One of the most interesting professional development sessions I attended at the 2010 PRSSA National Conference was “Speaking Beyond American Diplomacy,” or international public relations. This session featured Michael Collins, the Ambassador of Ireland to the United States, and Stacy Hope, Senior Communications Adviser to the Delegation of the European Union.
What they do: This session focused on public diplomacy, or the concept of communicating both government to government AND government to the public. They work on overturning stereotypes and building support for a particular country or policy. Their job involves engaging, informing and educating audiences on an international scale.
Communication: Diplomats need to practice credibile, responsible, informative and effective communications. It is important that they use the tools available to them to connect and inform through communications efforts.
”A diplomat thinks twice before saying nothing,” Collins said.
Challenges: Diplomats often face linguistics issues and they operate in a very public space. They also have to deal with are identifying and addressing the differences between perception and reality, and the difference between an information culture and a relationship culture. The United States operates in an information culture, where it doesn’t matter who you get the information from, as long as you get it. Many countries, however, function in relationship culturez, where who delivers the information is more important than what the information is. The culture of each country is extraordinarily different, and it is important to have a base understanding of each culture before attempting to communicate with them.
Opportunities: In international public relations you will never have the same type of day. There is always something new going on that you will have to deal with, and communicating on an international scale always makes things interesting. There is also a high turnover for diplomatic staff, so you get to work with a lot of different people.
What’s Next?: So you want a career in international public relations? Immerse ourself in international studies, and understand how your own country works. Knowing another language doesn’t hurt either, as it allows you to communicate with people on their footing.
Amy Dobrzynski, Vice President