America’s Top Smooth Talkers: The Public Diplomacy Officers

Public diplomacy is where I began at the State Department. My first boss was the Public Diplomacy Officer for Japan and Korea at the East Asian and Pacific Affairs. I remember he carried two name cards – one that had Japan come first and the other that had Korea come first like “Public Diplomacy Officer for Japan and Korea” and “Public Diplomacy Officer for Korea and Japan,” because the order of the name of the country mattered to the recipient.

I remember the PD meetings were the most upbeat and the most delightful out of all the meetings at State. Others tended to be more uptight more stiff.

U.S. Public Diplomacy is one of the five cones of the Foreign Service Officer career tracks, that attempt to “promote mutual understanding and support for U.S. policy goals.”

One thing to clarify is the difference between Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy. Public Affairs focuses on the news and delivering information on the policy issues and engages with domestic and international media to communicate its talking points. Public Diplomacy can involve PA, but it frequently involves exchanges and cultural activities. Those out at the posts or the embassies engage with the programs directly with the support of other bureaus, Education and Cultural Affairs and Center for Analytics. They engage with the international public via a variety of digital platforms and programs.

Some of their daily duties include writing speeches for Deputy Assistant Secretaries and above, writing Presidential notes for national holidays, hosting a delegation of exchange students, to creating programs like Food Diplomacy with top culinary chefs. PD practitioners have to think about how to present the U.S. position in nuanced and eloquent ways orally, writing, and digitally. An interesting event I was involved in was where high ranking U.S. official had handed over an artifact to Korea – an artifact a veteran had uncovered years ago.

One of my favorite PD leading thinkers is Joe Nye. Check out the Aspen report on reforming American Public Diplomacy in the tech world and the American Security Project report on communicating digitally strategically.

Other Public diplomacy website and blogs include:

For more PD resources consult: