Wednesday

5 Public Diplomacy trends to watch out for in 2017

The world indeed looks very different as we start into the New Year. The rise of the conservative narrative across the world culminating in the election of Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of United States ushers in very interesting times. 2017 might also be seen as the 'Big Crunch' of globalization. For PD enthusiasts, I have identified the following trends to watch out for:


1. Rise of RHETORIC:This year will be a year of competing narratives. Rhetoric will take centre stage as debates in the international stage would be fueled by nationalism than anything else. The focus of PD would be to secure validity for a certain school of thought more than "attracting" audiences.
2. POWER will take centre stage: This year might be turn out to be the best year for the PD profession. Instead of being seen as a 'good to have' function within foreign offices, PD might emerge as a major player in enhancing 'power'. As states vie for legitimacy and influence in a world that would be fragmented, instruments of PD and tools would be used in a more strategic manner instead of doing it adhoc. Among other things, it might mean more budgets. This will be an interesting puzzle for PD theorists to examine and how it would influence the evolution of the discipline.
3. PAID MEDIA will be the new normal: States will find ways to increasingly use paid media to create influence. There might be some ethical considerations in here, but what I am trying to say is instead of relying on 'earned' or 'owned' media, PD Divisions will be more proactive and rely increasingly on paid content. The 'post truth' era demonstrated to all of us the power of 'fake news'. More advanced media societies are more vulnerable to such influence and the reliance on paid media by the minor powers might be an increasing trend.


4. RISE OF THE OTHERS: The others, I mean the 'Non State Entities' would emerge as a significant instrument of PD policy. In some cases, they might want to create narratives and engage audiences on their own that would help their cause and may compete with state narratives.
5. Change in TONALITY: The 'feel good' will give way to the 'feel strong'. We will see a marked difference in the tonality of communication. 'Impress' will give way to 'Influence' and 'logic' will trump (pun intended) 'sentiment'. 2017 might be a year of great debates!

This year is going to be interesting. Trust me on that one!

-Suggestions/Critiques welcome.
Madhur

Thursday

"Culture is there, to be Shared - Not Sold" - SIMON ANHOLT


"... international public opinion favours countries that contribute to the common good of humanity, rather than countries which are merely successful, beautiful or powerful..."

- Simon Anholt

The recent Good Country Index had a surprise. India's rank under the category of "Culture" was a lowly 119 among the 163 countries that were surveyed. For India watchers like us this was indeed interesting given the huge interest in government and policy circles to promote Indian culture overseas as a component of Indian soft power. 


The Public Diplomacy Blog spoke to Simon Anholt on this aspect trying to understand why India ranked low on "Culture". Simon brings to the fore an important distinction between promotion of 'culture' versus 'cultural contribution' and there seems to be a good opportunity for India's creative economy to be internationally 'participative'.


The following is what Simon Anholt had to say:


How is 'culture' defined in the survey?

Simon: We follow the UNESCO definition of culture that incorporates cultural production, the creative industries and expressions of national/regional culture; we also consider how each country facilitates freedom of movement and freedom of expression in order to allow the production, sharing and dissemination of culture. As explained on the website at https://goodcountry.org/index/source-datathe way we ‘sample’ a country’s cultural contribution to the world in the Good Country Index is by combining the following datasets:

  • Creative goods exports: Exports of creative goods (UNCTAD's Creative Economy Report categorization) relative to the size of the economy.
  • Creative services exports: Exports of creative services (UNCTAD's Creative Economy Report categorization) relative to the size of the economy.
  • UNESCO dues in arrears as % of contribution: UNESCO dues in arrears as percentage of contribution (negative indicator).
  • Freedom of movement, i.e. visa restrictions: Number of countries and territories that citizens can enter without a visa (according to Henley & Partners).
  • Press freedom: Freedom of the press (based on mean score for Reporters without Borders and Freedom House index as a negative indicator).

Of course these five indicators don’t give a complete or exhaustive account of a country’s cultural output – it’s just a sample – but they’re the best and indeed the only suitable datasets we were able to find. 

Cultural expression just isn’t very fully measured internationally, and obviously we need data that’s collected in a consistent way, every year, in at least the 163 countries we cover in the Index. These five datasets were the only ones we could find that fitted the bill.

2. Indian government does a lot in promoting Indian culture and there is a tacit acceptance in policy and media circles that it is India's biggest soft power - and we see a lower rank for India as a whole. What is your comment on this?


Simon: I think they’re doing the right thing (although I would argue that simply ‘promoting’ one’s national culture isn’t a very Good Country thing to do: culture is there, after all, to be shared – not sold to people as a way of enhancing the country’s image). Of course a lot of this activity is 'unmeasurable' in a comparative survey like the Good Country Index, and this is one of the reasons why we are hoping to start producing more qualitative, in-depth, country-specific surveys in the near future: this will enable us to cover a lot of the activity in all seven categories that the Good Country Index is unable to measure.


3. Does the ranking reflect a perception by people of "culture" in the country or the state of culture in the country ?

Simon: Neither: the Good Country Index isn’t an opinion poll, it’s a measurement of reality; however it doesn’t directly reflect the state of culture in the country, it attempts to measure how much of that culture is shared internationally.
4. How do you think the ranking would impact India's perception?

Simon: My research over the last 15 years has consistently demonstrated that international public opinion favours countries that contribute to the common good of humanity, rather than countries which are merely successful, beautiful or powerful. So whilst a high ranking in the Good Country Index on its own is unlikely to affect public perceptions of the country, the good behavior that gives rise to that ranking certainly will. 

Simon Anholt


Suggestions/Critiques welcome.
- Madhur





Tuesday

Who will kill the ISIS story?

Finally it unfolds. We have the most powerful nations in the world confronting ISIS in what seems to be the final battle for the terror group. What US, Russia, Iran, France and others also need to understand that eliminating Baghdadi or for that matter uprooting ISIS will not be the end of it.

This is the Age of Conversations, of Information, of pervasive media and ISIS did tell a powerful story. ISIS inspired many around the world with its ideology, myth making and ability to challenge the high and the mighty. ISIS did amazing work with social media, peppering the web with its online propaganda - these are archived, available and accessible to all. These will remain and continue do so and it's time the web is purged of such content.

"Caesar dead is more powerful than Caesar alive" - as long as the legend and myth of ISIS remains the terror group will continue to be alive. Long before ISIS emerged, this blog highlighted the possibility of emergence of a militant religious power in the Middle East and it did turn out to be true, despite the Arab Spring and all progressive movements. It did because the story remained and the narrative continued to inspire.

Suggestions/Critiques welcome.

- Madhur

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