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The Soft Power Differential: Network Communication and Mass Communication in Public Diplomacy

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This study posits that advocacy NGOs are successfully creating soft power using relational, network-centric public diplomacy. The United States, on the other hand, struggles to wield its soft power and continues to apply the outdated information, media-driven approach to its public diplomacy efforts. This article suggests that a public diplomacy strategy that tailors itself to the dynamics of the international context will prove most effective in achieving its tactical goals. The first section highlights changes in the international arena since the end of the Cold War and their corresponding impact on communication dynamics. The second section delineates the critical features that define mass communication and the network communication approach. The third examines specific applications of both communication approaches, drawing on examples from the US's post-'9/11' public diplomacy in the Arab world and those from advocacy NGOs. The paper concludes with implications of the differences between wielding versus creating soft power for state actors.

Affiliations: 1: School of Communication, American University, 4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington DC 20016-8017, United States


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