Around two years ago, (and I cannot believe it has been two years already!), I tried to outline the obstacles and challenges for Turkish public diplomacy. During the last two years, several think-tanks, non-government organizations, as well a governmental institutions started working on understanding, discussing, and implementing the concept of public diplomacy in the Turkish political scene. Based on what I learned during my own public diplomacy practice, and my studies, I have a couple of recommendations to ensure Turkish public diplomacy is built on strong grounds.
1 – Public diplomacy is not a ‘domestic issue’: The current government’s foreign policy initiatives tend to be derived from domestic policy arguments. In other words, AKP sees foreign policy as an arena to fight its domestic ideological battles. So far, public diplomacy projects and initiatives seem to follow a similar line. Most of the products and updates are in Turkish, showing Turkish citizens how the governments before AKP failed to fulfill certain governmental responsibilities. Turkey should formulate public diplomacy goals and objectives on contemporary needs of the society (as well as in line with foreign policy objectives) Also, it won’t hurt to produce documents in foreign languages.
2 – Public diplomacy is not a ‘government agenda item’: Currently, the Office of Public Diplomacy is under the Prime Minister’s office in Turkey. Actually as the current coordinator, Ibrahim Kalin, mentioned, public diplomacy has to be a continuous attempt. Yet, its continuity should not be based on an assumption that AKP will keep getting re-elected. It should be a non-partisan policy area. Turkey should break the link between the Prime Minister’s office and the Public Diplomacy Coordinator’s office.
3 – Public diplomacy is not about ‘information sharing’: Actually, social scientists figured this point out as early as 1960s. Communication cannot change the attitudes of target audiences if they already have a strong opinion about a given issue. Assuming/expecting that people will be pro-Turkey when they learn more about Turkey is practically being naive. Turkey should focus on relationship building, and institutional partnerships.
4 – People won’t love us just because we are this awesome nation: Public diplomacy is not about showing off how great Turkey is. Every other nation in this world believes they are great. Public diplomacy should be about finding commonalities between nations, not on bragging. Turkey should find out what values, policies, and capabilities can make Turkey more ‘attractive’ for foreign target audiences.