Fresh Diplomatic Meat on Tumblr

New cadets have arrived at the Foreign Ministry for their intense 6 month training program  and they plan to blog about it on Tumblr.

digital diplomacy

The Israeli Foreign Ministry’s 30th cadet training course seems pretty unique. Not because it is comprised by an equal number of men and women or because of its cultural diversity, but because of the fact that many of these people have chosen to dump promising careers in journalism, law, high-tech and finance to join a neglected government agency that as a result suffers from strikes and public campaigns in protest of low pay.

A country brand that is on the rise but has so many issues to resolve cannot afford to recruit un-to-under-qualified personnel but until this  issue between the Treasury and the MFA is resolved, they will have to continue to rely on people’s good will and sense of mission.

I was never a cadet and a few of them might be older than me, but if I were to dispense any advice vis-à-vis this blog it would be:

1. WRITE IN ENGLISH (or else the only people reading this blog would be your families and your supervisors, plus it’s a good opportunity to practice your English writing skills).

2. Use tags that will help people who are interested in diplomacy find you.

In other words, be apart of the conversation beyond your office walls and fulfill this blog’s potential.

Let’s all wish them the best of luck on their challenging journey!

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Benjamin Netanyahu’s Grumpy Cat Impression

Benjamin Netanyahu’s social media team might have made the worst possible Facebook timeline photo upload choice, following the Israeli PM’s UN speech.

Why the worst? Not just because Netanyahu looks like he is doing an impression of Grumpy Cat, but mainly because his last UN speech regarding Iran, makes

benjamin netanyahu at the unIsrael appear as the peace refusnik.

The post says: “I’d like to thank the citizens of Israel for the many responses to my speech. I feel honored and privilaged to represent you”.

A note to team Netanyahu – Always consider the context of your posts, and remember that not everyone gets paid to praise your boss.

Winds of a Cyber War

In a ceremony attended by some of the country’s major cyber security engineers and executives as well as political figures and financial leaders,  Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, inaugurated the new, state-of-the-art High-Tech Park, in the southern city of Be’er Sheva.

In his speech, Netanyahu referred to cyber and information security as a top priority for Israel, not only as a world leader in this field but also due to the reality in the region. And the reality in the region is certainly much to be concerned about at the moment and one cannot overlook the timing of this pre-planned event that took place today, while the world waits for congress to ratify U.S. President Barrack Obama’s convictions regarding the situation in Syria.

With a U.S. strike against Syrian targets in the horizon come the usual threats on Israel by Syria and Iran, followed by Netanyahu’s constant reminders that Israel will strike back if attacked.

Will striking back include a cyber attack as well? Has there been a change in the existing cyber defense doctrine? Has the Syrian President Bashar Al Assad ever trained a cyber army as he did an entire military corps for chemical warfare?

Chances are he didn’t. In that case, who are the combatants? Are they paid hackers? Ideologist hackers? Of which nationality are these groups or individuals? Are these questions even relevant in a world that is getting smaller thanks to big data analysis?

I leave it with the experts, knowing only that cyber warfare puts the civilian population on any side as well as traditional national strategic targets more vulnerable than ever before, and opens a window for sectarian, partisan, guerrilla and civilian groups to take matters in their own hands by intervening in a way scarier and more chaotic than any amphibious landing on any shore.

Deadly Smartphones

The military is probably the most threatened organization by the digital revolution. This is one of the main reasons why today’s militaries across the world, though pushing for rapid technological advancement, remain as primitive as they possibly can when it comes to basic telecommunications.

I can’t begin to describe how frustrating it ishomeland security not to be able to use a flash drive, a Gmail account or connect an outlook address to a phone. I mean, come on, this is the military, no?

The Israeli military, for example, is in the midst of upgrading its staff’s cell phones to the latest iOS and Android models. Knowing that high speed internet connections and high resolution cameras,

as well as personal involvement in social media networks come with a high risk to national security, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) launched an extensive awareness campaign along with rewriting its telecom field intelligence doctrines.

