By William A. Rugh
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Additional resources for Front Line Public Diplomacy: How US Embassies Communicate with Foreign Publics
American positions are filled from Washington, but the embassy is responsible for hiring local employees. The Public Affairs Section is usually divided into two main subject areas. The Information Officer normally manages all of the “fast media” programs, including the supervision of embassy output via traditional and social media, plus interactions with local media representatives. His or her contacts are mainly local radio, TV, and print media editors and reporters, as well as individuals prominent in social media in the host country.
Although other FSOs, especially political and economic officers, are sometimes called “reporting officers,” public diplomacy professionals must also be able to write clearly because they must report to the ambassador and country team, as well as to Washington, on local trends in public opinion and the media, as well as on program results. Linguists Fluency in the local language is more likely to be necessary for those FSOs in a public diplomacy function than for others in the embassy because they deal regularly with a variety of local contacts who tend to lack English proficiency.
Its focus is on eight critical languages: Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Hindi, Persian, and Turkish. 9 One report in 2006 found that in Baghdad during our occupation of Iraq, “All of our efforts in Iraq, military and civilian, are handicapped by Americans’ lack of language and cultural understanding. Our embassy of 1,000 has 33 Arabic speakers, just six of whom are at the level of f luency. In a conf lict that demands effective and efficient communication with Iraqis, we are often at a disadvantage.