Thursday, 19 May 2011

Review of Report: “National Framework for Strategic Communication”

This report focuses on the way in which the United States government will go about Strategic communication in the fiscal year of 2009. It outlines the objectives, responsibilities and intended outcomes of the new communication policy.

The report in its entirety reads more like a correction to a mistake than to a clear vision for the future. While it is known that the United States has not always done well communicating its interests to its citizens and the rest of the world, readers of this report would get the feeling that that would be changing, however, as with any report, it does present its problems and does not guarantee that what is written is what will actually happen.

The beginning of the report starts by defining the terms that the report focuses on, as if to get everyone on the same page. It is stated that the use of these terms has meant multiple things in the past so the definitions have become cloudy at best. Through spending time defining what is meant, additional clarity is provided going into the rest of the report and there is no confusion as to the meaning of the tasks.

The report uses the phrase, ‘intended audience’ numerous times and it is made clear that there is an intended audience for this strategic communication and while all foreign peoples are named, extremists are named often as the target of this specific type of communication. An aim for the communication is, “they should also focus on articulating what the United States is for, not just what it is against” (p. 5). This statement is important to the way the foreign public view the United States because it needs to see the United States supporting things other than their own military actions.

This report is very heavily focused on Public Diplomacy and the way in which audiences perceive the actions of the government. It clearly outlines the responsibilities of all parties involved and outlines that it is the Department of State that is responsible for the Public Diplomacy. It also laid out the objectives of the strategic communication and stated that it wants foreign people to be able to recognize the common interests they have with the United States, to see the United States holding a ‘constructive’ role in the affairs of the world, and to see the United States as a respected partner in the global arena.  

The report, while going into the measures of success, says that measuring the effectiveness of communications is difficult because it is up to the public perception of whether or not something works. This report clearly has good intentions and constructs a step-by-step plan of how this ‘new strategic communication’ is to work, with objectives and responsibilities, but it seems when reading the report that they are using a trial and error method to see what will work. While this may be the true way to evaluate the success of communications, more concrete methods need to be outlined in order to make it work. While it is also understandable that there are parts of the communication policy that average citizens are unaware of, it is still important to allude to some deeper policy. The strategy outlined in the report makes a good case for the use of Public Diplomacy and does a good job outlining the aims regarding to it. Despite any possible shortcomings of the report it is clear that everyone has a specific role and that inter-agency communication is the first step to strategic communication and public diplomacy. Until better inter agency communication is established, public diplomacy will always pick up the pieces of the misunderstood communications. 

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