At Post asks practitioners to break down the mechanics of public diplomacy.

Suat Kiniklioğlu is Deputy Chairman of External Affairs for the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and Spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Turkish Parliament. He is also director of the Center for Strategic Communication (stratim), a non-governmental organization that facilitates strategic communication for Turkey both at. Mr Kiniklioğlu writes a weekly column for Today’s Zaman, an English-language daily and is a frequent contributor to media outlets such as the International Herald Tribune, the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal. He is based in Ankara.

 

1. Definitions of public diplomacy, including the role of public diplomats, abound. What, in your own words, is your job description?

Public diplomacy is an effort that seeks to inform and influence foreign audiences on issues pertaining to Turkish foreign policy interests. I believe every citizen is a public diplomat in one-way or another. Yet, professional public diplomats must first understand the strengths and weaknesses of our nation as well as the nature of target audiences. The role of the public diplomat certainly involves good appreciation of the public debates about Turkey in target countries. My job description is to plan, coordinate and construct the right tools for a successful public diplomacy campaign for Turkey, specifically with the aim of succeeding in accession to the European Union.

2. What activities are imperative to doing your job and reaching your PD goals?
It is imperative that we have a sound understanding of current affairs, its consequences, and how our foreign policy behavior is being perceived in different target countries. It is also very important that we set specific targets and measure them after our efforts are completed.  We also have to monitor the dynamic debate on Turkey in the many different European countries, particularly in view of the ever-changing policy environment in our region. Our neighborhood is extremely volatile and eventful which means there is pressure to get timely messages to a variety of audiences.

3. Describe a recent project that is demonstrative of your organization’s PD initiatives.
We are in the process of inviting dozens of European parliamentarians of Turkish origin or with backgrounds related to Turkey for a summit. We aim to facilitate a dynamic network, and have them debate the future of Europe through this network. We will also inform them about the progress we’ve made in our quest for accession to the European Union. The summit will serve to better enlighten them about their ancestral home and to help them appreciate the diversity and richness of culture in Turkey.  Such a summit will involve high-level meetings with President [Abdullah] Gül, Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan and other relevant authorities.

4. How does your organization establish its public diplomacy goals? Who sets the priorities? Is there an emphasis on specific issues or regions?

We have a board that discusses the activities of our organization regularly. Strategic goals and direction are a natural component of the board meetings. Of course, we cooperate with our Foreign Ministry and the Prime Ministry but we are autonomous and only consult with them. The Stratim board sets the priorities. As indicated earlier, we have a specific emphasis on Turkey’s EU drive but as we grow we intend to tackle other areas as well. Turkish-American relations and Turkey’s neighborhood outreach would be natural new areas.

 5. Who are your strategic partners – within and outside your organization – in executing your projects?

Primarily think-tanks and some media outlets. We also work closely with opinion-makers, columnists, NGOs, civil-society leaders, etc.

6. What is the most constructive piece of advice you have received for practicing public diplomacy?

I am always amazed by the diversity and complexity of the many debates within different countries about Turkey. The best advice I have heard was to work hard in understanding these debates and then construct the right tools, messages and messengers for the PD effort. In a globalized world the best advice is to follow the fluid and dynamic target audiences very closely. Secondly, I am sure about what I have to offer, I am fully confident about Turkey’s capacity to join the EU, and know that the EU will be a stronger and more credible global actor with Turkey on board. When you believe in your work and mission it is much easier to be convincing.

 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.

Turks generally feel the French are very much opposed to Turkish entry to the EU. They feel that regardless of how much Turkey will reform and make progress in the accession negotiations the French will not change their minds. During a trip to France, I was pleasantly surprised to see that there is much more diversity in opinion and far more positive sentiments toward Turkish accession than we were aware of. I was particularly struck by the warm wishes of French citizens in cities beyond Paris. I am convinced that we will be able to bring the French to a point where they will not object to Turkey’s eventual entry. We have been structuring our PD efforts according to these nuances.    

