Saturday, September 15, 2007

British Reserves

During my stay in Britain, one of my hosts was Jolyon Welsh of Britain's Foreign Office. Readers of this blog know that much of its text has been devoted to criticisms of the digital media initiatives of government agencies that often insult the intelligence of their potential audiences. (I've even been known to give awards in the subject.) Of course, not all nations are compelled to make the public relations mistakes of the United States with digital media and the networked, file-sharing culture that consumes and produces it. This article about the "British Approach" from Public Diplomacy Watch shows that Although "nation branding" expert Simon Anholt sits on their advisory board, Welsh sketched out a much more sophisticated plan for using distributed media than I often hear about in public diplomacy efforts that may be dominated by strategies inappropriately borrowed from corporate advertising and marketing. For example, Welsh showed me BSN television, which makes video footage available both to Internet viewers and to foreign news stations who need B-roll footage to illustrate stories. While visiting the foreign office's site I was also impressed by the well-reviewed i-uk site.

Unlike hyper-patriotic content on many U.S. sites, these materials seem well-designed for integration into media markets far from home. He also had some innovative ideas about ways to bring videogame technology and real-time social media applications like Twitter to diplomatic efforts in order to foster public participation in the debate about global warming. Apparently Welsh's bosses, like many in the U.K. government, are already using YouTube as a message-delivery tool. Check out David Miliband's YouTube channel here. Although some dismiss these efforts as video propaganda, it beats the idiotic kids' pages and "Ask the Whitehouse"-type Q&As that dominate official electronic discourse from the government in the U.S.

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