Monday, June 28, 2010

How to work with the traditional media using the tools of social media?

Next month I will start my new diplomatic appointment - media advisor and spokesperson of the Israeli embassy to France.

It's the second time I will work as a spokesperson for the embassy. 10 years ago I did the same job in Moscow. Looks like the same job? Of course, Moscow is not Paris, Russia is not France, however the journalists are journalists everywhere, and the TV, newspapers and radio have much in common. But there is a big, huge, enormous BUT, that changed the world in the last 10 years. It's called social media.

10 years ago there was no Facebook. No Twitter. No Youtube. Even no DailyMotion or And, of course, no other social networks. Blogs were something marginal, and no part of the mass media, anyway.

Today it's all history. Small correction: a history in making, since what we do today with the social media and how social media interacts with the traditional media are things that we learn by the method of error and trial. It's still new for most of us, and it's all about permanent on-the-job training. I've started to reflect on the implications of this change for press-officers in the dimplomatic missions (spokespeople, porte-paroles) - for us, diplomats in the embassies, who do the everyday interaction with the media.

Here are my thoughts on how to work with the traditional media using the tools of new, social, media.
Important note: all these reflections are based on the assumption that you have your communication strategy goals already set.

1. Open Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Youtube (and yes, purchase video camera if you still don't have one) accounts. Twitter is your channel to talk to everybody, LinkedIn - a channel to talk to the professionals, and Facebook - to talk to your friends. You can and should differentiate your messages on these - or other - networks according to your communication strategy.

For example: on LinkedIn, speak about your embassy economic activities, on Facebook - about your cultural activities, on both - about your country's foreign aid. On Twitter you can talk about everything, and the same goes for Youtube.

2. Social media is not a substitute for personal contact. Keep meeting with journalists, going to eat and drink together, calling them to ask what's new, or to update on things you want them to know. BUT: don't forget to ask them if they tweet or have blog, or Facebook or LinkedIn accounts, and tell them about yours. Get them used to your social media presence, follow them, and make them follow you.

3. When you want to communicate to media your embassy's activities, please don't limit yourself to the old-fashioned practice of sending press-release and asking (or, worse, waiting!) them to publish it. Instead of words, use images. Make video-clip, or attach pictures, or both, that will show what your embassy did or is going to do. Send it to TV, newspapers and radio, but also put it in your social media places.

4. Did you heard the cliche that in the age of social media everybody is a journalist and a movie producer? Well, it's true, and it means also that ... you can do it as well! On the practical level: start presenting your country, your government or embassy in your blog, your Facebook page and so on, in a way you want it to be perceived and known. Of course, you cannot lie or say things that don't exist, but you definitely can and should show the things that are not presented in the media. Remember, that information you give is perceived as less objective since it's official - but for the same reason it's a trusted source of inforation, because governments are perceived to be more accountable than regular users.

5. Engage with the traditional media through social media: Respond to the artcile they write (or broadcast) about your country. If they published something bad and unfair about your country, you don't have to beg them to publish a correction (anyway, you know, they will do it too late, and in the most invisible pat of the newspaper). You just have to put a responce on your social media places and distribute it widely. From here you can understand the importance of expanding your audience.

6. In the age of social media, we can become a news agency. Sometimes the problems with the image of your country begin not at the level of opinion making, but at the very beginning of the news producing process: facts reporting. With the help of the social media you can be the first to report about the event, without distortive and prejudice attitudes of the traditional media. What you need to do is to monitor events in our country and update on them public and media in your mission's hosting country. You have all the chances to report before the news from newsagencies will reach the hosting country. However, to compete with the newsagency you will have to spend more resourses and time, and this brings us back to the issue of communcation strategy goals.

I invite you to tell me what you think about this. Thank you.

US Tweetplomacy

American diplomacy and the State Department could serve as a good
example of using social media in their work. American embassies were
among the first to open Twitter accounts and use it for professional
goals. The most well-known example of using Twitter by US embassy
happened 4 years ago in Madagaskar during the coup d'etat attempt
against the president of this country. The US embassy sent tweets in
order to refute the rumors that the president of Madagaskar is hiding
at the embassy...

