During of international relations beyond traditional diplomacy

During time the conduct of diplomacy has undergone
several changes. After the cold war Public Diplomacy changed to New Public
Diplomacy and tools, such as Digital Diplomacy, became more relevant. Their
goal is to effectively and systematic spread and communicate important external
narratives. A prosperous external policy is even more successful, when also
perceived as such, therefore governmental institutions begin to set more and
more value on their medial outreach. At this point it is interesting to find
out how Digital Diplomacy is implemented and what impact it can have on the
conduct of diplomacy. The case study of the conduct of Israeli Digital Diplomacy
was integrated in this paper, because it shows the importance of Digital
Diplomacy in the contemporary times including geopolitical tensions between the
state Israel and the Arab world.

In the paper is analysed how Digital Diplomacy is
embedded in Public Diplomacy and how it is conducted. Therefore, the concepts
of Public Diplomacy, New Public Diplomacy and Digital Diplomacy will be
presented. To illustrate the concept there is taken a closer look at the use of
Digital Diplomacy of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which shall
demonstrate how Digital Diplomacy can be used reasonably. In the next part
follows a critical reflection on Digital Diplomacy pointing out its advantages
and disadvantages and leading to the conclusions.

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1.     Public
Diplomacy and New Public Diplomacy

 

Public Diplomacy is a mixture between political
marketing, international understanding and cultural diplomacy to improve the
image of the own country in perception of other countries. It focuses on a
foreign population and the main goal is to explain political decision-making or
communicate a specific image of society.

It can be defined as the management of foreign policy
through a government engagement with a foreign public. Regarding to this, the
essence of Public Diplomacy is to seek to make a good impression on the public
of another country. It encompasses dimensions of international relations beyond
traditional diplomacy such as cultivation of public opinion in other countries
by the governments, the interaction of private groups and interests in one
country with those of another, the reporting of foreign affairs and its impact
on policy. As well as communication between those whose job is communication,
as between diplomats and foreign correspondents and the processes of
inter-cultural communications. (Gilboa 2015: 1) Public Diplomacy is a
communication process employed by states, nonstate actors and organisations to
influence the policies of a foreign government by influencing its citizens.
This influence can be categorized in a two-step process. In the first step an
actor employs direct communication to create a supportive public opinion in
another state, and in the second step the informed foreign public influences
its government to adopt a friendly policy toward the actor. (Gilboa 2015: 2)
Public Diplomacy is mainly pursued by states and uses primarily advocacy and
the traditional media such as newspapers, radio and television.

Especially in the period after the Cold War a new conduct
of Public Diplomacy emerged, called New Public Diplomacy. The New Public
Diplomacy is pursued by both, states and nonstate actors, like international
organisations, NGO’s, multi-national-corporations, global media networks,
terrorist organisations, military alliances and prominent individuals. It is
based on strategic communication characterized by scientific measurement of
public opinion, persuasion techniques and the creation and persistent
dissemination of clear and consistent themes. The New Public Diplomacy is about
a two-way communication, including listening to the public opinion and creating
a dialogue. It uses primarily nation branding and the new internet-based media.
(Gilboa 2015: 4) It can pursue a wide variety of objectives, such as in the
field of political dialogue, trade and foreign investment, the establishment of
links with civil society groups beyond the opinion gatekeepers, but also the
‘hard power’ goals such as alliance management, conflict prevention or military
intervention. (Melissen 2005) Its instruments are listening, advocacy, cultural
diplomacy, exchange diplomacy and international broadcasting. Personal contact,
radio, academic exchange programs, arts and performances in foreign countries,
and the use of the internet are methods used for practicing public diplomacy
depending on the audience to be communicated with and the message to be
conveyed.

 

1.1. Digital Diplomacy as a tool of Public Diplomacy

 

Since the New Public Diplomacy takes place mostly in
the internet based media and social networks, the use of Facebook, Twitter and
Co. for diplomatic objectives has increased. Digital Diplomacy uses these new
ways of communication to achieve diplomatic goals, foreign policy goals and to
manage the national image of a state. It uses advanced technologies to promote
the values, policies and relationships of a nation-state. Digital diplomacy
provides a new infrastructure for diplomats to access target audiences and
immediately inform foreign and local audiences of the country’s international
issues and positions. (Reynolds Sheffer 2010)

The social media create a platform for dialogue
between governments and a foreign public. This two-way communication offers
more opportunities for engagement with foreign publics, an engagement that may
facilitate the creation of relationships between one country and the population
of another. (Manor 2017) It enables user collaboration, interaction and contribution
around the world and facilitates information exchange and sharing of thoughts,
messages and ideas. (Gilboa 2015) Through the creation of institutional or
personal profiles, pages, or events on social media, an institution can
assemble a community interested in their work, curate content, and engage
efficiently with the community and the public. (Diplo)

In summary, Digital Diplomacy can be defined as the
growing use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT’s) and social
media platforms by a country to achieve its foreign policy goals and practice
Public Diplomacy. (Manor 2017 a)

 

