#ShanaTova Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif

Foreign Minister of Iran, Mr. Javad Zarif tweeted a Jewish new year greeting to his followers.

Activist Christine Pelosi (yeah, also the daughter of) tweeted back, thanking him but also pointing out the almost systematic holocaust denial by Iranian officials, namely former president Ahmadinejad.

In an unprecedented move, Zarif, also a former ambassador to the UN and a Denver University graduate, replied what seems not only as words of criticism against the former president but also, a crack in the holocaust denial doctrine, fashioned to delegitimize Israel’s existence.  iranian foreign minister javar zarif wishes shana tova on twitter

Just to clarify with a very quick side note to put this in the right context:

There are roughly 25,000 Jews in Iran today, relics of a large Jewish community that dates back over 2,500 years. Today, there are about 100,000 Iranian Jews in Israel, 5,000 in Europe and about 20,000 in the USA.

The former president is one of some who believe that the only justification for the State of Israel is the holocaust, therefore denying it ever happened would mean that Israel has no claim or right to exist as a sovereign state (that’s in a very tiny nutshell).

Also important to note is that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also tweeted a New Year greeting that.

Now back to this eye catching engagement:

This exchange of tweets gained Zrif over 2,000 new followers in just a few hours, and some media attention that expresses hope that this administration is proving to be more moderate as it promised.

Interestingly enough, President Hassan Rouhani had also tweeted a similar greeting, however this was quickly followed up by his media adviser who claimed the president does not even have an account.

iran president on twitter

Social engagement Vs. familiar methods of denial may be indicative of will Vs. confidence the new administration has or lacks, as it takes the reigns over a country with a glorious past, a depressing present and an unknown future.

Is this twitter conversation a green light for Iranian civilians to speak their minds or is twitter the next online platform to be blocked in Iran by the Revolutionary Guards’ cyber team?

With all the cynicism and pessimism that can be applied when it comes to the Ayatollah regime, it is a new year after all, and it is custom to forgive and ask for forgiveness for the wrongs of the previous year, and to look upon the new year with hope and positive vibes. So i’m gonna do just that, and wish everyone, a very sweet and happy new year. Shana Tova

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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.

Job Opportunity UK Embassy Kyiv – Media and Digital Communications Manager

The British Embassy Kyiv is seeking to recruit a fixed-term Media and Digital british embassy ukraine

Communications Officer (LEIII) to support the work of the Policy Delivery Team.

The Media and Digital Communications Officer will lead on day-to-day digital engagement, handle publicity and support public diplomacy activities of the Embassy.

  • Deadline for applications: 31 August 2013
  • Interviews to take place: 12 September 2013

Click for full discription of the Media and Digital Communications Manager job.

Best of Luck to you!

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

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.

Gaza Shells Israel On Twitter

My uniform is ironed, folded and ready for the anticipated call from my unit. After barrages of rockets from Gaza to Israel, it was time to retaliate. Many Israelis, who were getting tired of the situation, kept posting memes and updated their statuses expressing their wish to block rocket attacks and get back to normal life. It was at a certain point that the government decided to strike back, and has been doing so in surgical, pin-pointed airstrikes designed to stop the rockets by exploding them in mid-air as well as pounding at Hamas, its leadership and its infrastructure.

On Facebook, you couldn’t help but notice the heartwarming gestures of people living in the central and northern parts of the country, offering their homes and sending warm wishes to the 1 million civilians within rocket range. But soon after, rockets started falling in central Israel, making it 5 million civilians under rocket range, exposed to physical danger as well as much frustration, confusion and anxiety.

Israelis love Facebook so much that they forget there is a whole world out there which isn’t comprised of family and friends and who doesn’t necessarily support, understand or even know the slightest thing about what is happening now between Gaza and Israel. I noticed many of my friends, calling their friends and fans to post photos and testimonies of the rockets flying over their heads so that “the whole world will see”.

gaza fires rockets on israel

“The Foreign Ministry calls upon the citizens of Southern-Israel to send videos, photos that show your lives under rocket threat”

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has asked civilians to email them videos and photos so that they may use them to create posters, memes and clips that will serve as advocacy materials in the public diplomacy efforts to keep the world informed and to maintain the first time ever general support of Israel and the opinion that Hamas launching daily, if not hourly rocket attacks from Gaza to Israel is the direct cause of this escalation.

But you see, the conversation is on Twitter, not just on Facebook. If Facebook is a social network, then Twitter is a source of information to all, at any given time, on any topic.

gaza shells israel on twitter

Gaza & Israel, or should we say just Gaza, on Twitter

Israelis, as opposed to Palestinians, don’t use Twitter. And when it comes to Instagram, they seem to keep the tags very local. This simple truth leaves the 4th battle field totally neglected.

A quick scroll down the twitter feed using the tags #Israel or #Gaza will show exactly who is shaping and controlling the conversation. No matter how many advocacy groups and governemt organizations will try to contribute, it is the people, in this case the Palestinians who control the Twittersphere simply because it isn’t used by Israelis.

As I wait to be called for duty, I would like to call upon the Foreign Ministry, the Israel Defense Forces and everyone interested mobilizing civilians to keep the world informed:

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.

The concern of a location based app revealing to Hamas the exact location of where the rockets fell I s understandable. So is the fear of encouraging people to take pictures of rockets when they should be running for shelter. But the thing is that, Hamas will know whether you tell them or not, and people will be taking pictures of rockets anyway…

Once again, the best speakers and the people themselves, the moment you do it for them, you lose the ears and the hearts of your potential audience which is not yours, it’s in fact, theirs.