Assad’s Next Facebook Status

Everything that could be said has been said about this crazy part of the world I live in, and once again, all eyes are on the Middle East (this time on the right place) with the anticipated attack of “the west”, lead by the US, on Syrian targets.

Yet, the only sign of anything being wrong, as far as Assad goes is the fact that his Instagram account hasn’t been updated in nearly 2 weeks, and even then, no sign of the 2 year civil war, chemical weapons used on civilians or the threats of international intervention. Just your same ole award ceremonies, Bashar busy at his desk and the beautiful Asma, hugging kids and cooking for the poor. Bashar Assad on Instagram

The last presidential tweet left the fingertips of team Assad 3 days ago, babbling about some visit of a Yemen delegation.

While the world decides not to wait for him to explain why he felt it right to gas people, Assad gives an interview to Russian news site Izvestia complaining about terrorism and explaining the Geneva Convention articles and at the same time, using his and his minority of supporters’ social networks, reassuring all of us crazy people around the world, that the streets of Damascus have never been livelier. Seriously Bashar, WTF?

Yesterday morning, I was out for brunch with a group of friends when I received a text message from my army unit asking me to be prepared for reserve duty should there be a need, and although I replied diligently, all I could think of is how damn wonderful life could be if it where taking place in Assad’s Facebook page.

If this blog post finds its way to anyone on the Syrian side suffering from the Assad Family’s game of thrones, be sure that there are many in the world and yes, even your estranged neighbors who feel for your pain and wish you only the best.

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US Embassy Digital Job Opportunities

US embassy jobs

For people interested in Digital Diplomacy, please note that you don’t have to be an organic part of your country’s foreign service. Emabssies and Consulates outsource specific jobs, many of them in communications and social media.

Such a job can be a great professional and personal experience and will help you makes career decisions in the future.

For those seeking to work for the US foreign service in a digital-oriented job –

I know of one in Tel aviv and another internship in Stockholm.

Note that the deadlines are up very soon.

Good Luck!

Diplo’s Online Learning Day: April 17 Save the Date!

Diplo emerged from a project to introduce information and communication technology (ICT) tools to the practice of diplomacy, initiated in 1992 at the Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies in Malta.
In November 2002, Diplo was established as an Image

independent non-profit foundation by the

governments of Malta and Switzerland.

The Online Learning Day

(17 April 2013, 10.00 –12.00 CET – online; and 18.00–20.00 CET – Geneva) is part of Diplo’s E-diplomacy Platform and builds on the first Geneva E-diplomacy Day (16 November 2012). Online learning allows busy professionals to continue training without taking time off from work and family life. At the same time, online learning is maturing: learning methodologies are improving and new platforms are emerging. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are reaching thousands of learners worldwide, while this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos signalled that online learning is likely to be one of the main global developments of 2013.

Read full post on Diplo website here

Italian Embassy to the USA to Host E-Diplomacy Conference October 22

E-Diplomacy is changing the way governments interact with each other, with their citizens, and with the public. It is also changing the way foreign policy is actuated to respond to new challenges. Italian Ambassador Claudio Bisogniero and a panel of experts will examine where ediplomacy is heading and the future of communications. A follow up to Turin’s Twiplomacy conference in June 2012, the round table is organized by the Embassy of Italy in Washington DC. The panel includes: Alec Ross, Senior Adviser for Innovation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; David Ignatius, Columnist at the Washington Post; Ahmed Shihab-Eldin, host of HuffPost Live; Deborah Seward, Director of Strategic Communications at the United Nations.

Click here for more info and to RSVP

8 Simple Steps Towards Reaching A Broader Audience

As I have mentioned in previous posts, your country’s achievements may seem wonderful to you and your Diaspora, but if your goal is to make friends for your country, showing off is not enough, and can sometimes be annoying. I mean, if your country has a strong economy and you are promoting that aspect in a country that suffers from high unemployment, you might start pissing people off.

You must show how your country’s achievements benefit the region or city you reside in.

It is classic “What’s In It For Me” only with the mind-set of ‘What’s In It for Them’ elevated by social media, and creating a win for all situation.

For example, let’s say that one of the pillars of your country’s overall branding strategy is its medical field. It is part of your job to make people aware of the fact that you have a lot to offer in that realm. So what’s the problem? Write a few words, add hashtags and attach an article from a website published in your native country raving all about it and post on your Facebook page, right? Sure if you want it to end right there, but if you want to be effective there are more ways to do it, and here is one of them:

  1. Contact the author of the article as well as the hero of the story.
  2. Email the article to local bloggers who would be interested in that content and offer to connect them with the above.
  3. Contact an online medical publication as well as a specific community that would be positively affected by this breakthrough, and get them to publish the story (written by the blogger who picked it up) on their website, newsletter and social networks. Don’t just post it on their page, it works better for all involved if they post it on their website and later share it themselves.
  4. Tell them all that you will be more than happy to promote the post using your mission’s networks as well.
  5. Once it is published, keep your promise and share it on your Social Media Channels using effective hashtags.
  6. Post on your website that the local publication/blog/organization wrote about this amazing discovery in your country, give the gist of it and share the link to where it was published.
  7. Thank the blogger as well as the organization/publication for posting and promise to let them know if and when you receive anything that would be of interest to them and send them the link to the featured article on your website.
  8. Use the information in the article and refer to it in an answer you compose in response to that or a related topic on Quora or any other significant Q&A based social network.