2.     Case Study:
Use of Digital Diplomacy of Israel

 

“Our Public Diplomacy
is geared to connect government to people, but also people to people. That is
part of the power of Public Diplomacy.” (Noam Katz, Deputy Director General and
Head of Public Diplomacy in Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

 

The case study of Israel’s Digital Diplomacy was
chosen for this paper, because it demonstrates the importance of the use of
social media by the Ministries of Foreign Affairs to interact with special
audiences. On the international ranking and rating of the most active Digital
Diplomacy units in the world, elaborated from January 2015 to March 2016,
Israel is positioned on eighth position worldwide. The ranking was realised due
to customisation,
up-to-dateness, strategy, influence, engagement, analytics, security, content,
audience, transparency and innovation. It used both
qualitative and quantitative data produced by Ministries of Foreign Affairs
where the researchers analysed publicity, open digital diplomacy assets such as
websites, mobile apps and social networks and how they are used in diplomatic
efforts. (Digital Diplomacy review 2016) According to the ranking it can be
noticed that Twitter is the leading interface for Ministries of Foreign Affairs
to communicate with their global audience, directly followed by Facebook. In
the Israeli case the focus of Digital Diplomacy lies on the use of Facebook as
main tool for communication.  The Israeli
Ministry of Foreign Affairs operates hundreds of accounts in various media and
in about 50 languages, including Hebrew, English, Spanish, French, Persian,
Indonesian, Finnish, Arabic and numerous others. Every Israeli Embassy has its
own social media platform, run in the host country’s language. The country has
gained a strong reputation for its capacity for innovation in various sectors
of technology and has a solid track-record of Digital Diplomacy, using social
media to engage with international audiences. (DDC Summary 2016)

Jonathan McClory, Partner at Portland Communication
Agency depicts Israel’s Digital Diplomacy as following: “Israel … has taken
to social media and digital diplomacy enthusiastically. The success of the
digital engagement is up for debate, but when many leaders shy away from the
lack of control that can come with social media dialogue, Israel has actively
embraced it.” (Ahren 2016)

 

2.1. Reaching the Arab World

 

Outstanding for the Israeli Digital Diplomacy is their
effort to reach the Arab World. Particularly interesting for Israel is the fact
that Digital Diplomacy allows to outreach to people the government could not
connect with through conventional means. Thanks to the digital age these
efforts to reach out to the Arab speaking world could be amplified. The Israeli
Ministry of Foreign Affairs has several social media accounts run in Arabic
that amass combined 881,000 Facebook and 80,000 Twitter followers with by trend
increasing numbers. (statistics from 2016) Of those 881,000 followers, 83% are
men aged from 18 to 34 and most of them are from Egypt, Iraq and the Palestine
Territory. (Israeli MFA 2016) This offers a clear view on which kind of
audience is mostly addressed and it is interesting to notice, that women are quite
low represented. The possibility to recognize what kind of audience can be
addressed, makes it easier to bring forward contents, that are adapted to the
special audience and thereby gaining more attention.

The importance of social media in this communication
becomes crucial, because many Israeli websites are blocked in Arab countries
and with Facebook, Twitter & Co. these barriers can be overcome. With the
2010 created Facebook page in Arab a virtual embassy was created to connect and
build up a better relationship. The advantage of this virtual embassy is, that
it cannot be physically attacked or occupied, what happened to Israeli
embassies in Arab countries before. The goal of this virtual embassy is to
reduce anti-Semitic conspiracy theory and to explain the Israeli position. The
conversations shall portray Israel in a less negative light and change some
perceptions about it. The emphasis is placed on dialogue and it was important
for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to create a platform for open dialogue by
locating trolls and deleting insulting posts for creating a respectful
communication platform. (Manor 2014)

Furthermore, it is important to answer questions and
prove information to those who are willing to engage in dialogue. In favour of
this the followers of the Ministry’s of Foreign Affairs Facebook page in Arabic
were given the opportunity to interact directly with the Ministry’s Senior
Deputy Spokesperson Lior Ben Dor. For one hour Ben Dor responded to questions
and comments posted on the page. Following this chat’s success, there was
introduced a chat session every month. Some of the Arab users describe, that
their point of view has actually changed after reading the Israeli Facebook
page.

Ben Dor summarises that “you could say that we are
operating an embassy out of Jerusalem for the 22 Arab states, with their 350
million people, that bypasses censorship and crosses borders. It is especially
important now, at a time of increasingly radical anti-Israel sentiment, to
reinforce moderate voices in the region.” (Israeli MFA 2011)

 

2.2. First International Digital Diplomacy Conference

 

The first Digital Diplomacy Conference was held in Tel
Aviv from 29th to 31 of March 2016 to create an exchange of views of
diplomats, experts and researchers. The conference was hosted by the Israeli
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Partner Institute for Internet Studies at
the Tel Aviv University. There were participants from 25 countries, including
the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, South Korea and Germany.
Under those participants were researchers from universities in the US, Europe
and Israel in the fields of Diplomacy Communications and the interaction among
them. On the agenda of the conference were topics such as investigating and
advancing the practice of diplomacy in the digital age and formulating a
research agenda. Then it included round-table discussions, expert panels and
case-studies in which foreign ministries shared insight they have gained. Also,
the conference addressed the many challenges facing the world of Digital
Diplomacy ranging from the need to train diplomats in the art of social media
engagement to identifying the means with which to evaluate the impact. Above
all it was focussed on understanding the relationship between the concepts of
Digital Diplomacy, Public Diplomacy and Nation Branding.

