Whither Strategic Communication?

A Survey of Current Proposals and Recommendations

by Christopher Paul

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Abstract

U.S. strategic communication and public diplomacy have been the targets of scathing criticism and proposals for overhaul since shortly after September 11, 2001. Proposals and recommendations abound, but many reform efforts have stumbled or have been plagued by false starts. Further contributing to this problem are the differences in terminology and approaches between the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Defense, the two agencies with primary responsibility in this area. With the need for reform persisting and interest in this area continuing to grow, RAND elected to conduct a survey of existing reform and improvement proposals. The subsequent literature review and interviews with subject-matter experts exposed four core themes in these recommendations: a call for “leadership,” demand for increased resources for strategic communication and public diplomacy, a call for a clear definition of an overall strategy, and the need for better coordination and organizational changes (or additions). The survey also includes a detailed discussion of several frequently appearing recommendations, including revised legislation, leveraging the private sector, the adoption of enterprise-level or whole-of-government solutions, better use of research, a greater focus on measurement, increased use of technology, training and education improvements, a quadrennial review of strategic communication and public diplomacy, and a review of international broadcasting.

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