Suat Kiniklioğlu is Deputy Chairman of External Affairs for the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and Spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Turkish Parliament. He is also director of the Center for Strategic Communication (stratim), a non-governmental organization that facilitates strategic communication for Turkey both at. Mr Kiniklioğlu writes a weekly column for Today’s Zaman, an English-language daily and is a frequent contributor to media outlets such as the International Herald Tribune, the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal. He is based in Ankara.

 

1. Definitions of public diplomacy, including the role of public diplomats, abound. What, in your own words, is your job description?

Public diplomacy is an effort that seeks to inform and influence foreign audiences on issues pertaining to Turkish foreign policy interests. I believe every citizen is a public diplomat in one-way or another. Yet, professional public diplomats must first understand the strengths and weaknesses of our nation as well as the nature of target audiences. The role of the public diplomat certainly involves good appreciation of the public debates about Turkey in target countries. My job description is to plan, coordinate and construct the right tools for a successful public diplomacy campaign for Turkey, specifically with the aim of succeeding in accession to the European Union.

2. What activities are imperative to doing your job and reaching your PD goals?
It is imperative that we have a sound understanding of current affairs, its consequences, and how our foreign policy behavior is being perceived in different target countries. It is also very important that we set specific targets and measure them after our efforts are completed.  We also have to monitor the dynamic debate on Turkey in the many different European countries, particularly in view of the ever-changing policy environment in our region. Our neighborhood is extremely volatile and eventful which means there is pressure to get timely messages to a variety of audiences.

3. Describe a recent project that is demonstrative of your organization’s PD initiatives.
We are in the process of inviting dozens of European parliamentarians of Turkish origin or with backgrounds related to Turkey for a summit. We aim to facilitate a dynamic network, and have them debate the future of Europe through this network. We will also inform them about the progress we’ve made in our quest for accession to the European Union. The summit will serve to better enlighten them about their ancestral home and to help them appreciate the diversity and richness of culture in Turkey.  Such a summit will involve high-level meetings with President [Abdullah] Gül, Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan and other relevant authorities.

4. How does your organization establish its public diplomacy goals? Who sets the priorities? Is there an emphasis on specific issues or regions?

We have a board that discusses the activities of our organization regularly. Strategic goals and direction are a natural component of the board meetings. Of course, we cooperate with our Foreign Ministry and the Prime Ministry but we are autonomous and only consult with them. The Stratim board sets the priorities. As indicated earlier, we have a specific emphasis on Turkey’s EU drive but as we grow we intend to tackle other areas as well. Turkish-American relations and Turkey’s neighborhood outreach would be natural new areas.

 5. Who are your strategic partners – within and outside your organization – in executing your projects?

Primarily think-tanks and some media outlets. We also work closely with opinion-makers, columnists, NGOs, civil-society leaders, etc.

6. What is the most constructive piece of advice you have received for practicing public diplomacy?

I am always amazed by the diversity and complexity of the many debates within different countries about Turkey. The best advice I have heard was to work hard in understanding these debates and then construct the right tools, messages and messengers for the PD effort. In a globalized world the best advice is to follow the fluid and dynamic target audiences very closely. Secondly, I am sure about what I have to offer, I am fully confident about Turkey’s capacity to join the EU, and know that the EU will be a stronger and more credible global actor with Turkey on board. When you believe in your work and mission it is much easier to be convincing.

 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.

Turks generally feel the French are very much opposed to Turkish entry to the EU. They feel that regardless of how much Turkey will reform and make progress in the accession negotiations the French will not change their minds. During a trip to France, I was pleasantly surprised to see that there is much more diversity in opinion and far more positive sentiments toward Turkish accession than we were aware of. I was particularly struck by the warm wishes of French citizens in cities beyond Paris. I am convinced that we will be able to bring the French to a point where they will not object to Turkey’s eventual entry. We have been structuring our PD efforts according to these nuances.