Much of the government’s international communications objectives, strategy and structure was created for the Cold War era. Since that time, communications, media and policy professionals have grappled with questions about why and how the United States communicates abroad. In today’s world, marked by the emergence of cyberspace and the information revolution, the government’s broadcast communications on and offline are of diminished relevance. They often lack credibility abroad, and don’t always serve U.S. policy aims. The exchange and cultural programs that make up other parts of the government’s public diplomacy are mostly effective but are being eroded by lack of attention and direction. Critically little interactivity or connective tissue exists among the various pieces of the public diplomacy and communications universe. This is at a time that the nation’s political, economic, and military competitors are ramping up their own soft power efforts. More ominously, some state and non-state actors are using digital and other means of communication to spread disinformation and radicalization. The time has come for a total re-think of government communications.
Numerous studies, seminars, and conferences have offered trenchant diagnoses of the issues and proposed new ways of thinking about international communications. Yet despite the wealth of ideas, discussion, and consensus on direction, concrete change has been slow to come. A more holistic and fundamental approach to the key issues and how they relate is necessary.
This project will redesign the objectives, strategy, and structure of the U.S. government’s international communications and public diplomacy for today’s networked world. It will address: Why does the United States communicate to foreign audiences? What should it hope to achieve? How does the effort build on what foreign audiences actually wish to hear from the United States? What are the best platforms for communicating, and how can modern technologies be harnessed to facilitate this effort? What aspects of our communications are not technology dependent, but rather rely on human contacts, diplomatic arts, and cultural astuteness? The project will explore the dynamics of today’s communications landscape; changing patterns of information consumption and the makeup of today’s audiences; technological innovations and their possible uses; the shape and character of the competition among international communicators; and measures of effectiveness.
Ultimately the project aims to recommend a range of policy options available to lawmakers and strategists to advance U.S. interests in the new communications era. The program will promulgate a steady stream of deliverables to include policy papers, briefings, op eds, and shorter memoranda or white papers on new media platforms, strategic planning, programming ideas, research inputs, and geopolitical trends for action by those who can influence changes and improvements in U.S. international media’s and U.S. Public Diplomacy’s current offerings.