 

3.     Advantages
and Disadvantages of Digital Diplomacy

 

The use of social networks in the conduct of diplomacy
bears advantages and disadvantages. Digital Diplomacy simplifies information
exchange and sharing of thoughts, messages, and ideas. It provides a link for
direct communication between the public and the government, and opportunities
to amplify a positive message and to confront a negative one. It is a tool to
reach large audiences and proves itself effective in the management of crisis
communication. (Gilboa 2015) Another positive aspect of it is the two-way
communication, which offers more opportunities for engagement with foreign
publics. The engagement may facilitate the creation of relationships between
one country and the population of another. (Manor 2017 b) An example for the
effective operation of this dialogue is the effort of the Israeli Ministry of
foreign Affairs to reach out to the Arab world.

Additionally, both sides can profit from the dialogue.
The citizen can join the discussion, criticize and maybe take political
influence, and the government on the other side can better understand the
concerns of the population and can spread information more effectively, without
taking a detour through the press. (Manor 2017 a) On one hand it is an
advantage, that governments can bypass the media by using social networks. It
becomes visible in the example of the Israeli MFA’s presence in the Arab Web.
Since many Israeli websites have been blocked in several Arab countries, there
is still a possibility to reach out to them and communicate via social
networks. But on the other hand, it also creates the risk of an emergence of
propaganda, manipulation, and fake news. Everyone has the possibility to
disseminate information and there is no verification and authentication system.
This creates credibility gaps, because of the lack of transparency in the use
of verified sources. It is important to notice, that Digital Diplomacy is at no
time replacing policy, content, or the traditional media, but rather seen as an
addition to them. Furthermore, it must be considered, that the effective use of
the media is both, time and labour intensive. (Gilboa 2015) For an effective
conduct of Digital Diplomacy, there must be trained personnel, charged with the
analysis and composition of shared content. Coming along with the lack of
personnel, there is also a lack of control in the dialogue on social media.
Every person can follow a page and interact on the platform to spread content.
This certainly must be controlled to keep a certain standard and credibility.
So, someone has to locate trolls and delete inappropriate content, but here must
be payed attention on not censoring.

After all it is still difficult to measure the impact
of Digital Diplomacy. There remains the question on what criteria can be used
to identify its effectiveness. Shall it be detected according to the number of
followers, likes, or the amount of constructive comments? There still must be
found a possibility to rate the impact of Digital Diplomacy objectively.

 

 

 

4.     Conclusion

 

Digital Diplomacy is the use of new ways of
communication to achieve diplomatic goals. It has become one of the most
powerful tools in the diplomatic arsenal today. A tool to broaden the audience,
increase interaction and shape the discourse. (1st IDDC 2016) The social media enables
embassies to manage their country’s national image, narrate its policies and
justify its actions in the global and local arena. (Manor 2017 b) It is a
communication process that not only allows state to state interaction, but also
includes non-state actors. Especially the potential of a dialogue creates a new
infrastructure for diplomats to access target audiences. It can be said, that
using digital channels in diplomacy will become the norm. It will be as natural
as sending an email. The “new” media will no longer be new but an integral part
of how to get foreign policy messages across. (Manor 2014) In times in which
news are distributed instantly and media gain importance, the appearance of
governmental institutions on social media becomes crucial. Since nearly every
person has at least one social media account, it has the highest potential to
reach a large scope of people. Especially in the introduced case of Israeli
Digital Diplomacy it comes to the fore, how important the spread of information
on Twitter Facebook & Co. is. Seeing that many Israeli websites are blocked
in Arab countries and that social media are the only means to enable a
dialogue, put them on a powerful position. But not only because it allows the
contact between governmental institution and foreign public, but peculiarly
also because it connects people to people and gives them a platform for
exchange. This changes also the shape of the conduct of diplomacy, which in the
past took place without inclusion of the public and only between the diplomats.
By embedding a public opinion into political happenings, the people are also
given more right of determination and the feeling of integration into the
political sphere. The social media also allow the governments to revise falsely
released images by corrupted media in foreign countries. But this is not only
an advantage, because there still must be made the point, that news spreading
on social media is not verified and that there remains a huge risk of
manipulation and propaganda. All in all, Digital Diplomacy is considered as an
important new tool of Public Diplomacy and will further gain influence and
importance in the conduct of diplomacy. Through the regularly organisation of
International Diplomacy Conferences, knowledge can be exchanged, allowing that
the remaining critical aspects of Digital Diplomacy can be outlined and resolved.