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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New publication – Thinking about place branding: Ethics of concept

As you might already know, Journal of Place Branding and Public Diplomacy is publishing a special issue on Ethics of Place Making . My article, entitled “Thinking about place branding: Ethics of concept” will be published in this upcoming issue.

Here is the abstract:

This article introduces a critical theory-induced approach to the concept of place branding to expose the ethical drawbacks within the field. The author argues that the dominant approaches and definitions of place branding limit the thinking of scholars to market-driven subjects, such as measurement, effectiveness and strategies. It is difficult even to discuss ethical issues at a conceptual level within these approaches. With an attempt to further investigate these widely ignored issues, place branding is redefi ned through a communicative action framework, and a two-step model of place branding is devised – composed of domestic communicative action (Step 1) and international communicative action (Step 2). Step 1 highlights (i) legitimacy and (ii) inclusion as ethical concerns, whereas Step 2 brings in the question of (iii) consistency between the messages in the domestic and international arena. Critical theory makes it possible to take an analytical look at the mainstream approaches and present ethical issues at the conceptual level. Future studies should aim to integrate this theoretical approach to the practice of place branding.

I will share the link to the publication as soon as it becomes available online.

 

Here is the article: http://www.palgrave-journals.com/pb/journal/v7/n3/abs/pb201115a.html

Turkayfe.org on the Road: Events in New York and DC

Last year, after the Turkish festival in DC, I wrote about the importance of “creating a real community” for online social diplomacy projects. There is, indeed, an undeniable need for ‘real’ people and connections to support online communication attempts. Therefore, as the Turkayfe.org team, we are doing our best to reach out to as many people as possible.

This summer, we are hosting two events, one in New York (June 11th) and another in Washington, DC (June 15th) to discuss the past, present, and future of Turkish coffee. So, if you are in town – stop by one of our events, grab a cup of coffee and join the conversation! Looking forward to seeing you all!

New York, Schedule, June 11th

Address: Turkish House, 821 United Nations 8th floor New York City, NY 10017
RSVP Link: http://turkishcoffeeculturenewyork.eventbrite.com
7:00 PM Event start time
7:15 PM Opening remarks
7:30 PM Ercüment Ackman, Capstone Advisor, Georgetown University Real Estate Graduate School – ‘Once Upon a time Turkish Coffee’
7:45 PM Göknur Akçadağ, History Expert Assistant Professor – ‘The American Perspective: Turks in the 19th – 20th centuries’
8:00 PM Gizem Salcigil White and Efe Sevin, Founders of Turkayfe.org – ‘Digitalizing Coffee Houses – Social Diplomacy Web 2.0 and Turkey’s International Digital Coffee House’
8:30 – 9:30 PM Reception

Washington, DC Schedule, June 15th

Address: Embassy of the Republic of Turkey, 2525 Massachusetts Avenue NW Washington D.C., 20008-2826
RSVP Link: http://turkishcoffeeculturewashingtondc.eventbrite.com
7:00 PM Event start time
7:15 PM Opening remarks
7:30 PM Ercüment Ackman, Capstone Advisor, Georgetown University Real Estate Graduate School – ‘Once Upon a time Turkish Coffee’
7:45 PM Göknur Akçadağ, History Expert Assistant Professor – ‘The American Perspective: Turks in the 19th – 20th centuries’
8:00 PM Gizem Salcigil White and Efe Sevin, Founders of Turkayfe.org – ‘Digitalizing Coffee Houses – Social Diplomacy Web 2.0 and Turkey’s International Digital Coffee House’
8:30 – 9:30 PM Reception

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/

My book on Nation Branding!

Finally, my book on nation branding is published and is for sale. The book is practically based on my thesis research. Controlling the Message: A Strategic Approach to Nation Branding (ISBN: 3838389409) or Controlling the Message ,for short, is an attempt to describe the actual role of communication strategies, tools, and techniques in nation branding processes. As you might know, Simon Anholt has underestimated the role of communication in these processes several times. In fact, if I am not mistaken, in his book Competitive Identity, he even said communication had a 2% impact in nation/place branding. As the title of my book suggests, I do not agree with his views and evaluate the communication strategies of eight different campaigns.

