“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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Where is the Undersecretary?

Update: With Stengel in the office, I updated the graph and the data. I also added three dates for Richard Stengel’s tenure in the office based on the shortest, average, and longest tenures Undersecretaries before him had. Here, I am not trying to forecast when he is going to leave his post. Rather, I plan to use these dates to make arguments about vacancies and high rate of turnover in R.

Let me share a short post about the vacancy data about the Undersecretary for Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy position. Everybody who works in or studies public diplomacy knows that the position has seen high rates of turn over and has been vacant quite often. I was playing around with the vacancy data and created this timeline visual.

Here is the data I used as a table.


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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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!

Diplomacy from the Block: J.Lo Not Performing in Cyprus

Jennifer Lopez was supposed to perform in Cyprus (TRNC) on July 24th to celebrate the grand opening of a hotel…also the 36th anniversary of Turkish Peace Operation on the island (also known as Turkish invasion of the island – Please click here for a historical introduction). Recently, she canceled her trip with a statement* on her official website. The statement was not welcomed by the Turkish audience. As of today, she also posted another statement**, apologizing from people that she might have offended. We will see if she is going to apologize once again from people who will be offended by her apology. (This sounds like a ‘welcome to the world of diplomacy’ party for J.Lo).

I will just try to summarize four important points with regard to J.Lo (not) performing in Cyprus from my own perspective:

The Cyprus conflict is a part of daily life. Especially in online media, we managed to see how deeply embedded the conflict is to our daily lives. One blog post had “Cyprus, Diaspora, Greece, turkey” as tags; there were reports about the event all over the media – talking about 1974 operation, Greek diaspora, lobbies in Washington DC, even a senator was named as a party to the cancellation. Turkish media presented one side of the story, and the Greek media the other. Turks tried to host the event, Greeks tried to get it canceled. It was no longer a J.Lo concert, it was a question of legitimacy. Can a singer perform in an ‘occupied’ territory? Is TRNC an ‘occupied’ territory? Even a concert of a famous (and not really that political) singer became part of the conflict.

Celebrity spectacle increases relevancy. Well, Cyprus is an important place for Turks, Greeks, and Brits. IR scholars are all aware of the situation, but at the end of the day, we are talking about an island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. It might be difficult for several people to even point out the island on a map. But, as the J.Lo incident showed us once again, when a celebrity gets involved in a conflict, the issue becomes relevant, especially to young people all around the world. It might be possible to (ab)use this awareness in communication campaigns.

Grassroots movements are crucially important. J.Lo, supposedly canceled her concert after receiving a few thousand e-mails from her fans. After seeing several comments on her website, she removed her initial statement and apologized from people. Internet seems to continue empowering individuals. It also facilitates the process of becoming an active citizen.

Do we still not care what the newspapers say about us as long as they spell our names right? Turkey, and to an extent TRNC, have been explicitly and implicitly accused of violating human rights and being invaders during the last few days by J.Lo and the media. I am pretty sure this image is not desirable for the aforementioned countries. Then again, it is true that several people heard TRNC, and maybe Turkey, for the first time in their lives. It is important to get media coverage, but there seems to be a need for a communication strategy to benefit from the coverage.

In short, appearance of celebrities means ‘news’, moreover celebrities attract the attention of young people. With a solid communication strategy, parties can use these short spans of time to ameliorate the situation and to resolve their conflicts. Unfortunately, in the case of J.Lo and Cyprus, the main motive of the parties was to present their sides of the stories and to exacerbate the situation.

* Jennifer Lopez would never knowingly support any state, country, institution or regime that was associated with any form of human rights abuse. After a full review of the relevant circumstances in Cyprus, it was the decision of her advisors to withdraw from the appearance. This was a team decision that reflects our sensitivity to the political realities of the region.
(Small note about the first statement. Lopez decided to remove it from her website after the initial reaction. I am pretty sure she has a very very large PR budget, and still the action to communicate with negative comments was to simply remove them. Are we going to pretend that the first statement was never made? what about those comments? They are all over the internet, so I guess one should face negative comments rather than hide them.)

** This whole situation makes me so sad. The statement that was issued by my representatives was done without my knowledge or consent. It is my personal policy not to comment on political issues between countries. I love my fans all over the world. I want to sincerely apologize if anyone was hurt or offended in any way. Again, I am truly sorry.
(Another small note: Statement issued without knowledge or consent? Blaming the ‘other’ guy?…J.Lo, if the PR agency bills you for this communication attempt, you should not pay them even a penny.)

