Plan for Increasing Private Sector Role in Public Diplomacy Is Joint Effort of State Department and Public Relations Coalition

April 9, 2007 (New York, NY): The leaders of public relations and related communications professions have joined with the leadership of the U.S. State Department in creating a plan for increasing private sector involvement in the nation’s public diplomacy efforts.

The report, entitled “Private Sector Summit on Public Diplomacy: Models for Action”, was released today by the PR Coalition, a partnership of 18 major U.S.-based organizations representing public relations, investor relations, public affairs and related communications disciplines.  The report is based on a day-long Summit held in January at the State Department, which co-sponsored the meeting.  More than 160 top public relations professionals and State Department leaders took part in the effort to identify the action steps for greater private sector involvement and support for U.S. public diplomacy.

“The goal of the Summit,” said James E. Murphy, PR Coalition Chair and Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Accenture, “was to raise awareness of how the private sector – particularly business leaders – can help improve America’s image around the world and in doing so create an environment of cooperation, respect and understanding among nations.”

The goal was endorsed by the top leadership of the State Department.  In a preface to the report, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, “The solutions to the challenges of the 21st century are not going to be met by government alone.  They come from all sectors of American society working together, and that means a close and vital partnership between government and the private sector.”

Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Karen P. Hughes said that by forming a partnership with the PR Coalition, the State Department is tapping into a new resource to help identify specific actions for reaching out to the rest of the world.  Both Ambassador Hughes and Deputy Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy Dina Habib Powell said the advice, knowledge and skills that the private sector can offer are very important in helping to changes attitudes about this country.

A series of speakers from both the private and public sectors described what is happening in the public diplomacy arena and what needs to be done to address anti-Americanism around the world.

For example, Michael Klein, Co-President, Corporate and Investment Banking, Citigroup, told how his company’s micro finance initiative is helping underdeveloped countries and how it’s Partnership in Food program has provided assistance during disasters such as the tsunami.

Another private sector best practice was offered by Adam Herbert, President, Indiana University, who said his institution is expanding partnerships throughout the world and getting faculty and students more engaged.  He noted that the University offers courses in more than 70 foreign languages, many of which have been identified by the State Department as being critically important.

Showing the reach of private sector organizations, Elizabeth Funk, President and CEO, CML Global Capital and member of the Young Presidents Organization said the YPO now has 10,000 members in 55 countries where they are creating a dialogue with entrepreneurs around the world.

The Summit concluded with intense group discussions during which participants identified actions that could have the highest impact on private sector public diplomacy efforts.  They covered three areas.

Develop business practices that reflect public diplomacy

  • Make public diplomacy actions a corporate officer’s responsibility
  • Make U.S. business practices consistent with U.S. values

Promote understanding of American society, culture and values

  • Become a part of the local community through employee volunteerism, strategic philanthropy and greater engagement with responsible NGO’s
  • Create “circles of influence” through relationships with organizations, chambers of commerce, journalists and local business leaders
  • Create local opportunities to win internship opportunities in the U.S.
  • Provide English-language training and overseas studies for disadvantages students

Build relationships of trust and respect

  • Support the creation of corps of “foreign service officers” made up of academics and business people with specialized expertise who could work abroad on short-term assignments
  • Provide incentives for non-U.S. work force to visit the U.S. and for U.S. work force to travel overseas
  • Sponsor international short-term assignments for U.S. employees
  • Have public diplomacy summits in key geographies
  • Provide financial support for some State Department educational and cultural exchanges

The Private Sector Summit report is being distributed by the PR Coalition member organizations and also by the State Department which plans to circulate the private sector initiatives to its overseas posts.

Coalition member organizations participating in the Summit included:

  • Asian American Advertising and Public Relations Alliance (AAAPRA)

  • Arthur W. Page Society

  • Corporate Communication Institute at Fairleigh Dickinson University

  • Council of Communication Management

  • Council of Public Relations Firms

  • Foundation of Women Executives in Public Relations

  • Hispanic Public Relations Association

  • Institute for Public Relations

  • International Association of Business Communicators (IABC)

  • International Public Relations Association

  • National Black Public Relations Society

  • National Investor Relations Institute

  • National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA)

  • Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)

  • Public Relations Society of America Foundation

  • PRSA Counselors Academy

  • Women Executives in Public Relations (WEPR)