Turkey and Public Diplomacy

As I am supposed to be focusing solely on my thesis nowadays, I am wasting quite some time surfing. I decided to google “public diplomacy turkey” and to read the recent developments. I believe, after Turkish MFA’s two conferences inviting all the ambassadors to meet in Ankara, Turkey decided to introduce new foreign policy strategies. I felt obliged to put my two “kuruş” in.

On Jan 30th, 2010, Turkish PM issued a circular order, underlining the importance of public diplomacy and announcing the new official Public Diplomacy initiative. Institute of Public Diplomacy, was founded by a Turkish think-tank founded (where I was an intern six years ago). Suat Kinikoglu, a member of the Turkish Parliament, has mentioned the importance of communication and public diplomacy several times. He is also the director of Center for Strategic Communication – “a non-governmental organization in order to facilitate strategic communication for Turkey both at home and abroad.” (though I have to say, I am not really comfortable with calling an institution an NGO when the director is an MP and is affiliated with the ruling party).

MFA announced that Turkish public diplomacy efforts will be seen on the internet. Although Turkey didn’t catch the first wave of ‘governments going online’, Deputy Undersecretary’s statements prove that Turkey has understood the importance of public diplomacy and two-way communication in foreign policy.

Last January, the minister and several ambassadors visited Mardin, where they talked with local residents and journalists. The following news article explains how “prominent Turkish ambassadors briefly abandoned the formal world of diplomacy to interact with people at a local coffehouse”. It is good to see that our ambassadors can act in non-traditional environments. Our diplomatic corps are infamous for being elitist, these actions surely will help them to break this bad reputation. Turkey has been also engaged in several student exchange, economic cooperation, and cultural diplomacy activities.

Now it is time for action. We are already a latecomer to the race, but at least, we are explicitly demonstrating our interest for being present in the public diplomacy sphere. I see four important problems: exploitation of the term, lack of strategy, unclear message, and targeting audiences.

Even though we recently learned the term, we love calling everything ‘public diplomacy’, for instance the visit in Mardin. Apart from the fact that Mardin is a city in Turkey, I really cannot justify calling an informal event as public diplomacy. The minister and some ambassadors decided to walk around the town with some journalists during a conference in Mardin. I tried to find similar news articles in foreign media, but I couldn’t find any. Mardin is a fascinating city, is the home of several historical sites (and the world tallest men). But if there is no intention to create any communication bridges between Turkey and target audiences, this kind of public diplomacy attempts, one-way communication strategies are likely to fail. If we keep calling everything public diplomacy, the value of real PD projects will be neglected.

I cannot see a clear strategy in the existing student exchanges and other cultural/economic activities. All projects seem to have short term interest, such as constructing a building, hosting a student, and promoting an artist. If we want to justify the budgets for PD projects – and it is better if we do -, we should have clear quasi-measurable strategy objectives.

G. Bush in Istanbul for NATO Conference in 2004Modern Istanbul

Turkey’s biggest challenge (and opportunity) is that there are several messages we can communicate due to our historical and cultural roots.One of our favorite messages is being “the bridge between the East and the West”. Visualized by Bush’s speech during the NATO Conference in 2004, we love to claim that we have roots in the Eastern and Western cultures. Although this claim represents the reality to an extent, it sometimes reflects an inconsistent position instead of a unifying/unbiased position. Especially when our government sometimes tries to use our eastern roots as an alternative in EU negotiations, our inclusive approach becomes less persuasive. Another message is presenting the modern side of Turkey. Although it is more appealing to some audiences, it doesn’t reflect the Turkish reality entirely. When you consider the various cultures of Anatolia (some of which have lived in the region years ago, and some of which are still living), we can come up with several different messages. Yet, still the important thing is to come up with consistent messages that reflect the reality instead of highly crafted propagandist messages.

Last but not the least, we should define and prioritize our audiences. Our current foreign policy strategy, Strategic Depth, aims to create a multi-dimensional approach in which Turkey tries to build up strong relations with anyone and everyone. From a communication point of view, it is neither desirable nor feasible.

In short, Turkey has the potential to become a well-known brand and a globally respected actor in international politics. It is time to stop calling everything public diplomacy, to leave our political differences aside, and to come up with PD strategies.

