Wednesday, September 29, 2010

How do diplomats work with tweeting politicians?

Diplomatic culture is rich and complex,  proud of the subtlety of its communications and mindful of the importance of time in building relationships, developing negotiations or agreements. Web 2.0 culture is very different, prides itself on immediacy, directness and speed.

From President Chavez in Venezuala to Obama in the US, a number of senior politicians now engage in platforms like twitter. The President and Foreign Minister of Costa Rica are avid users of Facebook. As Shashi Taroor, now an ex-Minister discovered to his cost, unguarded comments spread almost instantaneously. Taroor's famous remark about having to travel cattle class as a result of the Indian Governments decision that politicians would use pubic transport was seized upon by the media and exploited by the opposition before he and his team had time to prepare a response strategy.

This is a central issue for eDiplomacy. All large, formal, long-standing organisations struggle with rapid change. Undoubtedly MFAs and Governments can and do respond rapidly when a crisis strikes. In the social media age does this level of rapid response have to become the norm? 

(Cross-posted from the Diplo Foundation website blog. We support Diplo with their communication)