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

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Blog Updated: Dissertation Time

As you might have realized, I haven’t been writing any blog posts lately. It is mostly because I started writing subject-based posts on Place Management & Branding blog and didn’t want to cross-post. I decided to keep writing about more current practical events on the PMB blog and save this blog for more theoretical, methodological, and method discussions. In other words, I will be using this blog as a ‘draft’ for my dissertation – which will be hopefully about the use of soft power in international relations.

The subject is not solely ‘branding’. However, my focus will be on branding. I will try to assess whether the recent changes in international relations are, well, changes or not. Did all these discussions on place branding, public diplomacy, soft power, etc. change the way we conceptualize international relations? Or is social media practically the communication version of an ICBM?

Long story short,
– Interesting place branding posts: Place Management & Branding blog
– Public diplomacy, politics, Turkey related posts: Reaching the Public
– Technical / methods-oriented posts: Again, Reaching the Public

What is PD again? Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy Meeting

Image from Heritage.org

On Thursday, I attended the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy’s public meeting with a couple of colleagues from AU. Both Lena and Laura blogged about their impressions. And right now, I feel obliged to do the same. The transcript of the meeting will be available online soon (Follow @mountainrunner for more information), so I’ll keep my post considerably short.

First of all, this was Matt Armstrong‘s first public appearance as the Executive Director of the Commission (Congratulations once again Matt, and nice to finally meet you in person!). He has been a prominent figure in strategic communication within both academia and blogosphere. He talked about some planned changes in how the Commission works. Apparently, the Commission will be more open, and will initiate dialogues with think-tanks, universities, and other interested parties. (They will also be publishing white papers!)

I realized the practitioners and scholars of public diplomacy have one thing in common: no one knows what is really going on. Betsy Whitaker from the R, in her presentation, mentioned that other agencies and departments have public diplomacy budgets but the R is not sure what they are doing or even whether the budgets are still spent on public diplomacy attempts (or moved to public affairs). Well, both practitioners and scholars know public diplomacy is important, we have to do/study public diplomacy – and we do. But, please, don’t ask about the details, it gets fuzzy.

The second presentation was from BBG. In Jeff Tremble’s presentation, BBG seemed much better than I thought they were. I mean, my personal interaction with BBG is limited to VoA Turkish. To be honest, VoA Turkish does not have high quality programs. But BBG seems to be aware of what is going on and is capable of using several technologies to reach out to as many people as possible. For some reason, during the entire presentation, I questioned whether BBG is actually doing a great job or just knows how to deliver great presentations… I still do not have a clear answer. But US seems to be doing its best to reach ‘populations deprived of free flow of information’ through BBG.

Yet, I am quite optimistic about the future of American public diplomacy. Even though, during the last decade, the Commission and BBG pretty much talked about the same things (budget, inter-agency cooperation etc), I believe Matt Armstrong is an invaluable addition to the US bureaucracy. The R is aware of its shortcomings, (and the shortcomings of public diplomacy FSOs), and is creating new institutions and programs to increase its effectiveness. BBG is devising region-specific policies, and increasing its technical capabilities. If for nothing else, US is one of the few countries that publicly discuss what to do about public diplomacy, and right now has Matt Armstrong working for the government!

Anholt on Turkey

Simon Anholt announced that Turkey should focus on its ‘nation brand’, a couple of weeks ago in an interview with a Turkish daily newspaper. Back then, as the Turkayfe team, we used the news on our newsletter, and put his statements in some of our materials. More recently, Nation-Branding.info picked up the news , and we are running through a second cycle of viral distribution. In the first cycle, I refrained from commenting on Anholt’s views – mostly because we used the interview to support our project – Turkayfe. Yet, I believe I can put my two cents in during the second cycle.

I want this sofa (Image from Nation-Branding.info)

Let me first extract main points from his interview. The points below are directly taken from Hurriyet Daily News article:

Turkish government must develop policies to improve the “brand” of the nation:

Now, on one hand, this is an important statement. It is nothing new, fairly obvious to anyone who has any idea of international arena in the 21st century. But, Anholt used this statement in a national newspaper (actually English version of a Turkish newspaper). On the other hand, he puts the responsibility of brand-making, if you will, to the governments. As we know from his various books and speeches, he supports the idea of all-exclusive, (i.e. public-private partnerships) brand creations. However, it seems like the governments have a leading role in his conceptualization of nation-brand. I assume, it is because he equates nation brand with what a country does. Yet, we should stop and think about moral and ethical implications of making governments the primary responsible party for nations’ brands.

Turkey has to find ways of making itself “indispensable” to other peoples:

Again – pretty obvious but great to read it in a newspaper. This statement (together with his metaphor of the celestial keyboard) raises questions about Anholt’s understanding of international system. Is he talking about a closely-linked global economy? Or about a Global Village? Global politics? I mean, what is indispensable? So, is a good ‘brand’ something that people cannot live without? Is it just this necessity bound? I like to think a brand more in terms of a network of associations – which cannot be reduced to necessity.

Turkey’s best chance to increase its reputation in the world is “to be the bridge between Europe and Asia, between Islam and other religions:

Well, this has failed so many times in the last few decades, I don’t know what to say about it… It has been used by government officials since the very early days of the Republic – never worked. It usually ended up making Europeans suspicious as ‘we are a Muslim country’ and Muslims suspicious as ‘we are a Westernized country’.

“Nation branding”..[is].. not about communication or promotion, but concrete policies:

Well, no. I highly appreciate Braun & Zenker’s* definition of place brand as a “network of associations in the consumers’ mind based on the visual, verbal, and behavioral expression of a place, which is embodied through the aims, communication, values, and the general culture of the place’s stakeholders and the overall place design”. Therefore nation branding is about communication and promotion. Actually, if we are looking at nation branding as an integrated process of creating and disseminating a brand identity; ‘nation branding’ part is predominantly communication. Turkey has to change the expressions of the country, through communication as well as concrete policies (and communicating these policies).

One interesting thing about Anholt’s Nation Brand Index and Turkey is that the country is fairly consistent across the six criteria. For instance, Egypt, which shares similar scores with Turkey, has a higher rank in tourism. However in order to talk about the causes for this consistency, one has to accept that NBI’s methodology is valid and reliable. So, I will just say this is an interesting point that might be used as a conversation starter.

In sum, Anholt’s public interviews, speeches, or even books do not provide readers/listeners with ground-breaking information, however, (i) it is great when the most prominent person in the field says these things, and (ii) it is nice to have them in one book. His comments about Turkey are generic, as this is a newspaper interview. His comments about communication and nation branding is based on an assumption that communication is about false information, spins, and manufacturing identities. Yet, ‘branding’ is an attempt to socially and communicatively adjust to living in today’s brand-era. It is a necessity to negotiate what a place means for target audiences with target audiences. It is not about concrete policies, it is about being a part of the global society.

*Braun, E. and Zenker, S. (2010), “Towards an integrated approach for place brand management”,
paper presented at the 50th European Regional Science Association Congress, Jonkoping.