Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Diplomatic blog in Paris - 7 months after the launch

In August 2010 I moved to Paris for my new diplomatic job as the spokesperson of the Embassy of Israel. One of the first things on my agenda was to open "blog of the Spokesperson". Why? I had three reasons in mind. First, the level of social media penetration In France was rising, including the use of the social networks like Facebook and Daily Motion. Secondly, many French journalists and politicians were using Twitter and personal blogs for their professional objectives. Some of them I started to follow before landing in Paris. And third, the French media in general, with some exceptions, is generally hostile to Israeli positions on the Middle East peace process and sees the conflict between us and the Palestinians as the major topic about Israel, while ignoring other stories about Israel. So, we started to develop a communication strategy with a significant role of social media, my personal blog being part of it.

All of the reasons proved to be correct. So, when I opened a blog my target audience was the journalists and people dealing with the media coverage of the Middle East. The blog helped me to be "introduced" to many of them even before our real meeting took place - they visited my blog. Today, in every meeting I have with journalists, I talk about my blog and ask them about their social media presence, which many of them have.

However, my audience became much broader than I could imagine.Here are some numbers after  7-months blogging.

I opened my blog "Ma Parole!" in August 2010. Since then there were registered 23.000 views, meaning about 3.000 each month. At the first 2 months there was a peak of views - more than 4.500 per months, and since then the numbers are around 1.700 views. You can see here the statistics:

What I find especially interesting was the geography of the visitors in my blog. As expected, the most of the visitors to be from France - about 16.000 people. However, people in the French-speaking countries, like Belgium and Canada, are also among the visitors.The visitors also came from the countries where French was traditionally one of the popular languages, like Morocco and Tunisia. These countries don't have diplomatic relations with us, and in fact the contacts on the level of people-to-people are very sporadic after these countries severed their relations with Israel. This opportunity to interact with people in these countries was of special importance for me.

In this graph on the right side you can the top 10 visitors' countries.

Even though it was a personal blog, I defined it as "the blog of the Spokesperson of the Embassy of Israel in Paris". With this I wanted to stress that the positions I was going to take reflect the official positions of the embassy and of the State. However, this ambiguity of personal blog expressing official position led some people to ask me this question again and again: Does this blog represent the official position?

In fact, the positions I expressed in the blog always reflected the broad consensus in the Israeli society and in the Israeli government. In order to have more "freedom of expression" I decided to open a special place where people could put question about official positions of the government, while in other posts I could express myself in a less official way. So I created in the blog a special box called "Questions to the Spokesperson". In the first two weeks after opening the box, I have received many questions. With the time, it cooled down. However, I have no doubt that once there will be some major event related to Israel (which always comes, you know...) - the visitors will come back with all their questions.

One last thing I realized in these 7 months: blogging means self-discipline, persistence and serious intellectual investment and creativity. Diplomatic blogging means greater freedom in expressing the views and expanding the limits of "what you can say" for diplomats. However, it also means that you have to take some risks because reflecting the official position is different from actually representing it word by word. But as the Russian proverb says: "If you don't take risks, you will not drink champagne." In today's world diplomats must have greater risks if they want diplomacy to be relevant and effective.

If you want to visit the blog just click here

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