As if public relations was not already confusing when it comes to job functions, the U.S. Embassy in Brussels has an interesting separation between public relations and public diplomacy. Sometimes public relations and public diplomacy can get confused and be believed to be the same thing. While visiting our foreign service officer Jaqauline at the U.S. Embassy a much clearer distinction was drawn between the two. Public diplomacy as it relates to public affairs is all about communicating with the publics of a foreign country. In this case our public affairs office is there in Brussels to build a connection between U.S. and Belguim. They focus in telling Americans story to Belgium individuals, building a strong foundation for addressing U.S. issues in Belgium if they are to arise.
Public diplomacy consist of public relations functions, such as the image building of new and current ambassadors and the constant image maintenance of how Belgians view the U.S. I found it surprising that the focus is very one sided. With Belguim being a sophisticated Western country Jaqauline stated it is not easy to come up with collaborations that the public will see as “making a difference”. The way they address this is by working with NGO’s to pursue projects that are going to benefit both countries.
Until today, I did not realize the amount of effort the U.S. puts into creating a positive image in other countries. Our ambassadors are constantly traveling from country to country to build an association between the U.S. and positivity. This is not a new practice, the U.S. and Belgium have always had strong ties to one another and a working relationship. As part of one of the public diplomacy projects the public affairs office created a book to help explain how valuable the U.S. had been to Belgium in the past. Going back more than 400 years, Belgians helped build the United States to what it is today. Not only is the book great public relations, it gives background and helps us to see how a strong relationship was created.
Our visit with the public affairs office helped create a better picture of how PD is not public relations, it more so encompasses functions of public relations. It is important that our government continues to place importance on partnerships and collaboration with our foreign neighbors. This creates a since of unity and in times of turmoil, makes resolution easier.