So if you consider opening the twitter account for your embassy, it is
worth checking what the americans are doing. They are definitely
leaders in this area, and they do it almost in every country. Their
twitter accounts could help you understand how to do yours. I am not
saying do exactly what they do. All I want to say is this: learn from
them and do better! Here are some examples from US embassies in

US Embassy in Vienna:

US Embassy in Geneva:

US Embassy in Warsaw:

US Embassy in Sweden:

US Embassy in Prague:

US Embassy in Oslo:

US Embassy in Italy:

There are many more, just look for them. American diplomats are
already on Twitter.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Twitplomacy - Diplomacy 2.0 on Twitter : We need our Hashtag(s)!

Diplomats discover Twitter.

This is a fact. And I am not talking about the Ministers or Secretaries of State, like Clinton or Miliband. Because at the end of the day they are politicains, not diplomats.

No, I am talking about the career diplomats, who started their diplomatic work as attaches and second secretaries, for whom diplomacy is not just ground breaking speeches, cocktail parties and all other nice things associated with this profession.

These ordinary diplomats discover Twitter, and this is a worldwide movement. I know this for sure, after being introduced to the new social network of Diplomats: Diplodocus.
I was excited to see there diplomats who mentioned on their personal profiles their Twitter accounts. I immediately put them all on a new list on my Twitter account. I called it Twitplomacy. You are welcome to follow the tweeting diplomats and diplomatic missions with this list, I promise to update it. by the way I also crated a list for my colleagues in the Ministry: Israel Tweetplomacy

Now, I start to think about another way we, the diplomats, can find each other on twitter and discuss common issues. Why not to have hashtag (#) for diplomatic twittering?
Let's start with #twitplomacy. What do you think?

Monday, June 7, 2010

The central message of Season 8 of "24": There is no peace without justice

Usually I don't watch series. In fact, "24" is the only series I follow from the first season. And not just follow, but became kind of fan. I was trying to find an explanation for this. Yes, I love action, I like movies dealing with politics, diplomacy, international relations. However, all these things you can find in other series or movies. What is particularly good about the "24", and what attracts me the most, is that it always reflects real-life crisis situations and dilemmas. Sometimes, the international background of "24" is not just a reflection, but projection of the real-life tendencies. Of course, like in any movie, many details are exaggerated, stretched and unrealistic. However, this parallel reality of the movie resembles, at times too closely, the reality we live.

Look for the 8th season of "24". The general background (for those who didn't see it) is set during the final phase of peace negotiations between the US President Ms. Allison Taylor and the President Omar Hassan of the fictional Islamic Republic of Kamistan, a moslem country with nuclear ambitions and program. Sounds familiar to you?

The two sides are close to reach the peace agreement that will put an end to the hostilities and wars. However, the situation gets out of control when islamic terrorist from Kamistan kidnap their own President who is perceived by them as a traitor and finally execute by them. Jack Bauer discovers that it was the Russian Government who stood behind this plot in order to thwart the peace process. President Taylor who is also aware of the Russian conspiracy, decides to proceed with the peace conference, joined by the Russians who are also happen to be the co-sponsors of the peace agreement, and have no choice to join it since the Omar Hassan's wife decides to step in and carry the legacy of her husband. However, Jack Bauer, true to his principles and values, continues to uncover the Russian conspiracy, against the decision of the US president who is willing to save the peace agreement.

In one of the most dramatic scenes President Taylor almost shouts to Jack: "But I want peace!", while his responds to it with the equally strong: "And I want justice".

So, what is the message of "24" and Jack Bauer? There is no peace without justice. Peace is important but not at all price. Peace has a value, but it's also a political interest. To achieve peace you have to make compromises, but do you have to betray your principles in order to achieve it? You can reach peace agreement based on lies and cover-ups, but it won't be a just peace. Justice is a value that transcends the interests, and there are no compromises there. You cannot compromise all your principles for peace. Sometimes you have to stand up to your principles. That what Jack Bauer did. That's where president Taylor failed.

She failed because she wanted peace at all price. In this blind pursuit for the peace agreement she betreayed her principles. She wanted engagement but ended up in sheer appeasement and cover-up. She showed weakness and she paid for it.

