Public diplomacy in the global age: Lessons from literature and practice

08 Sep 2016

The rise of globalism, particularly information technology and massive flows of international communications, has ignited gigantic competition among nations for markets, foreign direct investment, tourists, human skills, innovation and an edge in international relations. This new phenomenon poses unprecedented challenges to the concept and practice of public diplomacy. This paper seeks to interrogate the concept and practice of public diplomacy in contemporary times, identify the challenges and recommend future direction. It focuses on how public diplomacy can influence global business for the socioeconomic benefit of African nations in general and South Africa in particular. Today, countries have become ?brands? that must be created, nurtured and managed in a sustainable way through the creation of long-term and mutually beneficial relationships with bilateral and multi-lateral partners. Traditionally, public diplomacy mainly focused on the cultivation of stable political relationships among nations. However, public diplomacy now embraces the essence of a nation, be it political, economic, or, socio-cultural, not only to other governments but also to a multitude of other stakeholders such as foreign publics, multinational corporations, international media and non-governmental organisations. It is this emerging phenomenon that calls for the harnessing and integration of public diplomacy with nation branding in order to build, nurture and sustain a nation brand that enjoys positive relations with other countries, attracting inward investment and skills, promoting trade, tourism and exports. Such a nation brand will thus be able to uplift the standards of living of the people in the host country. The world has changed. And so must we.