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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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.

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

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.

How to Grow Your Newsletter Readership

To be very honest, I don’t like newsletters. Maybe it because I am the type who likes to Google specific information I want to find or maybe it is because it always requires an extra click to view the content.

Whatever it is, for a very long time, it had prevented me from viewing the newsletter as an important engagement tool. With an average of 18% open rate I couldn’t understand why my colleagues at the consulate spend so much valuable time wording and rewording items, scavenging the web for information to post, and pressuring us all with deadlines. good newsletter

But then one day, my boss decided to pass on the task to me. As much as I didn’t want it, it only seemed right that the newsletter resides with the person responsible for digital diplomacy, right?

Not wanting to waste my time, I decided that if I am to deal with this headache, I have to do it right and make it worth the while. With the help of David, my dear intern at the time, we managed to increase our readership from 18% to 38%. A rate much higher than the 19-25% average most companies and non profits expect, and than the 12-20% average many diplomatic missions are accustomed to.

Here are a few things we did, I hope this helps other diplomatic missions increase their reach:

* Note- we used constant contact as our platform.

Content:

  • We decided to focus on “soft news” and only refer to political matters if absolutely necessary, and even then, rather than issue a statement, we embedded it into the opening greeting paragraph/section.
  • We tried, as much as possible to localize our newsletter by bringing the stories of our activities in the region as well as coverage of events (academic, cultural or other), business and companies. For news items that occurred in Israel, we found a local connection and tackled it from that angle (family member, a person involved etc)
  • We gave 1 video and 1 travel tip each week.
  • We made a spotlight section that gave us the freedom to post uncategorized material and/or promote conferences in Israel.
  • Event listing – Always in the same part of the newsletter and always updated. The list would always include the basic Who What When Where info + a small pic, both linked to the full information either on the consulate’s website and/or the venue’s.

Layout:

  • 2 column newsletter – I find that one item leads you to read the next item in the column next to it. You can really play with this in the sense that if you have something less attractive that must be posted, etc
  • Clean colors – White background, black writing, friendly font, orange borders, and blue titles.
  • Images – For the most part, we had the pics and text appear together rather than one before the other. For events happening in Israel or travel tips, we tried to use less iconic images to stimulate curiosity which increases the click count.
  • Keeping it short – Few sentences and a link to full story on our website (not “read more” but using keywords to help with the website’s SEO)

Back work – clean up:

  • We did our research and moved all of those who never open the newsletter to a group we called “zero opens”.
  • We fixed all the broken/wrong email addresses
  • We removed non active users

Gimmicks – highly important:

  • We changed the setting so that it appears as an email from the consul general by using his first and last name.
  • We gave each email a different name and a title that reflects on the content in an attractive, localized way.
  • We started sending the email 2 hours earlier than we used tom right before lunchtime on a Friday.
  • We shared in on Face book and twitter.

Once published, the newsletter would be tweeted and posted to Facebook.

Remember, you can always use the Join My Mailing List App to connect Facebook fans and one-time visitors from your page to your mailing list.

There are many more tricks and tips that can help you increase your newsletter’s reach. But the most important thing to remember is this:

If someone signed up for your newsletter and or are following, they might be following your counterparts in other cities in their country or even in other parts of the world. In light of that you must make yourself relevant- not by publishing the same unified content but by creating your own content, give people a reason to follow you and not someone else.

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.

Resisting Temptations: 10 Lessons learned

We all have different considerations that lead us to choose whatever business we are in. Whether it is for financial benefit, a passion or a deeply rooted sense of mission, the hard work we invest makes us venerable to criticism and makes us at times, and yes, emotional.

I admit, I have made quite a few mistakes by allowing those who I like to call taunters (after the ‘French Tounter’ in Monty Python’s Holy Grail) get to me while trying to engage on Facebook, Twitter and sometimes even on Quora.

Having the urge and the ability to respond directly has taught me a few valuable lessons which I am happy to share with you:

  1. Count to 10. A lot has changed since childhood but that tip is still very relevant, even with the need for quick responses.
  2. Anything you say can and will be retweeted against you.
  3. Just because they “like” you, doesn’t mean they’ll always like you.
  4. A back and forth conversation on our timeline can be left for those who really like you and would gladly comment for you.
  5. Your own personal sense of humor or irony can alienate fans who identify with the message but not with its delivery.
  6. The account you manage is not your own. The way you navigate the conversation is part of your brand strategy and reflects on it, not your personal feelings.
  7. Your taunter is not targeting you personally, but they will be happy to use your emotional outbreak just for fun. They are either bored out of their  mind or there with a deliberate intention to criticize your brand/organization/country with no real wish for a dialogue.
  8. Welcome your critics. The human need to be noticed is a large part of how and why social media has grown to these dimensions. Censorship repels even the loyal fans and lessens the engagement.
  9. You can’t always predict or control where that comment/tweet or post will end up.
  10. If your fans are ganging up on a taunter, calm the discussion down, even if you agree with them. But seriously, don’t  give a person or a comment more attention than they deserve. That will only make them want to keep doing it.

At the end of the day, when managing public diplomacy, and particularly digital diplomacy,

monty python french taunter

“Now go away or I shall taunt you a second time”

there are always 3 groups you typically interact with:

  1. The “Persuaded” – Your supporters who will like, share and comment positively if the agree or won’t comment if  they don’t, just to save face (your face).
  2. The “On the Fence” – Those who either have no opinion or are trying to establish one. Put them at the top of your priority list and tip them over to your side.
  3. The “No Matter What You Say, You Suck” – those will always be around, and you will never persuade them, especially if you insist on letting them drag you into confrontation. So just keep your level of engagement at minimum and let their arguments against you gain you the sympathy of the “on the fence” crowd, the solidarity of the “persuaded” crowd and let it work to your advantage.

Always remember that being wise is much more important than being right. Let others do your lobbying, beyond the time it consumes of you and the potential slips of the type, it is in your best interest to mobilize others on your behalf. Especially if you represent a government, because the mere fact that you are the government puts a damper on your credibility.