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Author interview: eDiplomacy: foreign policy and social media

Published on 09 August 2012
Updated on 05 April 2024

The US embassy in Rome over the past seven years is probably one of the best vantage points from which to survey the growth of eDiplomacy and its impact on diplomats and their work. Antonio Deruda, a journalist by training, was one of their Press Liason officers until recently and he has written a book inspired by his experiences there and the changes he witnessed among diplomats in Rome, the US, and globally.

Antonio’s book is in Italian (he is working to get an English edition) but from the Table of Contents it looks a fascinating read, and ranges widely. Chapter headings include:
  • May I be your ally on Facebook? (a case-study of the US Embassy in Indonesia); 
  • Stories of diplomats who got trapped in the net; 
  • Geopolitics in the era of Facebook;
  • The Chinese Paradox: domestic web censorship and foreign propaganda.

It concludes with five proposals for Italian digital diplomacy. I interviewed Antonio while I was in Rome running a training programme at FAO (of which more below). He summarises in this video some his key insights, including how conversation with publics has become the norm, along with the challenges that brings. He also addresses the issue of Return of Investment, the second most common question when we do training. (The first? Along the lines of, ‘do I have to do this?’, to which the answer is ‘no, of course not, but you might find yourself in a diminishing minority’) 

(Apologies for some of the lighting: coming from the cold North of Europe we didn’t account properly for the luminosity of the Roman sunshine!)
It was interesting interviewing Antonio after working with FAO staff and managers. Like most  large organisations, responses to the opportunities and challenges differ from division to division, team to team. But there is a growing groundswell of interest, sparked in part by the strong support of senior management but also by the demonstrable impact of an integrated social media strategy. At events, for example, FAO communication can be found in Facebook (where they engage regulary their growing ‘fans’ in conversations and games about development agriculture); Twitter; Slideshare; Youtube and a range of blogs. This is the new normal, as Antonio’s experience demonstrates.


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