“Facing the Climate” Exhibition in Washington, DC

Last Tuesday, I had the opportunity to attend the “Grand Opening of 2014 Theme Program: Going Glocal” at the Swedish Embassy in Washington, DC (also known as the House of Sweden). The event was particularly important for me as Sweden also unveiled Facing the Climate - a cartoon exhibit that includes the works of Swedish and international artists on climate issues. Also, Facing the Climate is one of the projects I study in my dissertation. It was a “geeky” and a “happy” moment when I finally saw the project that I have been interviewing, reading, and writing about for the past two year in person.

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Turkey: Home of Absurd Promotion Posters

Turkey unveiled its new promotion posters for 2014, with the theme “Home of [insert (sometimes proper) noun here]“. When I first saw some of the posters, I really was not sure whether this was an official campaign or a spoof. As various news outlets reported the event as such, I assume it is an official campaign – though the content of the posters make it very difficult to believe that.

Nope, that is not Virgin Mary in the picture.

Nope, that is not Virgin Mary in the picture. Just a random lady.

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How not to Conduct Digital Diplomacy: @IDFSpokesperson and IDF Blog

As a ‘scholar-in-training’, I try to focus my writing (and even thinking) on my dissertation topic and do my best to stay away from ‘distractions’ mainly due to two reasons. Firstly, I want to get my PhD sooner rather than later. Secondly, I want to brand myself through my dissertation research and related writings. Middle Eastern politics, for instance, is a subject I would not touch with a ten foot pole. Yet, after witnessing Pillar of Defense (or #pillarofdefense for the purposes of this blog post), I decided to write on how not to conduct digital diplomacy and underline IDF’s mistakes in message formation and medium selection.

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Bridge No More? Turkish Public Diplomacy and Branding under the AKP Government

With its geographic location between Asia and Europe, and with its identity as a predominantly Muslim yet secular-democratic country, Turkey has established its role as a bridge between the East and the West for years. Changes in the domestic political landscape in the last decade have put Turkey in an even more prominent position in the international arena. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the country is an aspiring power in the greater Middle East region. With the AKP (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, Justice and Development Party) government, Turkey has seen unprecedented institutional changes done in the name of democracy, witnessed the decreasing influence of the military over civilian politics, and enjoyed impressive economic growth. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s introduction of a well-devised “zero-problem with neighbors” policy, has aimed to strengthen relations with neighboring countries and to increase Turkish presence in parts of the world that has been long ignored by previous administrations.

This article is cross-posted from e-IR Journal. The original article can be accessed here.

 

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Unintentional (public) diplomacy: Conflict of Pinterest 2012

There is a new campaign (well now a couple of months old), Conflict of Pinterest that makes use of social media, citizen involvement, and some kind of measurement metrics that aims to find the answer for the million dollar question: “What is the most beautiful country in this world?” The campaign brings all the buzzwords of public diplomacy studies – therefore requires a closer look!

Conflict of Pinterest 2012

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Theory and Practice in Public Diplomacy: Diplomatic dish-washing

For the last couple of months, I have been working on the latest project of Turkayfe.org – our online coffeehouse project. The website, which started out as an online “social diplomacy” / place branding project is going offline, and meeting people on the street with “Mobile Turkish Coffee House” project.

Mobile Turkish Coffee House in front of the Turkish Embassy in Washington, DC

Mobile Turkish Coffee House in front of the Turkish Embassy in Washington, DC

Turkayfe.orgstarted out as an idea in May 2009, and the website went live in May 2010. From our very early days, we did our best to learn from our mistakes, and to improve our project. As a doctoral candidate studying public diplomacy, and a dilettante practitioner; I tried to use my practical experience in my academic studies and vice-versa.

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The Latvia Pavilion – Technology of Happiness

For the last couple of weeks, I was trying to find some time to take a closer look at the Latvia Pavilion at the World Expo 2010 . Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to write something about the project before the Expo was over. But still, I would like to acknowledge this novel idea. (Plus, apparently the Pavilion will be up for an auction this Tuesday. If you have missed the fun in Shanghai, it might be time to call your local amusement park).

I called the Latvia Pavilion a novel idea, because the project team managed to come up with a non-traditional but still straight-forward concept to exhibit within a traditional event. It is difficult to make use of ‘events marketing’ as a participant, yet it is not impossible. Here is Latvia’s Expo 2010 concept:

Latvia’s strength lies in its people, who through their industriousness and creativity, have become among the world’s best specialists in their respective fields. They have proven that things can be done differently, and with excellent results…hrough the creative use of innovative technologies and inventions, they hope to improve the quality of life in their communities, in their country, and in the world at large. Such is the TECHNOLOGY OF HAPPINESS on display in the Latvian pavilion. Taken from http://www.latvijaexpo2010.lv/en/latvijas-paviljons/koncepcija/

Latvia, a country that has been labeled as Communist, Soviet, Eastern Bloc, Eastern Europe, Central Europe, new European, new EU member in less than twenty-five ears, makes use of Expo to demonstrate a less-known (and probably more-fun) part of itself and its people. The design shows the country’s technological capabilities. The fact that it is a ‘toy’ (Lack of a better word, I would call this miracle a toy in quotation mark) shows the place of ‘fun’ in Latvian daily life.