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


Public Diplomacy 2.0: David Saranga at Kennedy School of Government

Last Wednesday, I had the opportunity to (finally) listen to David Saranga, former Consul for Media and Public Affairs of Israel’s NY Consulate. He came to Harvard to give a presentation on public diplomacy. After a heated discussion for around 45 minutes about the academic integrity of his focus group approach, the audience finally allowed him to talk about more substantive issues. I don’t want to undermine the importance of research methods here, but when the speaker is one of the most prominent experts on Public Diplomacy 2.0, you really don’t need to force him to talk about off-topic questions.

Israel started its rebranding campaign by doing focus group studies in the US, but they excluded East and West coasts in this study – which was a fatal mistake according to the many people in the audience. As the sample didn’t represent the population, the results couldn’t be academically sound. Though I support the logic beyond Israel’s purposive sampling. At the end of the day, the aim was to frame Israeli image for ‘average’ American. You really don’t need to interview people where your embassies/consulates are actively working, where you have an active diaspora, or where there are 15 universities per person.

After the focus groups, they realized that Israel was practically know for the Palestinian conflict and religious conservatism. I believe no one was shocked by this outcome. A more important result was that Israel wasn’t able to reach liberals and youngsters (- It was difficult not to laugh when David Saranga admitted this at Harvard KSG.).

There have been many discussions about the definition of PD, and how to use social media. Thus, I’ll try to do my best to summarize his ‘original’ ideas from my point of view. First of all, Saranga wasn’t only a social media expert, he knew how to analyze the audience and how to find the best medium to reach the public. One of the projects he presented was, Maxim’s special issue.

Maxim - Women of the Israeli Defense Forces

Maxim - Women of the Israeli Defense Forces

Israel was irrelevant to the young people. If your target audience doesn’t see you as relevant, as a subject to learn more about, you really cannot explain yourself. So, Saranga invited Maxim to Israel for a special photo shoot and made Israel more relevant (for a specific audience for a short period of time).

Social media should not be seen as a substitute for traditional media, rather it should be used to amplify your communication endeavors. We are all very excited about Web 2.0, and 3.0, but still, it is wise for especially foreign diplomats to keep in touch with traditional media.

During his presentation, Saranga gave a great PD definition. The scholars get lost in details: should PD be executed by government? is it grassroots? which media can be used? how can you measure its effectiveness? He defined the PD understanding as “bringing your narrative in a sophisticated way, not in a propagandist way”. All PD-related terms in fact, such as nation branding, place branding, cultural diplomacy etc., carry this main understanding. The fundamental aim is to present a narrative. You are not very likely to be asked your perspective on every issue, therefore it is up to you to go public and present your narrative, and subsequently to ensure that your narrative is more credible and persuasive than competing narratives.

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

Going viral ain’t easy

I have been pondering about the impacts of internet communication, Web 2.0 in specific, on nation branding and public diplomacy. A friend of mine and I have decided to launch a Web 2.0 campaign for Turkey’s nation branding. We have started working on our project proposal around May 2009. I have been working on the issue for around 6 months. There is a great literature on the subject. Dr. Craig Hayden of American University discusses Web 2.0 and Public Diplomacy in his blog post Soft Power and the Open-Source Ethics of Public Diplomacy 2.0 which practically gives you an idea about the discussion. I only want to underline four challenges we have faced while we were trying to build up our project proposal.

Firstly, it is difficult to establish ethos online. What gives you the legitimacy to talk about a nation’s brand? Who has the authority to work for the brand? In our case, we based our claims on academic expertise and nationality. Two Turkish citizens with a theoretical background might contribute to the nation branding processes, however, there is no formal way to establish ethos. The nature of Web 2.0 tools, such as blogs, Twitter, and Facebook, probably gives authority to the most popular source. In other words, the larger your audience is, the more credible you are.

Another challenge we have faced was authenticity. Even if you come up with an original idea to promote your messages, how do you protect this originality? We have chosen to legally protect our project. We have copyrights of logos and ideas. Given the volume of websites and simplicity of creating new ones, it is difficult to protect your ideas.

User contribution in Web 2.0 is a blessing and a curse. In case of political communication, extremists constitutes a problem as well as an ethical dilemma. On one hand, it is better to leave out the outrageous ideas and voices in order to build up communication bridges. But on the other hand, once you start judging and censoring people’s ideas, the project loses its apolitical stance. In our case, we have decided to leave out all controversial and contentious subjects entirely. Although we are planning to acknowledge the existence of these subjects, we will simply guide our visitors to outside resources instead of hosting discussions on our pages.

