Thursday, May 31, 2007

Public Relations as Diplomacy

Here's another data point to add to my alternate reality post from the weekend. Price Floyd, a long-time State Department employee has written a column in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram about why he recently resigned from his position as the State Department's director of media affairs. He argues that his job was made impossible by the insistence of the Bush administration that they could do whatever they wanted in international affairs as long as they got the PR right. The State Department's job was no longer to conduct diplomacy, but rather to sell the message. Reality didn't matter, symbolism was the only focus. The only result, Floyd says, was that people now view America's messages as meaningless propaganda. Slate's Fred Kaplan comments here. It reminds me, once again, how completely on the money the Defense Science Board's terrorism report was back in 2004 (blogged on BWJ here) when they wrote:
Policies, diplomacy, military operations, and strategic communication should not be managed separately. Good strategic communication cannot build support for policies viewed unfavorably by large populations. Nor can the most carefully crafted messages, themes, and words persuade when the messenger lacks credibility and underlying message authority.

Information saturation means attention, not information, becomes a scarce resource. Power flows to credible messengers. Asymmetrical credibility matters. What's around information is critical. Reputations count. Brands are important. Editors, filters, and cue givers are influential. Fifty years ago political struggles were about the ability to control and transmit scarce information. Today, political struggles are about the creation and destruction of credibility.
Too bad no one listened to them...

No comments: