Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Digital diplomacy in Paris – workshop and panel


Bernard Valero, Spokesperson
French Foreign Ministry

Last week the embassy of Israel in Paris, France, hosted an international workshop on the digital diplomacy. It was first such experience for us in the Israeli embassy, but what I learnt from our guests during the workshop was that it was also the case for many of them. While diplomats discuss this topic with their counterparts occasionally, the idea of workshop was to create the platform of professional discussion and exchange between diplomats, web-specialists, journalists and bloggers.


Richard Volodarski
web-agency Linkeo
Since I came to Paris year and half ago, I contacted many of my counterparts, spokespeople from different embassies to learn how they use social media in their communication work in France. I discovered that while a few embassies are quite active in this field, like the US and Estonian embassies, others were hesitant, either on the personal level, or because of their headquarters’ lack of encouragement. At the same time, many diplomats expressed their interest to learn from the experience of others.
That’s how I realized there’s a potential for this workshop. My Estonian and US colleagues supported the idea and became partners in this project.



Paul Patin, Spokesperson
US embassy in France
So what did we have on February 8 in our embassy? It was an honor for to host our first speaker, Bernard Valero, the Head of the Communications’ Department and Spokesperson of the French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs. The Quai d’Orsay is one of the most advanced ministries of Foreign Affaires in the digital diplomacy, I know this firsthand: more than 100.000 twitter followers, internet-conferences for journalists every two days, state of the art website of the Ministry…



Sigrid Kristenprun
Spokesperson, embassy of Estonia
Our second speaker was Richard Volodarski of the Linkeo web-agency. Richard shared with some insights about the social media in France and in general. How many people use social media in France? How we look after target audiences? What is the importance of digital presence for embassies? How make it successful? All these questions were discussed, and even if not answered, the participants were intrigued by some of the dilemmas and perspectives he introduced.





And this is me
After it three presentations were done by the Estonian, US and Israel embassies. We’ve learnt that the Estonian embassy is exploring Facebook, the US embassy is working also on Twitter and is especially pro-active in Youtube, and we are making inroads into the blogosphere. While we could see differences in our approaches, it was clearly the conclusion of all the speakers: we need more independence from HQ and more immediate responses if we want our embassies’ digital presence to be efficient and significant.


I believe it was first, but not the last workshop on digital diplomacy: the best way to learn is by sharing practices and methods. 

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