Is there any message for the present, real, US Administration? In the last two month the word "weakness" associated with the foreigh policies of President Obama were used too often. The most striking example for this tendency you can see in this opinion piece in Washington Post:

To sum up, engagement and peace are important things, both as values and national interests. However, they cannot be reached at all price - because there is a price to this.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Social media for diplomats - practical guide 2.0

About a year ago I wrote a post explaining basic guidelines on using social media by diplomats (here:
One year later, I would like to update some things and add others. After all, there is nothing like experience…
I will comment about three major tools: Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.

So why Facebook?

1. More than 400 million users
2. The most significant users traffic, after Google
3. More than 60 languages
4. Popular in non-English speaking countries
5. Enormous potential for Public Diplomacy (at least today, because who knows what we’ll have in the future!)

Basic steps for working with Facebook

There are three Facebook page types for organizations: Fan page, Group or Cause. The fan page is most commonly used for organizations. It’s recommended to set up a personal page prior to opening the mission’s official fan page. Make yourself familiar with how Facebook works.
Choose a person who is effective communicator or writer. If s/he needs a training ask your HQ to provide it!
Define your risk plan: how you respond to negative comments and determine what is acceptable and what is not
Your page should be branded as official site, in order to differentiate between you and others appearing on your behalf.
Engage at appropriate times and respond quickly. Provide your updates on regular basis and often. Monitoring should be done on the daily basis. Any inappropriate postings should be removed immediately.
It’s recommended to include in the Info section the following statement: “This page is operated by the embassy of Israel in … Hate materials, obscenities, inappropriate photos will not be tolerated and person/s who published such materials will be blocked from this page”.
Security: discuss with the security officer different aspects of physical security and information security.

How to promote your Facebook page

Manage the page in the language of your country – there could be exceptions, but this is the general rule. Update the page at least 4-5 times a week. 3. Updates should be about the activity of your mission and related to your country of destination. It must be important to your local audience. You could update on general matters as well, but keep in mind the first part of this recommendation!
In all your documents include the FB address: official letters, email signatures of all the employees, visit cards. Promote your FB page through the bilateral Chambers of Commerce, Friendship Associations, and your expats communities organizations – they also use social media!
Create bloggers coalitions – they will spread the word better than anybody else. And you will need them for other things too! Check the most popular portals, blogs, or FB pages in your country of destination, learn about what they write and publish your comments with links to your FB page and/or website.

Twitter gets Twinfluence

In the last 12 months Twitter become very popular in the diplomatic community throughout the world. Many ministries of foreign affairs have their pages, many diplomatic missions did the same. However many diplomats that I know are still hesitant about opening it and using it. So first of all: Personal account is better than mission’s account. You should both, but remember that as a person you can reach much more followers and engage with them better in comparison to official profile of your mission.
Update daily, at least 3 times a day. In emergency/crisis situation update once every hour, and more…
Retweet posts, mention other twitterers and respond to messages. In emergency/crisis situation use Hashtags: #
Create lists in order to monitor information and use Tweetdeck to monitor what’s happening. During the Haiti humanitarian operation we used Twitter to get information about the open airports for rescue team landing.
And of course, publish links to video, photos or posts. Don’t forget to check your Twitter effectiveness with Twinfluence.

A few words about LinkedIn for diplomats

Open your personal account and describe your professional profile. Look at the groups that are of professional interest to you. Connect your Twitter account to LinkedIn.
As a year ago, my conclusion about LinkedIn is the same: diplomats should use it for personal and professional networking. I don’t think mission’s profile or ministry’s profile must appear on LinkedIn, at least not yet. I believe that economic and humanitarian cooperation could be done through LinkedIn groups, and diplomats can contribute to it a lot.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

OECD abd Mashav hold join workshop on Development Communication

Today I had an opportunity to talk to a group of Development Communication specialists from countries-members in OECD. We were talking about potential of social media in promoting the cause of Development goals and international aid awareness (read more about the agenda here: , something that is defined by some experts as Web2forDev (

No doubt Development 2.0 is gaining the moment. Participants from all the countries shared their experience with social media. It's true that the UK's representative, Julia Chandler from DFID, impressed al of us with the systematic and advanced approach towards integrating social media tools in the Development communication. However, the most important lesson for me was that all the participants speak the same "digital" language. May be because the average age in the group was closer to 30 than 50....

Here is my PP presentation at the seminar:

You can see also this interviews with Seminar's participant: