Digital, social media are major boost US image, message abroad

WASHINGTON – The Internet and social media are providing a major boost for DawnCrop7-161x223.jpgAmerica’s image and messages abroad, according to Dawn McCall (pictured right), Coordinator of International Information Programs (IIP) for the State Department, speaking here at a CCLP forum.

“The reality for public diplomacy has dramatically changed and so has the environment in which IIP operates today,” McCall said. “I am sure no one in this room could have predicted five years ago how differently we would engage with each other today.”

The new digital media have brought new opportunities for the U.S., which according to McCall have led to a surge in audiences for America’s messages overseas.

In one country alone, India, a 2011 initiative, Ambassador Videos, were seen one billion times (“with a ‘B,'” she added). McCall said this was done by creating 44 different versions of the video in seven different languages – and through aggressive distribution by the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi. She noted these are views, not total audience – i.e., some may have seen the video more than once – but this is still a huge audience for any public diplomacy effort.

And McCall predicted that the ability to reach people around the world on mobile telephones and handheld devices is about to take off.

“Mobile, which is likely to leapfrog tethered computing in many parts of the world, is expected to grow exponentially in every region of the world,” she said.

Before joining the State Department, McCall was President of Discovery Networks International, and she said one lesson from private industry was that more research was needed. However, despite the added research effort, McCall conceded more work is needed to evaluate the impact of the new media initiatives. More people are seeing and are aware of America’s messages, she noted, but hard data on changes in attitudes – and an improved view of the U.S. – are not yet in hand.

McCall spoke at CCLP’s monthly First Monday lunch forum in Washington, D.C., presented in partnership with the USC Center on Public Diplomacy and the U.S. Public Diplomacy Council.

Dawn McCall’s prepared remarks: A Convesation with Dawn McCall Coordinator International Information Programs.docx

Next month’s program, on March 4th, will feature, AndrĂ© Mendes, Director, Office of Technology, Services and Innovation at the Broadcasting Board of Governors.