Public diplomacy

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.

Research in Public Diplomacy

Diplo conducts multidisciplinary research in public diplomacy. It is evidence-based research with a strong focus on practice in public diplomacy institutions worldwide. Diplo’s research niche is research on the needs of countries with limited and financial resoruces for conducting comprehensive public diplomacy campaigns. Diplo’s research complement current research in the field of PD that focuses mainly on the position and experience of the major players (Untied States, UK, China).

Research activities include:

Academic research by Diplo’s academic staff

MA thesis written by students

In the collection of MA thesis the following titles deal with public diplomacy related issues:

Public Diplomacy and Nation Brand | The Positive Branding of Islam: A Case Study of Islamic Countries, their Public Diplomacy Efforts and Effectiveness | Establishment of Public Diplomacy in Slovakia: An Effective New Approach | The Role of Information and Communication Technologies in Diplomacy and Diplomatic Service  The Role of the Beijing Olympics in China’s Public Diplomacy and its Impact on Politics, Economics and Environment  | Cultural Diplomacy An Essential and Creative Component in the Toolkit of Contemporary Diplomacy | The Role of Public Diplomacy in the Resolution of African Disputes: Civil Society Action in Sierra Leone | Virtual Diplomacy: Diplomacy of the Digital Age

Conferences and panels

Latest events on public diplomacy. You can consult the previous events on public diplomacy.

Publications (see books)


Currently, the main focus of Diplo’s research is on an impact of the Internet on public diplomacy.

Public Diplomacy in Multilateral Relations

The goal of public diplomacy for international organisations is to ensure a positive perception of their activities among opinion formers, the media, and members of the public who will consequently support continued involvement by their governments in the organisation’s activities. This will involve persuading their audiences that the activities they undertake are relevant and yield positive benefits.

In order to implement a successful communication or public diplomacy strategy, an international organisation must be clear and unanimous about its goals and the message it wants to convey. Organisation secretariats should embrace new technology and imaginative methods of spreading their messages, identify ways to accommodate the circumstances of the membership. All member states should promote the objectives and values of the organisation in question and should play their part by providing the necessary financial resources, expertise, information, and technology to allow the staff to project the right image and message.

But several questions remain. Who should bear the principal burden of responsibility for explaining and promoting the organisation to the national populations within the member states? Should the secretariat of the organisation take the principal role, or should it be the respective governments? How far can an international secretariat go in identifying shortcomings within the membership to uphold the goals of the organisation in order to preserve overall credibility? Who is best placed to assess public perceptions through opinion surveys and other instruments and who is best placed to respond to specific concerns or questions? Should the role of the secretariats be limited to anodyne glossy publications or web-based factual information or can they take on a more strategic role? The institutions themselves should not be subject to the vagaries and unpredictability of national politics and can in principle take a long-term approach to public diplomacy which is often beyond national governments. Few regional or international organisations can yet be said to do this effectively.

Excerpts from Diplo’s online course on Public Diplomacy – text written by Liz Galvez

From our blog

Gender equality in diplomacy: Chinese and other foreign ministries

Kishan S Rana

The Chinese Foreign Ministry made a welcome change in its external public outreach after 3 ...

A brief history of Yoga diplomacy

Asoke Mukerji

Yoga, said Narendra Modi at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in September 2014, is not just exercise. \'By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can also help us deal with climate change.\'...

Where have all the health attachés gone?

Geoff Berridge

An influential article of 2014 noted that health attachés were appointed shortly after the Second World War and were thereafter assigned by \'a growing number of countries [...] to work in embassies in countries of...

Waking up to the ‘new normal’ or What does a post-COVID-19 world look like in small island developing states (SIDS)?

Tracy Hackshaw

We need to ensure we digitalise all of our business processes as to enable the effective digital transformation of our governments, businesses, and educational institutions so that the disruptive solutions brought by ...

Training and courses

Economic Diplomacy online course

Economic Diplomacy

Starting 14 Oct 24

Public Diplomacy online course

Public Diplomacy

Starting 17 Feb 25



Humanitarian public diplomacy: International calls to action in the digital era

This dissertation examines IOs (IOs) as emerging stars in the constellation of diplomatic actors, as extra-state and supra-state entities that do not replace, but rather complement, align with and encourage states. Specifically focusing on humanitarian - those attentiv... Read more...

Advertisement, Poster, Page, Text, Book, Publication


The Diplomacy of Ancient Greece – A Short Introduction

Employed against a warlike background, the diplomatic methods of the ancient Greeks are thought by some to have been useless but by others to have been the most advanced seen prior to modern times.... Read more...

Book, Publication, Advertisement, Poster, Person, Silhouette, Sword, Weapon, Comics, Adult, Male, Man


Nation branding and the role of public diplomacy in assisting small island states in developing strong nation brands

The concept of applying branding principles and strategies to nation states has been around for decades. However, in recent years, the concept has occupied prime attention in academia and the business sector.... Read more...

Food, Ketchup, Logo, Armor


Twitter and Diplomacy: How Social Networking is Changing Foreign Policy

The article discusses the impact of social networking, particularly Twitter, on foreign policy and diplomacy, highlighting how governments and leaders are using these platforms to engage with each other and the public in real-time, influencing international relations. ... Read more...



Twiplomacy Study 2015

The Twiplomacy Study 2015 analyzed the Twitter accounts of 669 heads of state and government, revealing that 86 percent have a presence on the platform. With a combined total of over 300 million followers, these leaders use Twitter for diplomatic relations and communic... Read more...



Public Diplomacy’s Branding Trap

In "Public Diplomacy's Branding Trap," the author warns against oversimplifying and relying too heavily on branding in public diplomacy efforts. They argue that focusing too much on branding can diminish the complexity and nuances of a country's image, potentially lead... Read more...

Flag, United Kingdom Flag, Architecture, Building, Clock Tower, Tower


Activities of the Department of Public Information: Strategic communications services

The Department of Public Information provides strategic communications services.... Read more...


Data-driven Public Diplomacy: Progress Towards Measuring the Impact of Public Diplomacy and International Broadcasting Activities

The text discusses the progress made in measuring the impact of public diplomacy and international broadcasting activities.... Read more...

Emblem, Symbol, Logo, Badge, Animal, Bird