U.S. ADVISORY COMMISSION ON PUBLIC DIPLOMACY
MINUTES AND TRANSCRIPT FROM THE QUARTERLY PUBLIC MEETING ON PUBLIC DIPLOMACY AND THE GLOBAL PUBLIC AFFAIRS BUREAU WITHIN THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE
U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy Quarterly Meeting
Wednesday, September 4, 2019 | 10:00-11:45 a.m.
GW Elliott School of International Affairs, 1957 E Street St., Washington, DC
COMMISSION MEMBERS PRESENT:
TH Sim Farar, Chair
TH William Hybl, Vice-Chair
TH Anne Terman Wedner
COMMISSION STAFF MEMBERS PRESENT:
Dr. Vivian S. Walker, Executive Director
Mr. Shawn Baxter, Senior Advisor
Ms. Kristy Zamary, Program Assistant
The U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy met in an open session from 10:00 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. on Wednesday, September 4, 2019, to discuss the recently created Bureau of Global Public Affairs (GPA) and its role in the Department of State’s public diplomacy mandate. Speakers included GPA Assistant Secretary of State and Senior Official for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Michelle Giuda and GPA Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Nicole Chulick. The ACPD Executive Director opened the session. Chairman Farar provided introductory remarks, Commissioner Anne Wedner moderated the Q&A, and Commissioner Hybl closed the session. The speakers took questions from the Commissioners and the audience, as detailed in the transcript below.
Vivian Walker: Thank you so much for joining us today, and a very special welcome to our guests, Assistant Secretary Michelle Giuda, and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Global Public Affairs Bureau, Nicole Chulick. We are very honored to have them here today. A special welcome too, to our commissioners, the Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, Chairman Sim Farar, Vice Chairman Bill Hybl, and Commissioner Ann Wedner.
Today, under the auspices of the Advisory Commission, we have convened a public meeting to look at the newly formed Global Public Affairs Bureau and where it fits into the State Department’s vision for public diplomacy going forward in the 21st century. As the Executive Director of the Commission, it is my honor to open this event.
Now, before I turn the mic over to Commissioner Farar for opening comments, I just want to tell you a little bit about how things are going to go today. Following Mr. Farar’s remarks, we will then turn it over right away to our principal speakers. At the end of their remarks, they would be happy to take your questions and comments. But please hold your questions and comments until they have finished their presentation.
For the moderated Q&A session, please speak into the microphone as you ask your questions, because this whole event, to include not only the presentations, but your questions and/or answers, will be part of the public record. So, it is very important that we capture your questions to create an accurate record of the proceedings
And with that, it is my great pleasure to turn it over to Chairman Farar.
Sim Farar: Thank you, Vivian, very much. And to the audience for being here. A special thank you to our event co-hosts, Sherry Lee Mueller, President of the Public Diplomacy Council; and Adam Powell, he’s a director of USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy Programs in Washington DC.
I am pleased to be joined by my distinguished colleagues from the commission. We have Bill Hybl here, who is the Vice Chairman, from Colorado Springs, Colorado; Ann Wedner from Chicago, Illinois.
For 70 years, the commission has represented the public interest by advising the U.S. Government’s global information media, cultural, and education exchange programs. The Commission is a bipartisan and independent body created by the Congress in 1948 to assess and recommend policies and programs that supported all U.S. Government efforts to understand, inform, and influence foreign governments, particularly, but not limited, to the work of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for Global Media.
The commission is mandated by law to report its findings and recommendations to the president of the United States, Congress, Secretary of State, and of course, the American people. The commission’s comprehensive annual report on public diplomacy and international broadcasting is the ACPD’s premier product; it compiles and analyzes PD data collected from over 20 State Department offices and other U.S. Government agencies. It includes carefully considered recommendations from the commission for improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the US government’s PD programs.
Since this report premiered in 2013, the commission has made 112 recommendations, roughly 55 percent of which have been implemented–or in the process of being implemented–resulting in improved operational efficiencies and program effectiveness. Indeed, I am pleased to say that one of these recommendations is the reason we are here today. The proposal to merge Public Affairs and International Information Programs into the Bureau of Global Public Affairs originated in our annual report.
The GPA’s creation has been described as the largest restructuring of the State Department since the merger of the US information agencies and the Department of State 20 years ago–I hardly believe it has gone by that quickly.
We are very fortunate to have Assistant Secretary of State, Michelle Giuda, as well as the GPAs Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Nicole Chulick. They’re both here today to help us understand what the new GPA looks like and where it fits into the Department’s broader strategic vision for public diplomacy.
The commission appreciates this opportunity to learn about the structural or programmatic policy changes underway that challenge the remaining, and the ways in which the commission and the public diplomacy committee can support this effort.
Again, thank you all for joining us here today. Now, I am pleased to invite Assistant Secretary of State, Michelle Giuda to speak, followed by Principal Deputy Secretary of State, Nicole Chulick. Thank you both very much.
Michelle Giuda: Thank you. It is a pleasure to be here today. Thank you to the ACPD for hosting us. We were joking — I am a UCLA Bruin, but love being involved with the USC diplomacy program as well.
I’m very excited to talk to you today. As you know, there has never been a more exciting or important time for public diplomacy and communications, and how the United States is communicating both policy and values in every corner of the world. And so, in this type of media environment, in this type of foreign policy environment, the thinking that we put behind this merger–and the intent behind it–was to make sure that we can accelerate and really deliver on what we’re charged with doing–previously both from PA and IIP–and effectively communicate for the United States around the world.
We know that the communications landscape is fast accelerating, it is changing every day. There are new platforms popping up, tech is driving a lot of change when it comes to communication, there is VR, there is AR, there is AI. The ACPD report, I believe in 2017, about whether or not public diplomacy can survive the internet, was a good indication of where things are going and coming fast.
We know that business and media, and culture, and entertainment, and government are all colliding; they do not sit in separate worlds anymore, these are all integrated. And so, we need to communicate in that type of environment where things that we do from a government perspective also impact culture and vice versa.
And we know that the foreign policy issues that we are dealing with–on any given day–are most, if not all, multiregional, multinational in nature. So, we have to look at things through a lens–a global lens–to really communicate effectively and think about all the audiences that we are trying to reach.
In that type of environment, again, our focus is really to bring together the best of both worlds from Public Affairs, from IIP, the strengths that both of them had, to really accelerate and enhance the ability of the United States to compete in the world today. It was not an internal-driven thing, it was an external-driven thing; we have to be able to compete, and win, and lead, and be effective and successful in the world today. Being able to do that meant integrating, again, the strengths and best of both worlds from PA and IIP. That means communicating both to the U.S. and foreign audiences, and then also communicating about both policy and values.
So, there is the foreign policy piece that PA was traditionally very focused on communicating. There is a really rich storytelling and values-driven communications that IIP was doing to international audiences. How do we think about both of those in communicating America to the world? And really talk about the values that make America unique and part of our longstanding history, the rule of law, religious freedom, individual liberty, things like that.
We know this was not the first time that a merger was explored or thought about. In fact, the ACPD put together a recommendation for it to happen a number of years ago. We had conversations with alumni from the State Department–within and without–who have currently and previously explored iterations of the merger before to inform our thinking. The difference this time was the external world. There is an urgency to the need for the United States to be able to communicate effectively. And so, we wanted to make sure they deliver on that.
We had a tremendous amount of support and leadership from Secretary Pompeo, who, from Day 1, has made sure to empower the State Department team to make the changes and lead to do our jobs most effectively. We knew we had that support going into this, and Nicole will talk a little bit more about the how in “how” we accomplished the merger.
Our areas of focus in bringing together the best of both worlds really were, first and foremost, integration—I have used that world a lot. But how are we bringing together the best of both worlds, the strengths again, from the storytelling and communicating values, and understanding of foreign audiences, and working with posts to understand the audiences on the ground, the culture and the language, and the narrative on the ground, and bring that to our storytelling. And then the Public Affairs’ strengths on strategic communications, communicating policy, the real-time environment, how are we thinking about both of those together?
Secondly, we placed a very large emphasis on data and insights, and research and analytics. Because one of the tremendous opportunities that technology has provided us–and digital communications has provided us–is being able to measure–in some cases, in real time–how effectively and quickly we are communicating on any given issue. As well as long-term audience research on how, over time, we are making an impact–which the ACPD, I know, has also explored for a number of years.
So, we’ve placed a really big emphasis on how are we putting data and insights at the core of communicating, to be able to not only measure at the back end how we’re communicating, but really inform, when we’re designing a strategy in our communications, in our message, how we’re communicating. We are informing at the beginning, we are measuring along the way, and improving as close to real-time as possible.