It is difficult to choose Web 2.0 tools to be used. There are many (maybe too many) Web 2.0 platforms. Should a nation branding campaign appear on Second Life? What about on MySpace? We chose to start our own networking site and market our idea through selected online media, namely Twitter, Facebook, and Blogosphere due to budgetary constrains and limited time, as well as through offline networks. A strong audience analysis is compulsory to choose the most viable online media. Also, it is important to support the promotion attempts through more traditional methods.

Oh, did I mention Web 3.0? Maybe we haven’t comprehended Web 2.0 and its implications yet but this fact doesn’t seem to slow down technological advances. We should start getting ready for the next online wave.

What I have observed in communication field is that new communication technologies attract scholarly attention and sometimes are hyped. Let’s not to forget Web 1.0 or traditional media. Let’s not forget Web 2.0 is not the final destination of technological advancement. Let’s look for ways to reach more people more effectively, not cooler ways to reach our audiences.

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.

I tweet therefore I am (a social activist)

I did my best to stay away from commenting on the Iranian elections. I barely know the region and I have limited information about the Iranian political system. But obviously, I was the only one suffering from a lack of expertise on the issue. First the Department of State asked Twitter to keep Iran online, then people associated the elections with Public Diplomacy 2.0. I can no longer stay away from the issue.

Journalism 101: Tweets are not news (Prof. Manny Paraschos, Emerson College, Media Ethics 2009, Volume 20, Number 2, p. 17)


Now, what do we know about Iran?

– It is a country somewhere on the other side of the ocean.

– It is ruled by a ruthless, heartless, ultra-conservative leader Ahmedinejad or Ahmadinecad, we are not sure about the spelling of his name but he is evil

– Ahmadinejad stole the elections from the other candidate, who is a nicer guy. He is like Obama but with a long beard.

How do we all know these? Because we saw them on twitter! Now, let’s back up a little bit. Yes, online media is important, we can get our news online. Even Ahmadinejad is aware of this fact. He is okay with denying the Holocaust, he threatens Israel on  daily basis but when he was accused of trying to ban Facebook, he immediately denied it! Again, I am not an expert on the country, but why do we doubt the official results and then believe in the Twitter results? What socio-economic groups in Iran use Twitter in Iran? Is the majority of the population online and computer savvy?

I am not supporting the official elections results. They might be inaccurate. There might have been some fraud in the elections. But basing these fraud claims on tweets does not sound acceptable to me.

The tweets declare that Ahmadinejad stole the election and that Jabir is enjoying a lamb kebab. (Conan O’Brien)


Well, you have 140 characters on Twitter. Thus, what you can say is quite limited. Frankly speaking, with all the government limitations and control in Iran,online social media seems to be the only way to reach the global public opinion. As Helle Dale also argues Web 2.0 plays the role of the fax machines in Polish solidarity and cell phones in Ukrainian Orange Revolution. But;

– Twitter necessitate some kind of technical knowledge – which is not enjoyed by the majority of the population.

– Tweets are limited to 140 characters – which means that they are incredibly limited in constructing a valid/legitimate/strong arguments. (Nonetheless, Twitter is a great way to promote an idea.)

– We can never know the identity of the resource with absolute certainty. It will take anyone only about 15 seconds to create a Twitter account and get online. An unknown source cannot be credible!

Today, I clicked for the society!


Apart from the credibility of the resources and the limited socio-economic groups creating the messages, I find the most disturbing shortcoming of the online media to be the e-activism understanding. Let’s make our Twitter pictures green, use Tehran time zone, and change our profile pictures with “where’s their vote?” posters and viola! We saved the entire Iranian society!

Although internet technologies, especially Web 2.0 understanding, are beneficial for civil society and grassroots advocacy attempts on one side; on the other side, they tend to make everything seem ‘so easy’. I am sorry but being an activist requires more than posting articles on your Facebook profile or on your blog!

To sum up, I still have many doubts about digital diplomacy and citizen journalism. They might be beneficial as well as misleading depending on the situation. I can say one thing for sure, I do not support e-activism.

