IIP Bureau Announces Changes
Saturday, January 29th 2011
IIP Bureau Changes--A Comment
I recently had an opportunity to talk with IPP Coordinator Dawn McCall about the changes instituted by IIP in response to their recent study or "business review " of the Bureau. Among the many discoveries uncovered by the study was the fact that only six percent of Bureau time was devoted to dialogue with the field. The changes detailed in the IIP Media Release below are an attempt in part to bring field operations back front and center in the IIP Bureau's thinking.
For my part I welcome the changes but must admit that they are woefully late and should have been undertaken a decade or more ago. The looming question of course is, with a freeze on discretionary spending ordered by the President and a Congress more inclined to reduce budgets rather than freeze them, what will happen to the Department of State's budget in 2011 and beyond? And since IIP has not been a particularly high priority for State in the past, will IIP be able to undertake even the most important of these changes? It is more important than ever for public diplomacy to make the case that global engagement, strategic communication or whatever one wishes to call it, is a national security priority and as such should be exempted from the general freeze or recision in budgets that is surely coming.
January 28, 2011
IIP Bureau Announces Changes
To Strengthen Its International Information Programs and Products
The Department of State’s Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP) today announced a series of changes to strengthen its ability to support American foreign policy goals and national security interests through information products and engagement activities.
“There has been a breathtaking revolution in the global communications environment, and we must keep pace with it,” explained IIP Coordinator Dawn McCall. “These changes will enable the Bureau of International Information Programs to quickly and effectively reach out to people around the globe in support of American foreign policy priorities.”
The Bureau of International Information Programs produces programs and products that inform and engage foreign audiences, including print publications, videos, web-based materials, and speaker programs. It employs 280 government personnel in Washington, D.C. and overseas.
“Our bureau is filled with dedicated and innovative women and men,” McCall said, “and we need a contemporary approach that makes the best possible use of their talents. As President Obama said in the State of the Union address, ‘We can’t win the future with a government of the past.’”
McCall explained that the changes were based on a thorough three-month business review that examined every aspect of IIP’s operations, programs, and products. The review included focus groups, site visits to American embassies and consulates abroad, and working groups within IIP. It also encompassed significant changes in how citizens around the world access information and engage with others.
McCall noted that recent trends and new communication channels demand a change in approach. These trends include:
- The rapid growth of mobile phone technologies;
- The use of multiple devices, and multi-tasking, by youth around the world;
- The explosion of social media;
- The continued importance of traditional media – television, radio, and print;
- English no longer dominates the Web – more than fifty percent of web users speak a native language other than English, and site “stickiness” doubles when a web offering is in the language of the user.
“In today’s crowded communications environment, we cannot expect audiences to come to us,” concluded McCall. “Instead, we must go to where they prefer to be, and think of new ways to engage with them.” She outlined the following changes to achieve IIP’s new objectives:
- Re-tool the way that IIP uses the web to more effectively engage with audiences. IIP will transition America.Gov to directly distribute content to the full range of social networks and existing 3rd party sites where audiences actually spend their time, while continuing to create foreign policy-focused content for use at embassy and consulate sites.
“It makes economic and strategic sense to take full advantage of existing web sites and social media platforms where our target audiences already spend their time,” said McCall. “Our focus must shift to proactive tactics instead of passively putting our content on a shelf and expecting them to find it.”
- Expanded use of mobile technologies, including SMS programs and Smartphone apps, while ensuring the continued provision of products for such traditional media as print and radio, and for American centers and corners.
- More products in foreign languages, supported by a central translation team.
- Consolidation of content producers into a content development group to create content in written, digital, video and audio formats.
- Creation of a talent management unit to identify and recruit expert Americans as writers, bloggers, and speakers for IIP and American missions;
- A new audience research unit, to provide research and analysis on audiences, channels, and use of IIP products.
McCall noted that the changes will be accomplished with IIP’s current budget and number of government employees.
“The Department of State’s 2010 Strategic Framework for Public Diplomacy established a clear mission, set of priorities, and guidelines for American public diplomacy,” said Judith A. McHale, Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. “These changes to the Bureau of International Information Programs will significantly strengthen IIP’s ability to carry out this critical mission.”