Speed was another focus of ours. We know the news cycle is moving instantaneously, so how are we working together quickly to be able to deliver on that, to get our message out, to make sure that the truth is out there before some counter-narratives from other folks out there in the world–so that we’re being really effective and fast with how we’re communicating–in addition to the long-term communications and values that we’re communicating over time.
And then lastly, we really focused on future proofing the bureau. So, we did not want to design the bureau just for 2019–or 2018, really when we started. We wanted to make sure that we’re setting ourselves up for success for five, ten years down the line, and that means having written into our structure and the way that we work a focus on exploring new platforms, new technologies, best practices–not only on technology, but in-person communications and relationship-building. How are we future-proofing Global Public Affairs so that we are constantly improving and changing, and evolving as fast as–or ahead of the communications landscape in the world today? That was a really big focus of ours. IIP has had a really great strength in doing that over the course of the last few years, and so we wanted to make sure that was still part of the culture in the merger.
So, it was a very collaborative effort, it was a very deliberate effort. Nicole will talk about the way in which we made this happen. It was a large exercise in collaboration together, a really important opportunity for us to work with folks from all across the department, not only in PA and IIP, but across the department–with the ACPD and other external stakeholders as well.
I will turn it over to Nicole to explain that.
Nicole Chulick: Sure. I am really happy to be here and to be able to talk to you a little bit about the how we put this together. Michelle has laid out the vision behind the merger, behind the creation of the Bureau of Global Public Affairs. So, let me get a little bit in the weeds and talk to you about the how.
Last year, we pulled together a working group with–as Michelle had mentioned–with representatives from across the department. We included IIP and PA colleagues, we made sure to have colleagues from the HR at the department to make sure that we were considering all of the HR potential issues; colleagues from our budget office so that we were thinking about what the budget might look like, and also senior PD professionals so we could get the benefit of their experience and incorporate their thoughts into this.
So, we gave the team a basic framework, and then we leaned on them to put a plan together. Let me lay out what that framework consisted of. First, that they were to focus on strategic communications as the purpose of the new bureau and the merger. But also, to look at all the capabilities in IIP and PA, and think about where they–if they did not fit into a strategic communications bureau, where might they be successfully housed within the State Department?
The merger was to be budget-neutral; we were not asking for any additional funding for this. We were trying to future-proof this, as Michelle mentioned, we wanted to build a structure that would last into the future, that wasn’t based on personalities or anything like that–but a structure that really would last into the future. And we wanted to make the best use of all our employees’ skills and abilities to make sure that they ended up in places where they could really utilize their talents.
So, they put a plan together and developed it. We looked at it and then we continued to consult throughout the department. We talked to ACPD, we engaged our legal colleagues to make sure that we were thinking about how we communicated to domestic and foreign audiences; we continued to engage with budget and human resources to make sure that we were thinking about all of those issues–and make sure that we had all of the details right; because really, as you know, the devil is the details–that’s the hard part.
We did some initial briefs to the Hill and to the employee unions to see what their concerns might be, to incorporate any feedback that they gave us. And then we started working on implementation; started the really hard work of implementing the changes. And through implementation, we set up some working groups so that we could elicit a broad contribution or broad participation from the workforce; we wanted to make sure that folks within IIP and PA had the opportunity to have their voices heard, that we were taking into consideration their thoughts as we were moving forward with implementation.
We prioritized regular communication. Michelle and I sent out regular communications talking about the process, talking about what was going to happen. We took input from the field, from posts, from regional bureaus, we actually sent out a survey to public diplomacy professionals to see how they wanted to partner with the new bureau and what they valued most from the old IIP and PA, so that we could think about what we wanted to continue in the new bureau.
The emphasis during that period was on communication and continues to be on communication. We are now fully functional, we’ve been functional for about three months, so we’re still fairly new, but we’re continuing to focus on communication within the bureau and within the State Department to make sure that our colleagues here domestically and at posts around the world understand what a partner we can be in communicating about American values and foreign policy priorities.
We recognize that posts are often best equipped to communicate about the bilateral relationship, but we have a distinct advantage in communicating about the key foreign policy priorities and on American values. That is really where our comparative advantage exists.
So, we will continue to engage, that is as part of the ongoing planning, and we will continue to engage with others as well. This engagement here is part of spreading the word about what the new bureau will do. We hope to continue working with the ACPD and see how we may continue to improve our communications.
