In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Public Diplomacy

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Scholarly and Professional Associations
  • Journals
  • Global Polls and Surveys
  • Communication
  • Mass Media and Journalism
  • Public Opinion
  • Public Relations
  • Advertising
  • Nation and Place Branding
  • Digital Public Diplomacy (DPD)
  • American Digital Public Diplomacy

Communication Public Diplomacy
Eytan Gilboa
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 April 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 April 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0087


Public diplomacy (PD) is a relatively new field of scholarship and practice. There is not one widely accepted definition of PD, but most refer to a communication process states, nonstate actors, and organizations employ to influence the policies of a foreign government by influencing its citizens. This formulation suggests a two- step influence process: first, an actor employs direct communication to create supportive public opinion in another state, and, second, the informed foreign public influences its government to adopt a friendly policy towards that actor. PD is designed to bring about understanding for a nation’s ideas and ideals, its institutions and culture, and its national goals and policies. In conflicts, PD is used to defend an actor’s policies and attack those of the enemy or the other side. In other situations, the goal is to conduct a constructive dialogue, to build relationships, to understand the needs of the other side, to correct misperceptions, and to work jointly for common causes. PD requires a capability to use credible information effectively in an attempt to persuade different types of actors and audiences to understand, accept, and support policies and actions. PD is pursued via several instruments including advocacy, media relations, cultural and sports diplomacy, foreign aid, international exchanges, international broadcasting, nation branding, diaspora relations, international public relations (PR), and corporate/business diplomacy. These instruments are researched within the boundaries of several disciplines or subdisciplines in the social sciences. PD is probably one of the most multidisciplinary areas in modern scholarship. The core disciplines include political science, international relations, history, and communication. Other disciplines and sub-disciplines include psychology, sociology, PR, marketing, diplomatic studies, and cultural, rhetorical and Internet studies. Information and communication technologies have transformed the conduct of PD. The combination of social media and smartphones created for the first time in human history global connectivity that has not only challenged PD but also created opportunities for more effective and innovative practice. Information and communication technologies facilitated many new channels for interactivity between governments and foreign publics, between people and governments and between people and people. Politicians, officials, and diplomats can now reach and engage large audiences, and citizens can influence foreign policy and diplomacy as never before. As an interactive communication tool, digital PD became the main source of listening to wishes, praise, criticism, or reservations of domestic and foreign audiences. This article presents significant, useful, interesting, and representative scholarly and professional works in several disciplines and sub-disciplines. It shows that much of existing research is still case study based and US focused and is lacking a solid theoretical foundation. Future research has to correct these deficiencies.

General Overviews

There are not yet recognized texts in PD. Snow and Taylor 2009 is a handbook with limited and uneven pieces of scholarship; Cowan and Cull 2008 is a collection of important essays covering the entire field with theories and case studies, and Gilboa 2008 is a comprehensive analysis of social science theories and models applied to PD. Special issues of periodicals were written on PD: Golan 2013 is an edited volume on PD and strategic communication, and Zaharna and Rugh 2012 is an edited volume on uses of social media in American PD. Cull 2009 is a landmark historical volume on a central PD institution, the US Information Agency. Gregory 2002 and Melissen, et al. 2014 are extensive bibliographies that help to follow new publications.

  • Cowan, Geoffrey, and Nicholas J. Cull, eds. 2008. Special issue: Public diplomacy in a changing world. ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 616.

    Explores and explains PD from several theoretical and practical perspectives. Includes studies of epistemology, history, soft power, case studies and PD instruments such as international broadcasting and international exchanges. Available online by subscription.

  • Cull, Nicholas. 2009. The Cold War and the United States Information Agency: American propaganda and public diplomacy 1945–1989. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    Provides an excellent comprehensive account of the United States Information Agency’s various activities including international broadcasting, cultural diplomacy and exchange programs. Evaluates the achievements and the flaws of American PD during the Cold War. Offers interesting new insights into the PD of the Cold War era.

  • Gilboa, Eytan. 2008. Searching for a theory of public diplomacy. ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 616:55–77.

    DOI: 10.1177/0002716207312142

    Presents and critically evaluates attempts to theorize and conceptualize PD within several disciplines. Examines methodologies, models, paradigms, case studies, and comparative analysis. Exposes weaknesses and strengths and suggests a new research agenda. Available online by subscription.

  • Golan, Guy, ed. 2013. Special issue: The integrated approach to public diplomacy. American Behavioral Scientist 57.9.

    Advances integrated PD research via strategic communication lens. Presents six studies which provide unique perspectives on this approach. Available online by subscription.

  • Gregory, Bruce, ed. 2002–. Bruce Gregory’s resources on diplomacy’s public dimension. Washington, DC: George Washington Univ.

    The best annotated online bibliography of PD-related readings and other resources. Updated frequently. Published at the Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication, George Washington University. Available online.

  • Melissen, Jan, Jay Wang, Sohaela Amiri, and Martijn van Lith. 2014. Digital diplomacy bibliography. Los Angeles: USC Center on Public Diplomacy.

    Presents a list of books, journal articles, book chapters, reports, blogs, and essays dealing with the new frontiers in PD work and study. Focuses on the ways digital technologies have affected diplomacy and international communication.

  • Snow, Nancy, and Philip M. Taylor, eds. 2009. Routledge handbook of public diplomacy. New York: Routledge.

    Provides an overview, albeit uneven and limited, of PD and national image management, from the Cold War to the post-9/11 period. Presents materials on public opinion, cultural diplomacy, PR, credibility, soft power, advertising, and marketing, and institutional processes. Includes international research and examples from several countries.

  • Zaharna, Rhonda, and William A. Rugh, eds. 2012. Special issue: The use of social media in US public diplomacy. Global Media Journal: American Edition 11.21.

    Examines various aspects of the use and impact of social media on American PD and the PD of other state and nonstate actors directed at American audiences.

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