In his 2008 article Music for a jilted generation, Ali Fisher talks about the transformation of the public diplomacy sphere into a bazaar, or marketplace of ideas, as opposed to a cathedral. Some of the U.S. State Departments communications regarding the Ukraine crisis seem to reinforce this notion.
Earlier this month, the department’s press office made a release called President Putin’s Fiction: 10 False Claims About Ukraine. While the release was clearly biased towards the U.S. point of view, the ‘fact sheet’ format is reflective of the kind of attitude needed to influence publics in the bazaar environment.
Taking the fact-checker approach to press releases recognizes that public diplomacy is no longer a direct line from governments to individuals. This information gets shared on social media, seized upon by blogs (sympathetic and antipathetic) and used by journalists as references. In the current informational war, publics are more likely to respond to resources they can use to make up their own minds as opposed to the more rhetorical approach Russia is taking. That being said, the United States and Russia may be playing different games in that the latter has little regard to what western audiences think.
From here, I think more can be done to allow state public diplomacy efforts become more influential and widely received. The fact-check style is effective, but there are other formats that could be used at the state level. Infographics and maps are highly consumable and have potential for re-sharing on social media. Mainstream news outlets like the Washington Post are taking advantage of this trend, and I see no reason why governments shouldn’t follow suit.