Michelle Giuda: One of the things that Nicole touched on–quickly, I think before we turn it over to questions–is this idea of continuing to engage and improve. So, one of the things that we talked about with all of our team members in this process, has been what our values are. And one of the core values to global public affairs is change. Because we know that the world outside of us is changing quickly because of technology and because of the way that the world is accelerating. And so, we have tried to put that at the center of how we’re communicating to our team, which is that change is going to be constant and consistent, and is going to be required if we’re going to keep up and be effective at what we do.
And so, we’re trying to ingrain that as part of our culture–and know that we didn’t solve everything right away, or that it’s not a static thing. Our team is going to have to keep evolving and learning, and changing–and the bureau is going to have to keep evolving, and learning, and changing to make sure that we are able to deliver on our objectives, which is to communicate on behalf of the United States.
Nicole Chulick: And we even made that clear when we were working with HR at the department, that there were going to continue to be changes and tweaks that we need to make to make the bureau as effective as it can be.
Anne Wedner: All right. Thank you both for coming today and for such an incredible move and description of what you have done. Congratulations on changing a major piece of a strongly ingrained bureaucracy. It is no small feat, and you have done it with such grace and competence, so that is awesome.
What we are going to do now is take some questions from the audience about the new GPA bureau. I want to start with a little bit of a softball. It seems as if the creation of the GPA has perhaps elevated the PD function to a place where it has more respect inside of the State Department. When I was a young USIA officer back in the day, the PD function was always seen as maybe a little bit lesser, and maybe now, you have been able to create a status and a career focus that did not exist before. So, maybe you guys could comment on that.
Michelle Giuda: Sure. I think that–we hope that to be true, and certainly think that the energy around this and the impact that it has makes that true. Again, we want to tie in storytelling and the way in which we communicate around values to policy priorities, things that are at the center of the conversation now while we are still communicating long-term at posts, and in the fields, and across the world.
So, I think…I’ve been at the State Department for a year and a half–and even in that short amount of time, from the time that I joined until now, the way in which PD has been elevated overall and is seen as central to not only communicating values but to achieving and accomplishing policy objectives, has become more apparent to folks inside and outside of the PD world. And the same is true in the private sector. Marketing is core in a private sector business to how a business gets its work done; and the same is true for PD now, it’s central to State Department and diplomacy.
I was speaking with somebody recently who said, “All diplomacy is public diplomacy,” which is increasingly true. Everything is transparent now; everything is part of the narrative in the conversation. So, I certainly hope and think that PD had been elevated through this, and hopefully, we contributed it to that.
Nicole Chulick: I would like to jump in for just a second. So, I am a career foreign service officer, public diplomacy coned in the State Department, and I am excited about this. I think it really has elevated public diplomacy, to your point–and places at the table in those policy conversations so that the messaging component and how we talk about American values are core to when we are looking at policy implementation.
Anne Wedner: All right. So, who wants to be brave from the audience? You can go ahead. Let’s go in the front here.
Audience Question: Thank you very much.
Anne Wedner: Can you just say who you are?
Audience Question: Yes, absolutely. My name is Greta Morris, and I am a retired career public diplomacy, Foreign Service officer. And congratulations to both of you and to everyone who has been involved in this incredible process–which I have also been involved in a very, very small way. But nonetheless, it has been an exciting process. And I just wanted to ask about the name of the new bureau, the Bureau of Global Public Affairs, and we’ve been talking a lot today about public affairs and public diplomacy, and the next generation public affairs and public diplomacy, and it seems like the public diplomacy part has gotten kind of lost in this new title. I’m just wondering how you are sort of thinking of public affairs and public diplomacy; there always used to be a distinction that public affairs was what we did domestically, public diplomacy was what we did overseas through our embassies and posts.
And so, I am just wondering how all of this factored into your decision about the name for the new bureau. Thank you very much.
Michelle Giuda: Thank you. The name was one of the last things that we decided on, because it was a rigorous conversation around the name and what it meant and symbolized. To your point, I think, at the State Department, public affairs has been synonymous with domestic communications, public diplomacy, foreign. We tried to break out of that mindset and think about public affairs–and this is associated with just communicating about policy and working with an American audience, same thing with PD. And again, I use “integration” at the beginning of this. We wanted to think about those together. It’s not that we are doing both together, because we’re very well aware of the Smith-Mundt Law, but how do we think about them together? Because you cannot think about how you are communicating domestically and internationally in a silo, right? Because digital has made that a fact.
