AN EXPLORATORY STUDY OF THE MEANING OF PUBLIC DIPLOMACY: A NETWORK APPROACH
Toth, Elizabeth L.
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The purpose of this study was to explore public diplomacy from a network approach. Whereas traditionally public diplomacy was conceptualized as a communication function belonging exclusively to governments, the network approach suggested that public diplomacy is a multilateral communication process that includes nongovernmental organizations, governments, publics, corporations, and other possible actors (e.g., Fisher 2008; 2010; Zaharna, 2010). Network approach to public diplomacy accounts for the technological advances, suggesting that digital media is an integral part of public diplomacy networks. This study used the qualitative research methodology to answer three research questions that sought to explore public diplomacy definitions, public diplomacy networks, and the use of digital media in public diplomacy. This research used the network approach as a conceptual framework and not as a methodology. In addition, this dissertation explored relationship cultivation processes in public diplomacy networks. Fitzpatrick (2007; 2009) argued that relational framework provided a holistic approach to public diplomacy, emphasizing interpersonal relationships as well as long-term plans. This study explored relationship cultivation processes in public diplomacy practice. Data included 32 in-depth semi-structured interviews with employees in governmental and nongovernmental organizations that were tasked with international communication. Findings confirmed the two approaches to public diplomacy evident in the literature: traditional approach and network approach. Results revealed that some actors viewed public diplomacy as networks, although such view was not common and links between actors were limited. Data suggested that public diplomacy networks were formed around issues of global concerns. Publics were conceptualized in terms of demographics and interests instead of geographical locations. Findings also suggested two new goals for public diplomacy: to explain global issues to audiences inside the country, and to empower publics. Convening, or network-making power, and expert power emerged as valuable sources of influence. Results showed that competition was a predominant relationship cultivation strategy. Trust emerged as a relationship cultivation strategy as well as an outcome. Last, findings suggested several advantages of digital media use, including its ability to reach many various publics simultaneously. However, results also showed that digital media was used as a "bull horn" rather than a two-way communication tool.