By applying these simple and basic PR moves, you will be able to:

  1. Deliver your message to a broader audience.
  2. Give your country positive exposure.
  3. Make new connections with bloggers, organizations and publications that will in the future be open and willing to receive more information from you and also possibly host or co-sponsor joint events, delegations or co-ops.
  4. Contribute to the local community and show how relevant you are to their day-to-day lives.
  5. Improve your country’s online presence and reputation. The circulation of linked information from one website to another, as well as newsletters, tweets and shares help search engines pick up on you and the story.

Having an APPtitude

I’ve noticed that recently, governments on both local and national levels have entered the marvelous mobile world by developing apps designed to provide citizens, tourists and expats with relevant information serving their needs.

Such initiatives are important tools in providing service and increasing visibility.

It also helps governments on any level position themselves as progressive, in tuned with the public, moving with the times, and well-organized. Especially in an era when people’s patience is wearing thin and bureaucracy, well bureaucracy never goes anywhere.

Going back to some of my previous posts, those who may be seeking this information are already engaged with your country one way or another and though it helps you strengthen their appreciation of you more, it doesn’t do enough for making new friends.

Encouraging tourism or foreign investments starts by raising awareness to what your country has to offer. In addition to campaigns, conferences and other forms of targeted engagement, I propose a slightly less likely utilization of apps:

Wait for it…: Gaming.

Before you raise your brow or go back to checking your emails, hear me out.

Gaming is not just a lifestyle of junk food and avatars. We’ve all resorted to games conveniently available on our phones at least once while attending a boring meeting or lecture or even on the train or flight on some business trip.

According to an article published on Mashable.com,  In September 2012, 251 million people played games on Facebook, up from 226 million in September of 2011. Beyond the growth rate, the scary part is that those number refer only to  Facebook!

Every game we play, whether on an old-school board game or on a savvy flashy mobile phone have one thing in common: A Background.

A background can be a storyline and or a location in which the game takes place. Why not make the background your own?

Now, obviously if your aim is to improve your country’s image and to increase tourism and foreign investments you wouldn’t want to design a bloody war quest set in your land. But if business capital is what you seek, why not complement your efforts by producing a rollercoaster or runner game set in the downtown business quarter of your financial and commercial capital? Or if tourism is your goal, why not use the beautiful landscapes of your country as a background even for an angry birds style game? Sounds silly? Maybe…but you have an opportunity to make your country visible and attractive without an obvious direct affiliation and positioning one or more of your cities with an already well-known and strong place brand that you aspire to become like or even surpass.

Think about it for a moment. If the game you designed allows the gamer to choose a layout setting or even simply advance to different levels using the same group of cities, the long-term effect of associating the place you are promoting, is that it is in the same league as the other cities in the group.

If your game takes place in Tokyo, London, New York and a city in your country, what does it imply about its economic importance or its fashion industry?

This is not a new concept and is found mainly in track racing games, but it is applicable to almost any genre. The better the game, the more people download the app, the more people consume you regardless of their existing perception of you.

All you have to do is decide what aspect of your country you what to amplify in conjunction with your branding efforts, invest a small amount of money or even have an intern do it for you for free and use your contacts to launch the game.

As far as promoting the game goes – the sky s the limit. You might find it effective to promoting the app by giving people who share their high scores on your Facebook page or a game fan page prizes that support your message.

There is really no need to reinvent the wheel. Move with the times, and give people what they love.

6 Ways to Use Quora in the Service of Digital Diplomacy

A while back, I came across a tweet that promised to tell me what are the next up and coming social media sites I should be keeping an eye out for. Given my bombastic job title, I figured I have to read it, just to be in the know and just in case someone decides to challenge my knowledge. I clicked on the link and scrolled down until I reached Quora. What can I say, I fell in love.

Recognizing the potential, I immediately created an account for my consulate. I named it after my consul general, gave a short description of our mission and started following topics, people and questions.

About a week later, I was proud to receive and message from a Quora admin, telling me that we are the first and only diplomatic mission on the site and that he is looking forward to see how we choose to use it for our purposes.

Though the natural inclination is to answer questions related directly to my country’s political issues and foreign policy, I decided to answer question about topics I knew my country had something to offer to the world. My Consul General was surprised and happy to learn that he is an expert on water desalination, solar power, surfing, stem cell research, desertification prevention, innovative education methods, location-based apps, autism research and so much more.

The best part about it all is that the amount of followers the account has pales in comparison to the actual reach, since the questions and topics have so many followers from across the globe.

The most satisfaction I got was not from the “vote ups” but rather the messages reading “I would have never thought of that, I’ll look into it” and other comments of that nature.

The people I managed to reach via Quora would have never been exposed to this information if I had resorted to post it strictly on the mission’s website, Facebook page or Twitter.

Quora truly enables you to reach an audience based on niche interests, most of who are professionals in those fields and appreciate interesting and informative content that has professional value to them.

 Here are a few tips using Quora:

  1. Beware and be prepared. It is highly addicting.
  2. Follow topics and questions you want your country or government agency to be associated with or that are related to your branding strategy.
  3. Answer questions that can help you promote companies, startups, ideas, academic institutions, artists, technologies all located, invented, developed or heavily used in your country.
  4. Write answers, not articles, but include links to articles, especially if they were published in a source you have an interested in driving traffic to.
  5. If you are asked to answer a question regarding current events or a political issue, treat it as an official statement and abide by your guidelines and directives.
  6. If you are fortunate enough to employ interns, let them research and compose answers according to their personal fields of interest. That will motivate them and help them learn more about your country. For the most part, they are younger than you, and being out of this organic line of work, they will find topics that you would never think about. Don’t forget to go over it before they hit post. You know, just in case.