But we wanted to communicate that we are focused on public affairs in a broader sense, and communicating about both policy and values, and in a global way. So, global public affairs. But it was a large, robust conversation.
Audience Question: Thank you so much, the panel, for coming. I am just a member of the public. My name is Jonathan (inaudible). I am sort of a student of the State Department and its history. My question to the panel is, it seems like there’s this normative, executive, diplomatic reading and writing practice about the nature of public affairs and public diplomacy–that’s the first thing. And it also seems like some people are privy to those conversations and the making of those procedures or policies and there are people who are not. How do we make the State Department more inclusive to the people who have been historically, maybe not part of that normative, executive paradigm?
Michelle Giuda: I am not sure I understand the question.
Anne Wedner: I will jump in and hazard a response. I think that, as American citizens, we are all public diplomats when we travel. And so, even if there is a school of thought and theory that we are working from inside of an academic institution, there is always citizen diplomacy, and that is something that you can, obviously, participate in when you travel and have experiences, and when we welcome people here as well.
Audience Question: William Lawrence, professor here at GW and a former Foreign Service officer. Two questions: one, I just came up with… as a former Foreign Service officer, I was very frustrated by Smith-Mundt, in large part because the American public is clueless about diplomacy, and a lot of not communicating with the American public was done in respect to Smith-Mundt, so I’m wondering what you might be trying to do to have more diplomats be speaking to the American public in other ways. Are there other ways to get the word about what U.S. foreign policy means? Because we end up, every year, having to defend budget cuts, and the general public does not have much information.
My second question is… it is very clear to me that you are integrating a lot of things here. But I am just wondering, is everything being integrated or do some things stay on their own? And I’m thinking about there are various foreign policy-making functions, there’s intelligence in the functions that have to be separate and not everything is to be integrated all the time, and I’m just a little bit concerned when I’m hearing this integration, integration, integration, and how can you integrate your messaging with your foreign policy.
Nicole Chulick: Let me take the Smith-Mundt question first. Yes, we just had a conversation last week with our legal colleagues to talk through, in the digital age when anybody can access content from anywhere, how do you make this work–and we’re still working with them on that, to make sure that when we’re producing content that is meant to influence foreign audiences, it’s going to foreign audiences that we’re using to correct funding for that. But there are still–there is a robust conversation ongoing about making sure that we are staying on the right side of it.
They would admit, themselves, that it probably does not go far enough to address the way that the digital world works right now. So, ongoing conversations, and we are supposed to meet next week to continue those conversations.
Michelle Giuda: On the integration piece, we have an integrated policy-making process with what we are doing. It is integrating all the different communication specialties and functions as part of the spectrum of how we need to communicate to the world.
But rest assured, we still have distinct groups and offices that are doing very specific and specialized things. It is more so how are we getting them to work together so the right people are at the right table at the right time in thinking about how we execute the strategy or create a message, so that we have data and analytics at the table when we are deciding what message to use with what audience. So, we have our content creators, and our press folks, and our digital folks at the table at the right moments, at the right time.
And we’ve always, from the beginning, have been well aware that you can design whatever org chart you want; the magic is in how you work together and what the process looks like. And so, in that respect, that is what we are focused on when it comes to integration, it is the way in which we work together.
Audience Question: This is so interesting; thank you very much for your presentation. I am David Ensor; I am the last Voice of America director before Amanda Bennett, who is the current one. It is great to see you both here, and see you again, Michelle.
My question was about something that came up when I was in office–and I imagine you are dealing with–and it is Smith-Mundt. At Voice of America, we found we had to get out of the way when a very determined group of immigrant Americans–Somali Americans from Minnesota, Haitian Americans from Florida, and some others–came to us and said, “Why can’t we hear your broadcasts?” And we had to explain to them there is a Smith-Mundt law and so forth. And they said, “Okay, fine.” And they went to the Hill and said, “We want this changed; we want to be able to hear the broadcasts we liked when we were Somalia in Minnesota.”
So, they led that charge; it is not our role to be involved except to answer questions. But it opened up opportunities for Voice of America in terms of reaching communities around the world, frankly, whether Somali, or Haitian, or any other group. How is this reorganization, if at all, going to create new opportunities for you in terms of immigrant communities in the United States? And being able to perhaps communicate through them, to their mother country of origin, or to other groups? And is there any further need for amendment of Smith-Mundt to align it more with what you are doing now?
