positions through the official statements, articles and interviews. On social networks you share your interests, your opinions, your ideas with others, creating your own brand. But because you are still perceived as a person related to the government of one's country everything you share there is relevant to the image of your country. Your own image adds to the image of your country.

In the next post you will find a couple of useful tips on upgrading your social networks pages.

tips on personal branding in Social Networks

Here are some tips by Randy Ingbritsen, from Workforce Solutions at Penn State University:

Social networking and Web 2.0 technologies can impact a job search in both positive and negative ways and, in today’s job market, it’s important to make sure Facebook and other tools are not working against you.

To tweak your social network:
Change the privacy settings on your Facebook profile. The default settings aren’t very private — anyone in your networks can see anything you do unless you make parts of your profile available to only your friends.

Review all photos and videos that others have tagged of you on Facebook and remove tags from any that you wouldn’t want a recruiter or potential employer to see.
Review comments that friends have left on your Facebook profile and remove anything that you feel is unprofessional.

If you don’t want a certain person or people (recruiters, co-workers, etc.) to see any part of your Facebook profile, you can exclude them completely.

You can also create two separate profiles, one with your personal information and one for professional use. LinkedIn is another option for creating a professional social networking presence.

Google your name with and without quotation marks. Work to remove any inappropriate content if possible by contacting the authors or Web site administrators.

If you have a blog, Twitter account, or any other public social media presence, be aware that employers and co-workers may be reading it.

To build your personal brand:
Harness your “essence” — Who are you? How do you want others to remember you? What do you want to be known as an expert in? How can you set yourself apart from others? All of these are important questions to ask yourself when determining your brand.

Once you have these ideas in place, work on packaging them in a clear, concise statement that will make you memorable when speaking with recruiters and potential employers.

Monday, April 13, 2009

the opening remark

Can diplomats blog? And if yes - why should they?

Five years after the social networks revolution - and nobody questions the success of the use of Web 2.0 for diplomatic purposes. Look at all the Facebook pages of the Israel's consulates and embassies, that emerged in US and spread out in Europe. Look at the Twitter press conference hold by NY Consulate, that even was mentioned in Wikipedia article on public diplomacy. The examples are many - yet, wneh we look at the blogoshpere the situation is different.

The nature of blogging is expressing the views - as different as they can only be. The nature of representing country's official position is exactly the opposite. Therefore, if as a diplomat you open a blog - what are you going to discuss? Are you going to ask the readers to express their views on this position? Are you going to allow all the views to be expressed without editing? or allow only "good" responses to be published. In both scenarios you are going to loose - either you will get all the hate language possible, or become just another official site, which is the opposite of blogging. As a diplomat you can react to the blogs of others - in the same you respond to newspapers and TV, but you can't really open a blog on the country's policies. You don't question it - you express it.

However, as we're searching the possibilities and limits of Web 2.0, we would like to try this medium of communication. Let's blog about the things that are common for all of us, the diplomats: the issues of dealing with the accomodation for us and our families, the ways of upgrading the learning and training practices in the diplomatic service, and of course the challenges and the very future of diplomacy. So many people tend to say something about the death of diplomacy as a profession, or some other "truths" about it. I think we can and should have a say in this discussion.

May be it would be easier for us to think about dipomatic blogging as a small talk through the internet. And who knows better than us the real value of a professional small talk?

You are welcome!