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Impact Measurement

Measuring public diplomacy in a time of global information competition

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Twiplomacy's World Leaders on Twitter data visualised as a networNicole Bailey is one of the ten 2015 Milton Wolf Emerging Scholar Fellows, an accomplished group of doctoral and advanced MA candidates selected to attend the 2015 Milton Wolf Seminar. Their posts highlight the critical themes and on-going debates raised during the 2015 Seminar discussions. Here, Bailey discusses the pros and cons of measuring elite and grassroots public diplomacy efforts.

The annual Burson-Marsteller Twiplomacy Study highlights the importance of Twitter to modern public diplomacy. It recognizes that influence is much more than the sheer number of a leader’s followers and tweets and admits that quantifying influence in the form of “reach” is a massive challenge. Quantifying reach, and thereby evaluating communication “success,” is one of the greatest foreign policy challenges of the digital age—one that is not exclusive to Twitter (or to social media), but rather applies to all communication platforms.

Crocker Snow, Jr. defined public diplomacy as something that “traditionally represents actions of governments to influence overseas publics within the foreign policy process [but] has expanded today—by accident and design—beyond the realm of governments to include the media, multinational corporations, NGO’s, and faith-based organizations as active participants in the field (Snow, Jr., Crocker, 2005).” For the purpose of this piece, I will focus on public diplomacy as practiced by governments to influence multiple audiences overseas. As a result of new communication and media technologies, conflicting accounts are easier than ever to produce and consume. Therefore, one of the continuing themes of the 2015 Milton Wolf Seminar was the challenge of successful strategic messaging in a time of global information competition.