The book has five chapters. During the first chapter, two main theories (Lippmann’s Public Opinion and Benoit’s Image Restoration), as well as several auxiliary theories and models are introduced. The main research method is a cross-case analysis between Japan (Japan Brand – Country of Origin Effect), USA (Mutual understanding through exchanges – Soft power/influence), Greece (A Masterpiece You Can Afford – Tourism), Poland (Polish Plumber – Repositioning), Kosovo (The Young Europeans – Nation Building), Israel (Israel Beyond Conflict – Conflict Resolution), Switzerland (Swissnex – Repositioning), and Iceland (Iceland Naturally – FDI/Business).

The following chapter focuses on current literature on nation branding, public opinion, corporate branding, nation branding models, and political communication. What makes this work different from other studies in nation branding is the fact that it introduces the concept of nation branding as a political communication understanding which is derived from corporate branding.

Chapter 3 aims to define the concept of nation branding through case analysis and analogy with corporate branding concepts. A robust is necessary in order to discuss the communication aspect of the term. This chapter also looks at the relation between national identity and nation brand identity.

Chapter 4, on the other hand, introduces a more practical side of nation branding. Political communication in nation branding is examined in three different parts. Firstly, rhetorical aspects, in other words how messages are formulated, are discussed. This discussion is followed by how messages are coded (i.e. coded through a public diplomacy project, coded through lobbying). Last part looks at the communication platforms (media) that are used to transmit the messages to target audiences.

Chapter 5 introduces how these 8 case studies have strategized their communication campaign. The conclusion part draws lessons from all these case studies and comes up with a new strategic communication framework that can be used both to evaluate current campaigns and to be used in new campaigns.

Here is my table of contents:
Introduction
-Purpose of Research
-Structure of the Thesis
Chapter 1: Theoretical Framework and Methodology
-Guiding Theories
-Ancillary Theories
-Methodology
Chapter 2: Literature Review
-Nation Branding and Public Opinion
-Nation Branding and Corporate Branding
-Prominent Models in Nation Branding
-Political Communication in Nation Branding
Chapter 3: Definition of Nation Branding
-Conceptual Discussions
-Components of Nation Branding
-Nation Branding vs. Corporate Branding
Chapter 4: Tools and Media in Nation Branding
-Rhetorical Aspects
-Political Communication Tools
-Media
Chapter 5: A Strategic Model for Nation Branding Campaigns
-Visions and Missions of Nation Branding Campaigns
-Strategic Models
-Comparative Case Analysis
Conclusion: Lessons Learned from Case Studies
-Policy Recommendations
-Limitations of the Study
References

I enjoyed working on my thesis and this publication. I believe there is a gap in nation branding research. Scholars and practitioners still continue to overlook the importance of strategic political communication in branding. If you have any questions about the book, do not hesitate to contact me! I hope you will enjoy reading this work!

PS: Here is the link, once again: http://astore.amazon.com/efesevincom-20

PS 2: If you want to write a review of the book, please contact me at efe@efesevin.com. I can put you in contact with my publisher.

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!

Thoughts after Eurovision

First of all, congratulations to Germany and Lena for winning Eurovision 2010. I already started to get excited for Eurovision 2011 in Germany. As I said in an earlier post, Eurovision presents a snapshot of European politics in less than three hours. The songs started to get more ‘global’, there are more songs in English and less local instruments. But still, it is possible to see how Eurovision can be a public diplomacy project, how it can get people together – or not. This is why I decided to write about my ideas, especially about Turkey, Greece, and Armenia in Eurovision. I am still amazed by how these nations can be culturally so similar and have so many political problems at the same time.

Let me organize my arguments in three categories: lyrics, similarities in music/culture, and voting politics. Armenia’s song was called ‘Apricot Stone’. Given the political context of Eurovision, Turkey claimed that “the song hinted at 1915 events”. Turco-Armenian relations are already bad enough, we definitely do not need a song, or misinterpretation of a song to aggravate the situation. As the song was mentioning Armenian motherland, many Turks were confused about its intentions. Even the Turkish commentator suggested that Eva should drop her apricots stones in her country, not in someone else’s. Eva’s manager try to explain the main idea beyond the lyrics, but I frankly don’t think he is a credible source for Turkish people.


Manga’s song was ‘We could be the same’. (By the way, also congratulations to Manga – they became 2nd). Their lyrics were also worth mentioning: ‘I can see that this could be fate/I can love you more than they hate/Doesn’t matter who they will blame/We can beat them at their own game’. I am glad that I am not the only one who thought these words had to do something with Turkey – EU relations. I mean, come on! We entered the contest with another rock(ish) band! Manga, as well, claimed that their lyrics did not have political aims – then again, it is very difficult to believe them, given the setting in their official video clip.

When I first listened to Greece’s song, it sounded so familiar. I mean, Turkey pretty much has same instruments but there was something more. Then I remembered, we had a very similar song in 1977 (I am no music expert, but if a rhythm reminded me of a 1977 song, there should be a similarity.). Living under the same authority for centuries and still living in the same region, it is not surprising to find similarities between songs.


I also learned about the importance of apricots for Armenians! Shocking story, apricots are pretty important for Turks, too. We are the leading producer (and I do have an apricot tree in my backyard). I was amazed by the beautiful duduk melodies by Gasparyan – I listened to that part over and over again. And yet another shocking story, we have the same instrument. Gasparyan had (maybe still has) quite a large audience in Turkey, especially after his joint work with Erkan Ogur in 2001.

Voting is the most political part of Eurovision. Turkey gave 12 points to Azerbaijan (one nation, two states), Greece to Cyprus, Cyprus back to Greece (I am sure it was particularly difficult this year for Greece to give 12 points to Cyprus), Armenia to Georgia. No points came to Turkey from Armenia, Greece, or Cyprus.

To summarize my thoughts, we can react to these similarities and differences in two different ways. Firstly, we can take the voting road. We can claim how Greeks steals Turkish rhythms, how Turks portray a fabricated image, how Armenia blames Turkey, etc. etc. We can use Eurovision as a platform to continue nationalist struggles and blame each other for stealing our own symbols.

Or, we can just realized that all these symbols, rhythms, instruments belong to all of us, living in the same region. At least, I hope we will realize this fact. Let’s see what happens in the 56th Eurovision Song Content next year in Germany.

PS: Seriously, Greece – 12 points to that song? Come on!

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

Eurovision: Singing for Cultural Diplomacy

It is that time of the year again! We are only a few weeks away from Eurovision! Last year, to my surprise, I met some people who didn’t know about this beautiful event! I thought Eurovision was the second biggest event in the universe – the first being, of course, the World Cup.

When something is an inherent part of your culture and life, it is very difficult to explain it, especially when other people have no idea what you are talking about – “It is like American Idol – but an entire continent competes” or “It is a parade of songs and stage shows that have never left the 80s” or simply “Just watch it, it is fun”. Last year, I watched the final with friends from Nepal, New Zealand, and the UK. It was really interesting and funny to see non-European reaction to the contest.

Let me try to explain what Eurovision is. Once upon a time European countries came together and started an organization called European Broadcasting Union (EBU). EBU decided to do something to bring European countries together after the World War II, and tried to test the broadcasting technologies. Eurovision, a song contest broadcasted simultaneously in several countries, started in 1956. And we still watch it, and no, apart from Ireland, we are still not bored (Ireland won Eurovision seven times). The winner country gets to host the following year’s contest. Last year, Norway won, and Eurovision 2010 will take place in Oslo, Norway.

Eurovision, for me at least, presents a snapshot of European politics, as well as our deep commitment to disco era. Last year, I was in a position to explain why Scandinavian countries give 12 points to each other, why it is a big issue when Turkey votes for Cyprus, and why we pretend to speak French (deuze pointe). Now, on one hand, we forget about politics – Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and even Israel are seen as ‘European’ countries, we love to hear them sing together. On the other hand, when it comes to voting, we are reminded how powerful political relations are in Europe – i.e. 12 points are exchanged between countries with strong ties (yes Scandinavian countries, I am talking about you!! Stop doing that!).

Long story short, thanks to Eurovision, people see at least some faces, melodies, and lyrics from all around the continent. Visit Eurovision’s website at http://www.eurovision.tv/page/home and be a part of this great event!

PS: This is Turkey in ESC 2010:

and this is my favorite song thus far – Iceland:

This blog post is also posted on http://cc608.blogspot.com/.

Study Abroad and Culture

I was silent for around two weeks. I was preparing for International Academy of Business Disciplines Annual Convention in Las Vegas. I presented two papers, one project, and co-chaired four sessions. In addition to all this academic work, I tried to support IABD Press project. Shortly, I had quite a busy schedule during the conference.