Michelle Giuda: To your first question, I think a large part of our conversation and our focus on bringing data, insights, and analytics to the core of how we operate is making all of our communications and our strategies audience centric. So, in designing campaigns and strategies around who we are trying to reach and influence. I think if we’re thinking about how we’re going to engage certain communities or diaspora–American or foreign–it all comes down to who our audience is ultimately and the best way to reach them, and we’ll lean on our research and analytics and audience understanding to do that.
We do have an Office of Public Engagement focused on communicating in the United States with communities who are interested in the State Department, or who are engaged in foreign policies. So, they are certainly integrated into how we are thinking about communications. Yeah, definitely a part of using our data analytics to inform how best to reach certain audiences and that, certainly, may be one of them.
Nicole Chulick: And Michelle mentioned our Office of Public Engagement. And part of what we wanted to do through this merger is to make our outreach–our domestic outreach more strategic. Who are we trying to reach with what message? Exactly knowing who your audience is and why you want to reach them with a particular message. So, if we send out a hometown diplomat, where are we sending them and why? And being a little bit more strategic when we look at that.
Audience Question: Are you comfortable with Smith-Mundt as it is?
Michelle Giuda: Yeah, I think on Smith-Mundt, to be very clear, the law is the law, and we’re abiding with it; and Legal has been a part of the conversation from Day 1, the first day that we got the working group together. And so, we have made sure to design the bureau and the workflow, and how we operate to align fully with Smith-Mundt.
Is it worth the conversation and making sure that we are exploring the merits of it and the ways it might be improved? I think certainly, right? With the goal always being, “How is the United States communicating most effectively to an American audience appropriately, and to foreign audiences appropriately?” And I know the ACPD has done some good research and we have had some good conversations on Smith-Mundt, and it would certainly be worth a conversation.
Audience Question: Thank you. I am Peter Kovach, a retired career PD officer. My question is about the R structure and how it evolves now with two constituent bureaus and how you see the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Exchanges integrating.
And if I could do a follow-up to an earlier question, when there is a crisis, are we in better shape to have a seat at the table when policy decisions are made, when informed opinion equities are key to the success or failure of the policy?
Nicole Chulick: So, let me talk about the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Thank you for that question. I had mentioned that when we laid out the framework for how the merger should happen, that the Bureau of Global Public Affairs was focused on strategic communication. We knew that there were functions within IIP and PA that did not necessarily fit within that sort of very narrowly focused goal. And so, when we looked at that, we charged the team to also think about where would these really good functions–where are these functions that are great public diplomacy tools, where would they fit best?
And so, part of the conversation was thinking about would the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs be a good home for some of these? And absolutely yes. For example, the speaker’s program has been moved to the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, as has American Spaces, and we’re really happy to have their support with those programs.
Other programs were also moved to other parts of the department and also to R/PPR which is our resource office under the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs; we have really looked at it holistically.
Anne Wedner: What about the second part of that question?
Audience Question: Also, how you see the R structure evolving? There is no Under Secretary now. How does the structure evolve?
Michelle Giuda: I am filling the role right now as the acting Under Secretary. But just as we were talking earlier with change, it depends on the world and the remit in how best to achieve our goals. So, I think right now, we’ve–with all the work that we’ve done collaborating with folks not only in previous PA and IIP, but across the public diplomacy family, and across the department largely–have come up with a really strong organizational structure to achieve both public affairs and public diplomacy. GEC is focused on countering misinformation and disinformation, so a really strong set of public diplomacy teams and tools right now.
But certainly, we should always be open to a conversation about how we are continuously improving and evolving to make sure that we are doing our jobs most effectively.
Audience Question: I am (inaudible), the new Director of the German Information Center. We went through a very similar process in Berlin in recent years. My question, will your institutional changes have effects on how you work in the field and in different countries? What we did–or what we are about to do currently–is to set up regional offices, public diplomacy offices, for the various regions in the world. Do you think [GPA] has a similar direction?
Nicole Chulick: So, the goal behind the merger was to really create a bureau that would be a good partner for the field, for our regional bureaus and for our posts. We do currently, within the State Department structure, have regional public diplomacy offices that are the first points of contact, the liaison with our posts. What we hope to do through this merger–and as we continue to work closely with our partners in the department–is to make sure that we are the best partner, the best collaborator for our regional bureaus and for our posts.
Audience Question: (Inaudible) I am a student at American University and a Rangel Fellow. I have two questions: my first is, how much will this merger impact the daily lives of public diplomacy officers? And the second is, you went through this merger a few months ago, so what are some of the challenges that you have experienced in that time and how did you address them?