When it comes to nation branding, several countries actually act with an image restoration understanding. There is always a seriousness, a desire to apologize, an eagerness to correct misinformation. But such messages only reach the interested audience. What if a visitor at Expo 2010 has no interest in Latvia, how can you communicate with him or her? Who will not stop to see a few people flying in a pavilion? This causal approach, I claim, helped Latvia to reach several people who would otherwise not be interested in learning about the country.

Moreover, we aspire to become overachievers in nation branding campaigns. If you look at the major definitions in the literature, they talk about policy changes, involvement of several agencies, high-level communication strategies etc. Even though, it is true that a large-scale nation branding program is likely to include several different aspects but a single project/campaign should be simple and straightforward. The messages should not bore the audiences. (I am 99% sure that Pavilion did not bore anyone).

Finally, the Pavilion project was supported by online communication technologies. Apart from the website and blog, the project was active on Twitter. The Vimeo Channel is still active and includes around fifty videos.

Long story short, The Latvia Pavilion was a successful and original nation branding project idea. Changing the perception of a nation necessitates more than a project (or more than a collection of project). Countries are obliged to have long-term strategies. However, these ideas are effective in short term. Expo 2010 was a media opportunity for all the participants, and Latvia cleverly used this opportunity.


PS: English subtitles would have been great in this video.

Social Diplomacy: This time on the streets…

As you might already know, I am working as the political communication consultant for Turkayfe.org project. Turkayfe is a Web 2.0 based online platform that invites people to share their experiences about Turkey with the community. Our main is to brand Turkey through people’s perspectives. Instead of using mass media and mass persuasion methods, we aim to reach a brand image through telling stories about the country. We label our attempt as a social diplomacy project. Even though, Turkayfe.org mainly utilizes online communication methods, it is important not to forget that social diplomacy is inherently a ‘social’ understanding of public diplomacy, and requires face-time with the target audiences.
Last Sunday, we were at the Turkish Festival in Washington, DC. We set up a table for Turkayfe, and made our first contact with the community in Washington, DC. The Turkish expats and students in the United States, as well as American citizens interested in Turkey are two of our main target audiences. Therefore, the festival was a great opportunity for us to connect with the community. You can read more about our impressions here and here.


Shortly speaking, social diplomacy projects taking place at a grassroots level cannot survive through solely online communication technologies. The projects need to ‘solidify’, in other words, the projects should focus on creating a real community around the idea who will eventually contribute to the online communication attempts.

The people in the post photo are (from left to right) Forest and Karalyn (alumni of Bilkent University), Gizem (our founder), and me.

Here are some of my observations after spending one day at the festival and engaging with the community:
- Communication is an important aspect of project management, especially if we are running public/social diplomacy or nation/place branding projects.
- Face-to-face communication enables us to get direct feedback from people about the project.
- Giving a face to the project increases your credibility. You are no longer only a website, you are the people who are running the website.
- Meeting people who are interested in the project, who love to talk about your project definitely increases the motivation of the team members.

This blog post is also posted on http://placebranding.ning.com/

Altering the Discourse of Conflict in Cyprus

I was trying to find a paper that I wrote about THY (Turkish Airlines) and while googling THY and Efe Sevin, I ran into Yelena’s post about (Armenian) Diasporan public diplomacy. The comments section was maybe even more intriguing than the post itself. The discussion between Yelena and anonymous Turkish guy over the importance of rhetoric, the question of truth, and the political nature of the Armenian-Turkish-Azeri conflict(s) reminded me of a post that I was supposed to write – well – three months ago. My topic is how public diplomacy could and should be used to support the conflict resolution attempts in Cyprus.

I presented a paper entitled “Altering the Discourse of Conflict in Cyprus: Recognition and Resolution through Public Diplomacy” at the 9th METU Conference on International Relations in TRNC. Basically, I examine the dominant rhetorical strategies employed by official Greek, Turkish, Greek Cypriot, and Turkish Cypriot sources. I discuss the outcomes of negative discourses – with an aim to prove that the Cyprus conflict cannot be resolved as long as the competing narratives of different nations continue their existence. I argue that public diplomacy can be used “as a feasible political communication tool to alter the negativity of the discourses with the ultimate aim of resolving the conflict.”

Rhetorical strategies: All parties involved in the conflict have some common rhetorical strategies. In other words, when parties want to ‘encode’ certain kind of messages, they usually employ one of the two following strategies.

Self-victimization:

Parties try to show themselves as the victims and the other party/parties as aggressors. This strategy is mainly used when parties ‘frame’ the conflict.

Provocation:

When there is a need to justify a certain action, parties usually claim that the other party/parties’ ‘former act caused the subsequent act’*.

Negative discourses: These rhetorical strategies support the growth of negative discourses within the conflict. There are four important (meaning constructing an obstacle in the conflict resolution process) outcomes:

Multiple mediated realities:

There is no one truth or history. There are several different accounts of what has happened in Cyprus, and what constitutes the Cyprus Conflict. Parties believe their account is the ‘right’ one, while other accounts are pure propaganda products.

