There is no agreed definition of public diplomacy. Fitzpatrick identified 150 definitional statements of public diplomacy.[1]  All of them can be situated between the wide and narrow definitions of public diplomacy.

The wide definition treats it as an expression of soft power, and makes the point that PD, covering networking and other core activities, is diplomacy.[2] Such an approach is excellent for focusing attention on the way PD integrates all the soft outreach promotional activities covering culture, education, the media and even some elements of economic work. This is good as an approach, but not for operational purposes, because each of these activities has its own context and needs. Thus cultural outreach is PD, but it is best handled as cultural diplomacy, with its own participants and its ground rules. The same is true of educational promotion work, consular work, outreach to the scientific and other research institutions and the like.

The narrow definition confines the focus of PD to influencing publics, at home and abroad, on issues relating to foreign affairs. This is fine for concentration on the operational activities that PD must first implement, and the specific methods that are to be deployed for that, mostly in partnership with the other domestic actors. For instance, the PD department in a foreign ministry can treat this definition as the basis for its own activities. But if it were to attempt to function on the basis of the wide definition, it would quickly find itself in contention with the agencies that handle this broad range of activities.

Excerpts from Diplo’s online course on Public Diplomacy – Text written by Ambassador Kishan Rana)

[1] Fitzpatrick, K.R. 2010. The Future of US Public Diplomacy: An Uncertain Fait. Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff.

[2] Arguing the case for PD one expert writes: ‘Increasingly in the twenty-first century, diplomacy will be public diplomacy.’ Shaun Rirodan, ‘Dialogue-based Public Diplomacy: a New Foreign Policy Paradigm?’ New Public Diplomacy, (Palgrave Macmillian, Basingstoke, 2005) p. 187.



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