Nicole Chulick: Thank you for that question. That is a good one. So, the impact on folks within IIP, PA, ECA, different parts of our family here domestically has been quite an impact, because it meant that they were being reorganized, individuals were being reorganized into a new structure, maybe tapping different skill sets, doing slightly different work, working with different colleagues. So, that did have quite a bit of an impact.
On the field, frankly, having worked in the field, I just wanted to know where I needed to get my information and my programs, and so as long as I had a good point of contact and could do that, I was pretty happy. And so, that is what we are trying to… we are trying to build up those relationships, continue to strengthen those relationships with our posts, so they know who they’d come to for programming from ECA, for creative content from GPA.
Michelle Giuda: And then to your second question about the challenges, I think there’s been challenges and opportunities. With any major change, it was the largest restructuring at state in 20 years, it was making sure that we’re over communicating and communicating consistently so that our team and folks across the department really understood the intent of what we were doing, how we’re providing a service to other colleagues in the department, to other folks in the field. So, making sure that communication is top of mind.
With a large scale change, there are always bumps in the road in the process–and we know process is really big and really important at the State Department, so we wanted to make sure to get all those nuances right, and we’re still improving and learning with how we’re doing that. And the working groups that Nicole mentioned that we set up were really important in us trying to get it as close to right as possible from the beginning. We did not design it ourselves, we leaned on more than 150 colleagues across the new Global Public Affairs Bureau to design it and come up with the best ways in which we work. So, we think that really helped to get us off on a very strong foot.
Audience Question: Hello, my name is Macon Phillips. I was in the previous administration in IIP. It is nice to see some familiar faces. And my question is for the Under Secretary, which really gets to your point about the intent, not the integration and the act to bring those bureaus together, because I know enough to know how challenging that is, and I thank you for your service on that.
But it is more leveling up and sort of saying, “What is public diplomacy?” And there is sort of a range that I found in my time, which was telling America’s story, which is sort of the old USIA slogan, which is “Explaining America to the World,” and then using the information space and public engagement as a tool for advancing foreign policy interest. I think that we see that with (inaudible) and some of the anti-radicalization efforts, where it’s less about Louis Armstrong and jazz and more about knocking down disinformation and understanding target audiences.
But of course, deradicalization is just one policy priority. It is the only one I have heard though, from a public policy standpoint. And I am interested in how you set about this work with the idea that public diplomacy was a tool to achieve policy goals rather than simply a way to educate people about America.
And to conclude, one of your predecessors got in trouble for talking about marketing as public diplomacy. I have forgotten her name, but she is somebody you would remember. But she was a corporate executive who saw marketing in public diplomacy–and I did as well. But I found, culturally, that rubbed people the wrong way within the foreign service, and I’d be interested in your experience at driving change strategically, not just functionally. Thanks.
Michelle Giuda: Great to meet you. I have heard really good things about all the great changes you brought to IIP, so it is nice to meet you.
As far as using public diplomacy as a tool to achieve policy objectives, that has been at the center of the conversation, because we know public diplomacy cannot exist in a silo, we do not just communicate, right? We have to think about how it advances the overall mission of the State Department and the overall mission of the United States overseas, as well as in the United States.
And so, again, it is less about how we are designed structurally and more about how we work, and so that’s been, again, the very critical part about setting up the working groups. We have leaned on public diplomacy officer folks within Public Affairs and IIP legacy to come up with the best ways to get GPA at the center of the conversation when policy conversations are happening. So, we shape it from the front end along the way, and then continue to fine-tune it so that we are a partner in how that gets done versus just communicating on our own.
Audience Question: Matthew Wallin, fellow for public diplomacy at the American Security Project. I want to discuss a little bit about values, because this was brought up several times in the presentation, and the concept that we are promoting values. Well, at the same time, domestically, I think there is an enormous disagreement on both sides of the aisle about what those values actually are and how you practice them. And although I could ask a million questions, I want to sort of settle on the idea of a free press; and the idea of a free press, by its very nature, you need to be adversarial in a sense, and how the executive branch handles that.
When we talk about free press around the world and the value of organizations like Voice of America to explain how America works and its core values that are written into our Constitution, how do we square that with some of the statements that the President has made about the role of a free press, and that, perhaps, a free press shouldn’t necessarily be adversarial? And then squaring that also against what I would say is a government-wide reduction in the number of press briefings. I was briefly in the State Department back in 2000 working in the press office. We had a daily press briefing; that does not seem to happen anymore–once every two, three weeks.
