Definitions of Public Diplomacy

The field of public diplomacy is dynamically defined. Today it goes far beyond a classical definition involving how elected and appointed government officials communicate, argue and influence policies publicly to a more two-pronged concept involving cause and effect.

The evolution of public diplomacy from its inception as a concept in the 1960's to today can be measured in part by the terms and definitions offered by a range of Fletcher School personalities who have been, over the years, directly involved in the field:

By public diplomacy we understand the means by which governments, private groups and individuals influence the attitudes and opinions of other peoples and governments in such a way as to exercise influence on their foreign policy decisions.

Edmund A. Gullion (former diplomat)
Dean of the Fletcher School
March 1966

The most important roles public diplomacy will have to play for the United States in the current international environment will be less grand-strategic and more operational than during the Cold War. Support of national policy in military contingencies is one such role, and probably the most important.

Carnes Lord (former Deputy Director USIA)
Professor of Statecraft and Civilization
October 1998

Public diplomacy - effectively communicating with publics around the globe - to understand, value and even emulate America's vision and ideas; historically one of America's most effective weapons of outreach, persuasion and policy.

Jill A. Schuker (former Senior Director for Public Affairs at the National Security Council)
July 2004

Public diplomacy may be defined, simply, as the conduct of international relations by governments through public communications media and through dealings with a wide range of nongovernmental entities (political parties, corporations, trade associations, labor unions, educational institutions, religious organizations, ethnic groups, and so on including influential individuals) for the purpose of influencing the politics and actions of other governments.

Alan K. Henrikson
Professor of Diplomatic History
April 2005

Public diplomacy that traditionally represents actions of governments to influence overseas publics within the foreign policy process has expanded today - by accident and design - beyond the realm of governments to include the media, multinational corporations, NGO's and faith-based organizations as active participants in the field.

Crocker Snow Jr.
Acting Director Edward R. Murrow Center
May 2005