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/.

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/.

SDM Campaign – A Story of ‘Sex Sells’ Marketing

As the competition gets tougher, I guess people started to run out of new ideas to promote places. Recently, I ran into this very interesting campaign from Israel – Size Doesn’t Matter (SDM). I believe this video is only a viral advertisement product (it is ‘too hot’ for the TV maybe, who knows?).

I don’t know where to start. Now, the idea is interesting because this particular marketing understanding is not widely used in place branding. But at the end of the say, ‘sex sells’ is one of the oldest advertising pseudo-strategies. Several products, from toilet paper to underwear, were advertised with sexual imagery. SDM campaign most probably used these suggestive scenes and dialogues to attract young people’s attention. Yet, is it the right way to go in place marketing? If you look at the images in SDM’s website intro, you will see many more nice looking men and women. Though once you are in the website, the campaign starts telling you about how Israel has big ideas, how the country is big on the environment, and on diversity. In fact, there is information on the website – once you pass the photos.

As far as I can see, SDM is a global PR campaign. I would love to hear Israeli people’s reactions. I won’t be very happy if a PR agency decides to promote my country in a similar way.

I understand that Israel is trying to diversify the news coverage and arguments on the country, but there are so many other things that could and should be introduced. I am not sure why such a suggestive and a little bit disturbing way is chosen. Some of the slogans and lines even don’t make sense unless you constantly think about the sex analogy. Why don’t you go to a small country for vacation? (Several exotic travel destinations are small countries). Why are you surprised when someone tells you Israel is small? (It is less than 0.01% of the world’s total area) What is wrong about going south in winter? Why small size big appetite for peace? (Who says small countries don’t like peace?) Last but not the least, who said anything about size and countries?

Israeli branding attempts and public diplomacy understanding taught me a lot of things. SDM, the newest piece, taught me how not to use bad marketing/advertising moves in place/nation branding.

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

I didn’t say it – Lippmann said: Ethical Concerns in Nation Branding

Walter Lippmann’s Public Opinion theory is one of my guiding theories in my thesis. While discussing the impacts of ‘the real world’ vs. ‘the pictures in our heads’ on nation branding, I felt the urge to differentiate rhetoric explicitly from deception. Shortly speaking, Lippmann claims that we are too lazy, the world is too big, and the couch is too comfortable, so we will not have the opportunity to contact a huge part of the real world. We will hear about events happening in the other parts of the world. We will read newspapers, watch TV, follow tweets (no, Lippmann was not talking about tweeting), and then interpret the information we get in a personal way to create a picture of the world in our heads.

It is called a fictional reality, reported reality, mediated reality, and several other names. In short, we don’t witness events, we witness how they are reported by some others. When we add up our own perceptive criteria on top of this manufactured reality, we end up with ‘our world’ (a.k.a. the picture in our heads). Putnam argues for the decreasing levels of social interaction. In daily parlance, it means the couch is more comfortable than ever. So, less real world, more perceived world through reported information.

Nation branding, in this sense, is providing a narrative to this reported world. Many people don’t know the reality about your nation (see the video below). Nation branding can try to:
– make a nation relevant to people (first step into the picture)
– help people know more about a nation (maintaining your spot)
– tell something else about a nation (repositioning)
– diversity the arguments (creating more spots in the picture)
– keep some issues off-the radar (shifting the discussions)

Persuasiveness, or rhetoric, is important in creating and restoring images in people’s minds. All these communication processes in nation branding take place not in the real world but in the perceived reality. Given the complexity of the real world, and the decreasing levels of social interaction , ideas are formed with the help of the mediated reality. Now after talking about the same issue in my thesis, I felt the urge to say “This research does not, in any way, argue for defamation, deception, or manipulation of the reality. Because of the fact that people’s views about a nation are created in this mediated reality, the author argues that nations should be actively involved in providing their narratives.” Even in keeping issues off-the-radar, the main aim is to avoid being associated with an issue which does not reflect the reality of a nation (i.e. Greece might want to keep discussions over current financial situation off-the-radar by promoting another issue. In long term, Greece and financial crisis should not be associated. Similarly, US tries to divert the attention away from domestic political discussions). The main aim is not to lie, to manipulate reality but to provide your narrative for your own image.