So, how do we square the discussion of values with practice?
Michelle Giuda: So, as part of this conversation, and with the merger, we expanded our media team, both internationally with our Head of International Media Relations over here, our press team, to make sure that from around the clock, we are engaging with the press. It has been at the core of Public Affairs for our history–and continues to be, and we engage every single day.
Our bullpen sits in the State Department, and we are interacting with them all the time; they travel with the Secretary, the Secretary has been at the podium several times in his one-year plus at the State Department. And so, we continue to really engage with the press both domestic and foreign every single day.
With regard to the press briefings, one of the great advantages of digital media is that there are multiple ways now for us to do a press briefing, right? There is a podium and our spokesperson, Morgan Ortagus, goes to the podium and has a conversation; we also do video briefings with international media. We have six regional media hubs across the world in London, Manila, Brussels, Johannesburg, Dubai, and Miami. We are engaging and putting State Department principals out on those every single day to engage with regional media all across the world.
We also engage digitally, so if you will look at our social media channels, our spokesperson Morgan Ortagus is starting to do more digital briefings from a digital podium, if you will.
And so, we are being creative in thinking about how best to communicate with the media directly, to foreign audiences, with the people in the United States, across the suite of tools that we have.
Sim Farar: We only have time for a few more questions.
Audience Question: Hello. My name is Brandon Andrews, former U.S. Senate staff for (inaudible). I participated in a public diplomacy working group, so it has been really cool to see the changes over the past couple of years.
And since leaving Capitol Hill and becoming an entrepreneur, among other things, I do castings for ABC’s Shark Tank, and because of that, I have participated as a speaker in public diplomacy programs in certain countries. My question is what is your plan to engage folks like me who have participated as speakers as you transition from the office to (inaudible) et cetera? How can we participate? Even if we are not participating as speakers, I am sure not everybody knows a lot about global diplomacy as I do because of my background, but I am sure it will be interesting to hear if you have any thoughts or comments to share.
Nicole Chulick: So, I will talk about the Speaker Program because I love that program, it is an excellent program. That is one of the programs that we felt would be better housed in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It is still operating, it is vibrant, we send speakers overseas daily, and it is a great way to message on U.S. policy priorities, on American values to foreign audiences to share expertise with foreign audiences. It is a great program.
As far as how we engage folks in the conversation and keep it going, I would actually–I am looking to my ACPD colleagues and seeing if there is some way that we can continue that conversation and get your input. This is an excellent first step in hearing from you, and hearing your questions, but it would be nice to have additional opportunities to do that. So, thank you for the question.
Audience Question: Brian Carlson, a Public Diplomacy Council Member and former ambassador. I am wondering if you could talk a little bit about ShareAmerica. It’s a product that I’ve seen. I don’t feel like it responds to the kind of guidance you’ve been talking about in terms of authenticity, frankness, truth, and so forth. In fact, in my experience at seven embassies overseas, I can’t imagine ever showing this to anyone. I am wondering if you can talk a little bit about not just what it is for, but how do you (inaudible) that to make it fit the needs of embassies and public affairs offices?
Nicole Chulick: ShareAmerica is a platform and a repository for content to be used by our posts overseas; our hubs have also used some of the content as well. It runs the gamut between communicating about key foreign policy priorities as you pointed out, but also on American values. So, any given day, you would find a mix of content on that platform; it is publicly accessible so that you would go to the platform, but it is not really meant to be a destination site. It is a place where our posts can pull content so that they can be sure that they have gotten vibrant content for their digital platforms. We are continuing to look at how we best use that tool, and what this creative content looks like.
So, the conversation about what ShareAmerica becomes, where it goes, is part of what we are looking at through this merger, and how we most effectively get posts the tools that they need.
Anne Wedner: I think we are going to have to cut it off there. I want to really thank you both for such an honest and open exchange and for just being willing to come today and meet the public. (Applause.) Now, I would like had to hand it over to Bill, who is going to close us out.
Bill Hybl: Thank you, Anne. On behalf of the committee, we want to thank all of you, and especially our speakers for being here today.
We are going to have another open commission meeting in January where we will discuss our comprehensive annual report and preview what the commission will be doing for the coming year. It should be very interesting; we ask you to come back and join us. And thank you for being here today. This concludes our program.