At Post features first hand accounts of the mechanics of public diplomacy.
Andy Pryce is the First Secretary, Head of Public Affairs at the British Embassy in Washington, D.C.. He has previously served in the United States, Karachi and Helsinki. In between posts he worked at the Foreign Office in London, primarily on modernizing the British Diplomatic Service. In February of 2009, he will be taking a new posting in Houston, TX as Deputy Consul General.
1. Definitions of public diplomacy, including the role of public diplomats, abound. What, in your own words, is your job description?
My job is to help our Embassy in Washington deliver on its country business plan by advising on and then implementing strategic communication initiatives.
2. What activities are imperative to doing your job and reaching your PD goals?
Listening and consulting are the two most important activities in my job. Before I position UK policy objectives or develop cross-medium ways of getting messages out to our selected target audiences, I need to understand the policy context in the United States.
3. Describe a recent project that is demonstrative of your organization’s PD initiatives.
The work we did around promoting the Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO) publication Engagement is an example of targeted public diplomacy.
In short got our team together and agreed an objective: to have a two way exchange on the book with the U.S. administration, Congress and those who influence on U.S. public diplomacy. We selected key target audiences and mapped out ways of connecting with these audiences. Activities included a visit to the U.S. by our Minister responsible for Public Diplomacy, contact with bloggers, an appearance on bloggingheads.tv, a reception on Capitol Hill, an event hosted by the Brookings Institution, and a visit with then Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Jim Glassman. We received a lot of feedback on the book. The Brookings event in particular drew a good audience. We concluded that our objectives had been met and there were a number of lessons learnt for future projects.
4. How does your organization establish its public diplomacy goals? Who sets the priorities? Is there an emphasis on specific issues or regions?
The UK Foreign Service has a set of Departmental Strategic Priorities; these priorities inform individual country business plans.
In the U.S., we have a Public Diplomacy Board that meets before the start of a financial year to discuss priorities. The political context in the U.S. is also taken into account when looking at possible PD objectives. A draft of the plan is then shared around the UK network in the U.S. to gain a sense of where all of our practitioners (we have Communication staff in our Consulates around the country) can add value. Key input also comes from the Head of Post and our policy leaders in the States. Most key stakeholders are represented on our Board, which then agree on our strategy. A similar, to scale, process takes place in most of our Embassies. In many there is less need for a formal board.
5. Who are your strategic partners – within and outside your organization – in executing your projects?
This could be a very long list. Internally the key partners are the Ambassador and other senior staff; policy owners; holders of program funding and our communication officers around the United States. We do work with the British Council – who have managerial independence from the Embassy so are not bound to work to our plans. We also work with a very wide range of think-tanks, universities and some US government partners.
6. What is the most constructive piece of advice you have received for practicing public diplomacy?
Ensure you get the right team together at the inception of each project—policy, communication, administration, network, external, etc.
7. Share a personal experience (good or bad) about PD in practice. Something that was surprising, interesting or otherwise influenced the way you practice public diplomacy.
I once attended a UK event that was promoting a general theme. The organizer had no clear, measurable objective; there was no follow-up planned; no buy-in for in-country management and it achieved very little. It aroused interest in the theme but for the staff time spent on building the event this was a very small return. That event convinced me that integrated strategic communication is essential if there is to be good return on investment for Foreign Services.