One of the papers I presented was on the impacts of Fulbright Program entitled “More than a Touristic Visit: Scholar Exchanges as a Communication Method in Public Diplomacy”. I introduced a three-level schema for intercultural encounters. The first level is tourism. Tourists, indeed, see a new country/culture, and go through a highly fabricated and controlled experience. But still, they go through an intercultural experience and they will have something to say about the country. The second level is exchange program participants. Scholars spend longer periods of time in a different country and go through a less controlled experience. After they return back to their home countries, they are considered as information sources about the host countries. The third (and for me the highest) level is the cultural ambassadors. People might start arguing for their host countries and might advocate their rights. We discussed how tourists and/or exchange program participants can be transformed into cultural ambassadors.

Given the international characteristic of the association and backgrounds of participants, we started discussing personal experiences and the importance of study abroad experience (Two people from the audience, both American, became cultural ambassadors of two different countries after their study/teach/live abroad experiences). Dr. Bonita Neff talked about her university – Valparaiso University -, and its commitment to increase the number of international exchange programs. I was amazed by the number of opportunities available for students to go abroad. I am not going to reinvent the wheel but I would like to recap some of the most important obstacles we discussed for intercultural discussions:

- Dominance of American data: We realized that most of the research we were doing was based on American data. For instance, I was discussing scholar exchanges through Fulbright program. Another presentation discussed face-ism through 2008 Presidential elections. The last presentation was on celebrity diplomacy, and of course, discussed mainly American celebrities. The volume and quality of data about the US is more than satisfactory, and we do not feel the need to look at other countries unless we are willing to do a comparative study.

- Dominance of American literature: Even the resources we cited were mainly from the US. Practically speaking, data and journals – maybe unintentionally – cause the scholars to focus solely on the United States.

- Cluster Study Abroad: When students are sent abroad by their colleges and universities to study abroad, they tend to travel in clusters, either with students from their own countries or from similar cultures. Therefore, even after spending a semester abroad, students have no idea about the host culture.

- Plain laziness: Many people just don’t want to take the risk of moving abroad (usually overseas in the case of the United States). So, they choose to stay in their home country and do not interact with other cultures (well, maybe occasional interaction when they want to eat ‘authentic’ food).

In short, go abroad & live abroad. You don’t need to come back as a cultural ambassador, but your intercultural experience will broaden your horizon.

PS 1: This is a photo of me, getting the Global Communication Award at IABD (hopefully, I will get another award for this weird handshake next year.)
Frankly speaking, I am proud to be part of such a diverse organization. This was my second year at IABD, I am looking forward to the convention in New Orleans next year! For further information about IABD, please visit http://www.iabd.org/. You can reach the press project for IABD 2009, St. Louis at http://www.iabdpress.org/ and for IABD 2010, Las Vegas at http://www.iabd2010.com/.

This blog post is also posted on http://cc608.blogspot.com/ and http://placebranding.ning.com/.

After a long long silence

A few seconds ago, when I was trying to login, I realized that I forgot my wordpress user name and password! I have been neglecting this blog for so long.

Nothing has really changed in my research or academic interests. I will be presenting my thesis proposal in National Communication Association’s 95th Annual Convention in Chicago. I have around a month to prepare. Hopefully, it will be more than enough and will be able to present my thoughts clearly.

As part of my job as a graduate assistant, I started working on an undergraduate seminar on Public Diplomacy at Emerson College. As I am an incredible blogger, I will be contributing to the seminar blog as well. I hope the students will be more productive than me. The in-class discussions are incredibly vivid and lively. If we can manage to carry those discussion to the Web 2.0 platform, the blog will be an invaluable resource on public diplomacy.

This is all I have to tell right now. This week sometime, I will write on Web communication technologies and its impacts on nation branding.

PS: I believe I will finally get to meet Nancy Snow! I was in Public Diplomacy class last week, discussing one of Dr. Snow’s articles, when I got an e-mail notification saying that Nancy Snow was following me on twitter. First, I thought it was a bot but then I got an e-mail from Dr. Snow, herself! If nothing goes wrong, she will be a guest lecturer in our Public Diplomacy class at Emerson College.

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