Diplomacy its one of the oldest professions in the world. Ever since people exchanged ideas, goods and sometimes even declarations of war, there has been diplomats who managed these relations between states. And because diplomacy is such an ancient profession, it tends to value tradition more than innovation and the accumulation of information more than the sharing of information.
But in the age of mass media, television and - of course - the internet, diplomats quickly had to learn that their nation's images are not only shaped by what is written in diplomatic notes but also by what is being aired on television, written in blogs and shared in social media.
This requires not only a new skill set for diplomats and strategies for public engagement or "public diplomacy" but also changed the distribution of power fundamentally. Joseph Nye, inventor of the term "soft power", put it like this:
"In a networked world, leadership is more like being in the middle of the circle and attracting others rather than being 'king of the mountain' and issuing order to your subordinates below."
During the Social Media Week Berlin, I sat down with three distinguished guests to discuss how embassies use "digital diplomacy" to become part of a discussion about their home countries and engage audiences in an unusual way.
The panel included:
- Ruth Bennet, deputy press attaché at the US embassy in Berlin;
- Hannah Bloch, social media coordinator of the Embassy of Israel; and
- Bettina Stengel, director of ProChile Germany, an organization that aims at fostering exports of Chilean goods attracting foreign investments to Chile.