Constructed national identities:

Negative discourse is part of the national identity. Cyprus conflict has a fundamental place in Turkish/Greek Cypriot, Turkish and Greek national identities. The memories of the conflict are still being reproduced to support the national identities.

Rigid negotiation positions:

Given the multiple mediated realities, and the essential part of the conflict in national identities, it is not surprising to find out that parties have very rigid negotiation positions which leaves little or no space for bargaining.

International organizations:

As we don’t know what the conflict is, cannot clearly name ‘victims’ or ‘aggressors’, and cannot foresee a resolution; the role of the IOs in the island is not clear.

What can public diplomacy do?
Practically, public diplomacy is not a magical wand (- even though sometimes it is mistaken for one). Public diplomacy, and grassroots movements on the island and among the involved parties will put an end to the reproduction of negative discourses. The dialogue between parties might consolidate the competitive conflict narratives. PD might help the parties to re-write the history of the island based on facts rather than on victimization and provocation.

In short, let’s know the limits of public diplomacy – let’s not expect to reach perpetual peace just by executing pd projects. But, when there are multiple accounts of reality in a conflict, any resolution attempt without PD is very unlikely to succeed.

*In my paper, I used Benoit’s Image Restoration theory. Please see Benoit, W. (1995). Accounts, excuses, and apologies : a theory of image restoration strategies. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

This blog post is also posted on http://placebranding.ning.com/

Social Media, Political Communication, and Turkey Vol.2: Turkayfe.org

Welcome to Turkey’s first online coffehouse:Turkayfe.org!

As part of my social media and political communication in Turkey posts, I decided to introduce a project that I have been working on for quite some time. We started the Turkayfe project in May 2009. After spending six months on the conceptualization, we recently launched our website,http://www.turkayfe.org/. Practically, the project is a place branding through storytelling attempt for Turkey. We aim to support Turkey’s branding attempts by using Web 2.0 technologies and by initiating a virtual grassroots movements. Together with the founder of Turkayfe, Gizem Salcigil White, we will be presenting a critical research paper about Turkayfe, the role of Web 2.0 in citizen’s diplomacy, and branding through sharing experiences at the 2nd Place Branding Conference in Bogota. I wanted to introduce the project to the blogosphere before getting ‘too academic’.

The image above is our front page image. We invite people to grab a coffee, sit down, and start sharing their experiences about Turkey. As our main strategy is creating a brand through people, we placed several people sitting (well some standing, singing, dancing, and playing instruments) at a cafe. The images stand for our seven main categories. For further information, feel free to contact me or pay a visit to Turkayfe.org. I will introduce two dilemmas, pros, and cons of starting a Web 2.0 place branding project.

Short Summary of Turkayfe Project

Dilemmas
1-Government/Non-government: Now, one of the most important decision we had to make was about government support. On one hand, the financial support from the Turkish government and state agencies can solve all our budgetary problems. But we started the project with an aim to project a candid story of Turkey. How candid can you be when you are supported by the state? On the other hand, if we continue as four young professionals without state support, do we have the legitimacy to create a branding platform for Turkey? We decided to keep Turkayfe as a non-governmental project as our goal is to present people stories – these stories also constitute the basis for our legitimacy claims.
2-New portal/Existing portal: One option for us was to use existing portals, such as Facebook, or existing framework, such as Ning and WordPress, to start Turkayfe. This option is cost-efficient. Moreover, it is easier to reach the audience. The second option was to build up a new website based on a new framework. We chose the second option to create a stronger sense of community and belonging among our users.

Pros
1-Avoiding clichés: A Web 2.0 project enables you to avoid several clichés in nation branding. As you (meaning the project team and contributors) aim to write about their daily life and experiences, the end product is usually an interesting story (rather than a misleading slogan on a glossy poster).
2-Young audience:Younger generations are more likely to use technologically advanced products. Apart from being an online project, Turkayfe.org also tries to present the newer web technologies to its users. Hopefully, this approach will make us popular among younger generations.

Cons
1-Language problem: The website is entirely in English. We currently do not accept submissions in Turkish… If a user posts an article in Turkish, it will not be published on the website. Even though choosing English as the only language on the website ensures open communication and interaction, it also limits our audience.
2-Inclusiveness: We want stories about people’s daily lives. We want all kinds of stories. Yet, in order to post on Turkayfe.org, you should have basic linguistic and technical capabilities. Our online coffeehouse unfortunately is only accessible if you have internet connection and can speak English.

In short, social media in Turkey, especially with regard to political communication, should not be seen as a paradigm shift. Social media has not replaced (and is not likely to replace) traditional media in the upcoming years. Yet, if you want to reach younger and more education people – go online, go viral! In order to look attractive and professional in social media, you need to invest – social media is not 100% free! Last but not the least, legitimacy in online nation/place branding campaigns is a huge problem. You need to make sure you have (at least you can claim) legitimacy on a few grounds before unveiling your project!

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