Before you is an inside look at the advertising campaign which has already been shared via military diplomacy channels, with counterparts around the world who are facing the same challenges:

Who is the Target Audience? instagram for diplomacy

The military, in Israel as well as all over the world, is a client which heavily restricts the advertising agency in all its departments, which definitely has its toll on the creative department but at the same time, poses a great challenge to produce excellent results that is memorable and truly penetrates the target audience. The campaign was intended for the senior officers of the Israel Defense Forces, as part of the organized transition to smart phones in the use of military personnel. The campaign ran in the various military bases and concentrated mostly on print and related BTL materials, as part of a nationwide information campaign scope.

Maintaining Maximum Minimalism

The specific target audience of this campaign was mostly officers and soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces. The underlying assumption was that the target audience is intelligent and that we have to touch a nerve in order to get to them, while striving to maintain maximum twiplomacyminimalism. The response of the Israel Defense Forces officers was very positive resulted in minimal violations of the regulations imposed by the IDF’s Information Security Department. When addressing soldiers, it is best to use terminology relevant to the military world, therefore the smart phone applications were turned into “arms” in order to convey the message that media can serve as a “weapon” if used incorrectly.

The audience is asked “not to point it at us” (i.e to be used under the proper Field Security regulations). A simple message, precise and visually clear backed with a wink and used in slang and updated lingo.

Sense and Sensibility

With technological progress and endless media options available today comes the major challenge of keeping information secure, a severe problem for an organization of high sensitivity as IDF intelligence. Israel Defense Forces, like many western armies around the world, upgraded to smart mobile phone use by officers in order to improve communication within the military. The main challenge faced by military officials after this move, is the prevention of leakage of confidential content and classified information. As part of coping with the challenge, the IDF contacted a well known advertising company in request to produce a campaign highlighting the phone’s weak spots in relation to information security.

In a country like Israel, where security issues are particularly sensitive, the importance of a wide- ranged campaign was gravely important. In addition to the campaign, a special PR team was established to hop between bases to provide workshops on the subject. Ideological concept of the campaign – the smart phone is a weapon. Do not point it against us.

Known icons from the app world, smart phones and social networks were given a visual twist making them resemble weapons, thus visually iphone killssharpening the sense of danger.

The campaign was well received by the officers and soldiers. It ran in all IDF units (though the initial thought was to run the campaign strictly in the Intelligence Corps). In addition, the campaign was presented to senior intelligence officers of other countries military organizations who as a result, will be adapting the method, namely the Italian and American armies.

I recently visited my old base, reporting for reserve duty, and indeed, the posters are up everywhere: Twitters cute little bird dropping a bomb, Instagram’s lens zoning in on a target, Facebook’s F is holding a gun and so many more little deathly adaptations of icons. At times visually forced but overall very cute and effective.

Too bad they can’t spread them on a banner due to security restrictions…

5 Things Diplomats Should Avoid On Facebook

Successful diplomats often become mini celebrities in the communities they serve. In addition to promoting their country’s interests and conducting diplomatic efforts using social media platforms, diplomats, being human, have their own personal Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram accounts.

Senior diplomats often have a fan page, managed by embassy or consulate staff,

Obama Rejects Wearing Mickey Ears

Obama Rejects Wearing Mickey Ears. Click on pic for full story

and for the most part, the fan pages or official twitter account act as another channel to amplify their country’s voice.

But for those managing their own personal accounts, the challenges are even greater.

Not to mention the hired employees serving their diplomatic mission who at times, forget that although it is their personal account and they are not the diplomats, it is public and their posts have an effect on the mission’s overall online presence.

A quick scan of junior diplomats and hired staff accounts reveals that they are not all aware that comments or opinions they would never express publicly in person should most definitely not be visible to all on Facebook.

Diplomats are human and as humans, they wish to share their thoughts and experiences with their families on the other side of the world.

Here are 5 recommendations based on a what I found in senior, junior and diplomatic staff I have been monitoring for the purpose of this post:

1. Keep your account public but make your personal pictures private or limited to family and close friends.

2. Do not like or comment on local politicians pages. This should be a given. Your professional account may certainly follow politicians as long as you follow all candidates equality and refrain from commenting, since this can and will be interpreted as showing active involvement in local politics.

3. As hard as it may be, avoid posting statements about your own country’s political figures, especially during election season, a time when the rest of the world may be taking a closer look at what is happening in your country.