Rhetoric is all about persuasion. Yet, first rule of communication, if you cannot support what you say, don’t say. Communication takes place in several platforms, so nation branding messages should be present in all these with the aims of increasing the relevance of a nation and putting pictures in the perception, not of deceiving people. Branding campaigns do not (should not) censor other news sources, but should compete with them in terms of credibility, legitimacy, and efficiency.

Now I pretty much understand why Dr. Nancy Snow insists on saying ‘persuasion with principle’ and ‘truth is the best propaganda’.

Here are the books I talked about:
Lippmann, W. (1922). Public opinion (1st ed.). New York: Free Press Paperbacks.
Putnam, R. (2001). Bowling alone : the collapse and revival of American community (1st ed.). New York: Touchstone.

Here is the video: (WordPress, why are you so difficult to use? Please click on the link below if you want to watch the video)
Nation Of Andorra Not In Africa, Shocked U.S. State Dept. Reports

And my cross-posting announcement:

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

Istanbul 2010 – An Opportunity for Branding

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine asked me what Istanbul 2010 was. She saw Istanbul 2010 ads at Heathrow Airport in London, but didn’t have much idea about what exactly the ads tried to say. Istanbul has been selected as the European Capital of Culture 2010. Hosting international events, and being recognized by international organizations are good opportunities for promoting a place. Given the variety of events and images you can promote under ‘culture’, it is also a good branding opportunity. So how well did Turkey use it?

Okay, first of all, I have to admit one thing. I really didn’t have a clear understanding of European Capital of Culture. I know there were three cities in 2010, and one was Pesc. What was the other one? (I just checked, it was Essen). Although some might be my ignorance, some might be because currently I am not in Europe but still, I am not sure how well the idea of ECOC is promoted.

Istanbul will be hosting several events throughout the year (If you plan to visit Istanbul, 2010 might be the best year to do so). You can find additional information about the event on Istanbul 2010 website. They also had interesting videos (some of which did not even show the subway system!) Although I have no idea why they chose the background music, the video below is quite good – especially the last 45-50 seconds (even the music makes sense). We see Turkish ‘people’ and scenes from daily life as well as important places (i.e. touristic attractions historical places). We have business people, small business owners, people walking, kids, even traffic jam on the video. The scenes pretty much describes both the modern and the historical, the Western and conservative, the serious and fun-having sides of Istanbul.

Though I do have one main question. Recently I started reading, writing, and thinking about authority and legitimacy in branding. When I look at Istanbul 2010 from that point of view, I cannot stop questioning whether they have the authority to claim brand ownership and legitimacy to brand the city. The names on the executive, advisory, and coordination boards (yes, there are three boards, maybe there is a fourth board on boards) are quite well-known people, high-level bureaucrats, and professionals. But where are the people? It seems to be an adequate project with a few shortcomings.

What Went Right
– Although public doesn’t seem to be on any of the boards, everyone had the opportunity to submit a project to Istanbul 2010. In other words, if one wants to be a part of the event, it is possible.
– The domestic and (as far as I can see from my friend’s anecdote) international media presence of the event was great. Everyone knows that there is something called Istanbul 2010 (we are just not so sure what it is).

What Went Wrong
– There doesn’t seem to be an overarching theme. I don’t like “a place where you can do everything” as a brand message and Istanbul 2010 subtly gives this message. Unfortunately can-do-everything messages never give a sense of inclusiveness. Even worse, you end up with a ‘generic’ place which is lost in messages. The website pretty much symbolizes this chaos.
– Project members seem to be very involved with Istanbul 2010 and be living with the idea. This is why the website fails to explain what Istanbul 2010 is. If you look at benefits for Istanbul part, you will see that Istanbul 2010 will make Istanbul the greatest place in Europe, maybe in the world. But there are no substantive explanation about why or how. (A trivia question: Which city was the ECOC 2009? What about ECOC 2011?)
– The communication methods don’t go down to foreign publics. In other words, Istanbul 2010 uses mass media, and tourism fairs to promote. I couldn’t find any people-to-people, Web 2.0, social media communication understanding. Right now, there doesn’t seem to be much direct interaction between Istanbul 2010 and target audience.

In short, ECOC is a good regional promotion opportunity. Istanbul 2010 is a successful campaign. It might have been better if more communication/public diplomacy and less advertising techniques were used.

For those who are curious, ECOC 2009 were Vilnius and Linz, ECOC 2011 will be Turku and Tallinn.
This blog post is also posted on http://cc608.blogspot.com/ and http://placebranding.ning.com/.