Unlocking the power of digitalisation in public diplomacy: Transforming global connections


Exploring the role of digital technology in the evolution of public diplomacy

Have you ever pondered how digitalisation has reshaped the way governments and international organisations communicate with society?

Public diplomacy, the practice of influencing and communicating with global audiences to promote a nation’s interests, has been an essential tool in international relations for decades. However, in the digital age, it’s undergoing a profound transformation that extends beyond merely setting up social media accounts and broadcasting messages.

In this blog, we’ll delve into how public diplomacy must evolve to set the agenda and context, provide structure, make sense of current events, and foster relationships that shift from monologue to controlled dialogue with digital audiences.

Public diplomacy before the digital age

Historically, public diplomacy was conducted through traditional media such as press, radio, and television. Governments and international organisations utilised these channels to disseminate their message and champion their interests abroad. Yet, they faced inherent limitations, primarily for two reasons:


Communication was one-directional, from the sender (the government or organisation) to the receiver (the public). There wasn’t an easy or immediate way for the audience to respond or engage with the message. For instance, a televised speech by a country’s president or a press release from an international organisation was broadcast to the audience, but there was no direct channel for that audience to pose questions, voice their opinions, or engage in dialogue.



Even today, while television and radio can reach a broad audience, their reach is geographically constrained: a French radio or television broadcaster would struggle to convey a message to an audience in Australia. Moreover, these media often require significant resources to produce and distribute content, posing a challenge for smaller or less-resourced organisations.

Benefits of digitalisation in public diplomacy

With the advent of the digital age, the way we communicate and share information has undergone a seismic shift. The internet and social media have enabled faster, broader, and more interactive communication.

In the context of public diplomacy, this has unlocked new opportunities to engage with global audiences and champion national interests in innovative ways. The digital age has enhanced interactivity, allowing for a two-way dialogue between governments and the public, enabling them to partake in debates and share their perspective. It has also expanded reach, breaking down the geographical and temporal barriers that limited traditional diplomacy.

Digitalisation as a process in public diplomacy

The digital age has prompted a re-evaluation and redefinition of public diplomacy. Beyond merely adopting social media as communication tools, the digitalisation of public diplomacy is a long-term process that challenges and redefines the status quo.

Social media platforms, integral to this process, are just one piece of the puzzle. Governments and international organisations are not only embracing these platforms to directly engage with global audiences but are also adapting their working routines, norms, and values to the expectations of a digital society that values authenticity and transparency.

For instance, embassies and diplomats are increasingly leveraging platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram (and possibly already eyeing the potential of Meta’s newly introduced Threads) not just for communication but to foster controlled dialogue, set the agenda and context, and make sense of current events.


It’s crucial to debunk the notion that merely setting up social media accounts or sending a tweet suffices for effective communication. The digital strategy must be an element of holistic communication that considers these shifts and challenges in the digital age.

Opportunities and challenges of public diplomacy in the digital age

As mentioned, the digital age has presented public diplomacy with a unique set of opportunities and challenges. Time and space no longer hold the same value, and the reach of public diplomacy has vastly expanded.

Rather than merely viewing social media and technology as tools for broadcasting messages, we must understand the digitalisation of diplomacy as a process wherein institutions adapt their working routines, norms, and values to the expectations of an information-saturated digital society that connects solely with authenticity and transparency.

Conversely, this new environment also poses significant challenges.

Misinformation and fake news can spread rapidly on social media, potentially undermining public diplomacy efforts.

Cybersecurity is another growing concern, as malicious actors can exploit technology to interfere in communications and disseminate information, whether true or false, using algorithms to target a particularly susceptible audience.

Lastly, the digital age has posed new challenges in terms of equity and access. Despite its global reach, the digital divide remains a reality, and institutions must work to ensure their public diplomacy is inclusive and accessible to all.

To tackle these challenges, it’s vital to have a well-planned public diplomacy and crisis management strategy tailored to the digital age.

Recommendations for public diplomacy in the digital age

In this section of the blog, I’d like to offer some recommendations based on my experience and, notably, the insights of Ilan Manor, an expert in the digitalisation of public diplomacy. His book “The Digitalization of Public Diplomacy” is my go-to reference in this domain.

Here’s the link to his work, should you not have discovered it yet. I highly recommend it!

Active listening to facilitate interaction and participation

The digital age has transformed public diplomacy from a monologue to a dialogue. Now, more than ever, it’s essential to listen and respond to global audiences. This doesn’t merely involve replying to comments but understanding the concerns, interests, and needs of audiences to meaningfully engage with them.

Valuing all stakeholders, not just the elites

In this interconnected new society, everyone has a voice. Ordinary citizens can have as much impact on public diplomacy as traditional elites. Therefore, it’s crucial to value and consider the opinions and perspectives of all stakeholders, not just the elites.

Mediatization of diplomats

Diplomats must be prepared to present narratives, events, actors, and political priorities in real-time. This requires a deep understanding of digital media and the ability to effectively use them to convey key messages.

Integration of digital activities into a broader strategy

Digital activities shouldn’t be viewed as an end in themselves but as an integral part of a broader communication strategy. This involves integrating digital activities with offline objectives and ensuring all public diplomacy activities align with the organisation’s overarching goals.


The digital age has profoundly transformed public diplomacy in ways unimaginable just a few decades ago. Social media and technology have opened new avenues for communication and interaction, enabling governments and international organisations to reach the global public more swiftly, directly, and effectively. Those who can navigate its challenges and harness its opportunities will be better equipped to succeed on the global stage.

Remember, the key lies in adaptation and constant evolution.

Until next time!

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