E-Diplomacy, maybe; E-Activism, no thanks!”

And by the way, did I tell you that the Washington Post and the Guardian are also helping Ahmadinejad to manipulate the results? Read the article here!

Too Late, Too Little: Turks in Germany for Public Diplomacy

I saw this article yesterday. As far as I can understand the advisor to the advisor to the Prime Minister said: “Turkey should start to invigorate Turkish immigrants in Europe as an effective diplomatic tool for EU membership. They have been in Europe for 50 years, but Turkey has not managed to mobilize them.” (Please click here for the full article)

The idea is great. We are talking about 5 million people from Turkish ethnic origin in Europe, over 2 million people in Germany! It is not possible to disagree with what the advisor to the advisor to the Prime Minister tells us: Turkey has neglected its nationals living abroad for decades. I highly appreciate this belated attempt to mobilize these people. At the end of the day, these people are in interaction with foreign publics on a daily basis. In marketing terms, they are walking bill boards.

But, as far as I can see there are three important problems due to the fact that the action came too late and too little. (Although I highly appreciate the attempt, the statements of the advisor to the advisor to the Prime Minister – which were published only in one English language Turkish newspaper – are not enough to claim that public diplomacy is at the top of government’s agenda).

  • Least integrated minority
  • A recent study showed that Turks are the least integrated minority in Germany!

    Also, this video-report shows how Turks try to keep themselves away from the German community in general. There are individual exceptions to this generalization, naturally, however, the majority of Turkish community is not integrated with the local community

    In fact, Turkish government never wanted these people to integrate with their host societies. Let’s look at the following article in 1982 Turkish Constitution:

    Constitution Article 62. The state shall take the necessary measures to ensure family unity, the education of the children, the cultural needs, and the social security of Turkish nationals working abroad, and shall take the necessary measures to safeguard their ties with the home country and to help them on their return home.

    The main aim of the government was to keep Turkish nationals working abroad as connected to the home country as possible and to support their return home. In other words, who didn’t see this lack of integration coming?

    I had the opportunity to spend a week in Germany in 2005. I went to Frankfurt and Essen with a friend, where we experienced this lack of integration first hand. I stayed with a Turkish family. The father was a first generation migrant, with a bachelor’s degree and a fluent German. The mother was second generation, in English, Turkish and German. The children were all enrolled in German schools and were successful. Although this situation describes a level of “integration”, during our stay, we never had to speak a word of German or English and never shopped at a non-Turkish store. And, well, our opinions about getting married and moving to Germany were asked a few times.

  • The image of Turks

    And Turks are not German’s most favorite minority mostly due to the fact that Turks are living in their closed chambers which are located somewhere in between 1960s’ Turkey and contemporary Germany.

  • Lack of strategy
  • Let’s assume that Turks are well integrated to the German society and have the potential to influence the German public opinion. How are we supposed to create a diaspora power from the masses of people? In fact, the very same news article quotes Cenk Alican saying “There are dozens of Turkish foundations in Germany’s big cities, but due to ideological differences and problems between the heads of NGOs, they cannot unite around common goals.” So, who will create a strategy? How will these organizations and individuals act in coordination?

    Thus, we have (in metaphorical sense) broken billboards in the unseen parts of the cities with different messages written on each and every one of them… We have miles to go before we can start implementing public diplomacy projects through the migrants in Europe.

    But even discussions about Public Diplomacy in Turkey make me happy! We are definitely in need of a branding strategy and we are definitely in need of designing more public diplomacy projects using all available resources – including Turkish migrants!

    My presentation in IABD

    Presenting Public Diplomacy

    Presenting Public Diplomacy

    Last week, I was in IABD’s 21st Annual Convention in St.Louis. Apart from IABD Press, I also presented my paper entitled “More Than A Touristic Visit: Scholar Exchanges As A Communication Method In Public Diplomacy”. Below is my presentation and my abstract.


    This paper discusses the concept of Public Diplomacy and the effectiveness of a specific Public Diplomacy tool: Scholar Exchanges as a tool of Public Diplomacy. The foreign Fulbright Program of the United States Government is introduced as a case study and for further interpreting the perceptions of the program, a survey is ran among 59 current grantees. Scholar exchanges programs are suggested to be implemented in order to overcome the barriers in communication processes in the international arena.