4. If you are one of those diplomats who rightfully take advantage of being in new surroundings and enjoy spending your free time traveling, by all means, don’t hesitate to share your experiences, but be wise. You do not want to come across as ‘all fun and no work’ (sponsored by public funds).

5. It is truly wonderful to have a friendly working environment at your offices, but a line must be drawn somewhere and it better be Clear on Facebook. A trail of comments made by embassy staff and local community members on a diplomat’s photo wearing Mickey Mouse ears in Disney World from simply cute to absolutely ridiculous. Not to mention the long term managerial challenges you will face upon your return from your lovely vacation.

The best way to approach this all relies heavily on common sense and the constant thought that should always echo in your mind when representing something greater than yourself:

WOULD I ALLOW MYSELF TO BEHAVE THIS WAY OFFLINE?

The answer, multiplied by the combined sum of friends and followers on your personal and professional accounts should be enough to keep you from embarrassing yourself, your mission and your country.

One of the Scariest Moments of My Life

A couple of weeks ago, Israel decided to take action in retaliation to the rocket showering southern Israel from the Gaza Strip. Once again, all eyes were on the Arab-Israeli conflict and for the first time since the early 90’s, Rocket fire reached Tel Aviv. But not just rockets. Another long-almost-forgotten visitor returned to Tel Aviv; a bomb was placed on a bus and had exploded, injuring many.  Thankfully, my sister in-law who was right by the explosion wasn’t injured nor were any of my friends and family members.
But this attack managed to shake me to the bone,
not for the obvious reasons. gaza

2 hours prior to the attack,
someone identifying as a”media man”
from Amman, Jordan, tweeted me directly with the following message:
“10 people killed and 36 injured in an explosion in Tel Aviv”.
He was using Israeli advocacy  hashtags such as #IsraelUnderAttack #IsraelUnderFire and more.
I couldn’t understand why would someone who is advocating for Israel try to damage its advocacy efforts by posting false information, and I made that clear to him in my tweets back to him. I realized that he got to me after my angry tweet to BBC reporter Jon Donison, condemning him for tweeting a picture of an injured child from Syria and tagging it as Gaza.

After the bomb, he kept taunting me with “I told you” messages followed by further “warnings” of  events yet to come.

I posted a screen shot on my Facebook page, and kept posting with every threat.  The images were shared all the way to the military, the police, the secret service – who all contacted me for their own purposes.

Was the guy truly involved? Did he really have information about a planned attack? Was it just a lucky guess? Is he really who he says he is or an alias of someone further away? Did he pick random people or was I his choice for a reason? Should I feel guilty for not taking his warning seriously prior to the explosion?

I don’t know. But one thing is for sure, and that is that social media is rapidly given more roles by its users. With every day that goes by, the definition of “possible”, of time and of space stretch even further and wider, requiring government agencies, civil servants and law enforcement to adapt and update their communication strategies and tactics frequently, withstanding the challenges budgets and bureaucracy impose.

Digital Diplomacy Colors the AppStore RED

On November 17th, I posted one of my most viewed posts “Gaza Shells Israel on Twitter” where I tried to make the point that the lack of Israeli presence on Twitter is harming the country’s public diplomacy efforts in light of the latest round of hostilities between Gaza and Israel. I simply said: “Israel is the startup nation and the hub of technological innovation – Don’t ask them for photos, don’t create hashtags that no one searches for. Develop a simple, visual, location-based app that would enable people to share real-time alarms/sirens, rocket shells and of course photos and tags that will help them share their experience with everyone in the world, and not just their own circles.”

Surely enough, today, only two days later, an app named “Tzeva Adom” (literal translation: Color Red, which is the name of the sirens sounded throughout the country when a rocket is fired in its direction) appeared in the AppStore!

color red siren app israel

The Tzeva Adom App as appears in the AppStore

Funnily enough, I learned about it from an article on Ynetnews, reporting that Knesset (Parliament) Member Gila Gamliel from the Likud party currently in power, called upon foreign ambassadors posted in Israel to download the app in order to “get some understanding of what is going on in Southern-Israel”.

Whether this was a direct result of my post, a spark of common sense or lessons well learned on the go, it is interesting to see the growing understanding of the importance of digital diplomacy and how to utilize it as part of the overall diplomatic effort.