PR and Diplomacy – two sides of the same coin?

Ahead of his keynote address at this year’s Maggie Nally Memorial Lecture former British ambassador and co-founder of Agora Envisioning, Dr David Landsman OBE, spoke to Influence about the links between public relations and diplomacy.

Here are some of our takeaways from our conversation with him:

• While public relations and diplomacy are clearly not the same thing, communications is at the heart of both. The two occupations serve different purposes and have different histories and reputations, but in both cases the important thing is that you always have to remember that there is someone listening.

• To communicate effectively, it’s essential to understand where the people you are communicating with are coming from. This is as true for PR as diplomacy. In both cases, it should be a two-way process, that you are listening as well as speaking and you are understanding without pre-judging.

• Whether “you are selling widgets or foreign policies”, if you don’t understand your customer you’re unlikely to succeed.

• People use the word “empathy” in slightly different ways but fundamentally it’s about a human-centric approach to the job: thinking in terms of people and not processes. Ultimately we’ll do a better job for the people we deal with if we actually make the effort to understand their needs from our engagement with them.

• The danger is that if you get obsessed with the processes and the mechanisms and the technology, if you focus exclusively on your own objectives and structures, you risk losing the very people you need to convince. And if that happens you won’t be very good in the diplomacy or PR.

• There’s probably never been a better opportunity for PR. All organisations need to listen more to their stakeholders. If PR can be the foundation of that two-way exchange, then it can enhance its role right up to the Boardroom.

For more from Dr Landsman – including whether PR should strive to be a profession and the ethics of playing with emotions – book your ticket for this year’s Maggie Nally Memorial Lecture on May 23rd at One Great George Street. Details can be found here.

Image courtesy of flickr user Richter Frank-Jurgen via CC2.0


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