Oxford University: Public Diplomacy Talk

On Friday I was invited to speak at Oxford University's Digital Diplomacy Research Group on the topic of Visual Narratives in Public Diplomacy.

It was a pleasure to hear the other speakers set out their research on the narratives deployed during the Iran Nuclear Talks, by the Syrian National Coalition and by activist groups in domestic politics.

I was asked to present a practitioner's perspective, and set out my belief that it is Verbal Narratives, not the visual, that is fundamental to building empathy and effecting behaviour change, which should be the goal of all public diplomacy interventions.

Whilst many of us will remember beautiful, and sometimes painful, images, it is words which inspire us to action. Words with which we choose as a species to communicate.

If governments want to build empathy and achieve their strategic intentions, they must understand their audiences, particularly their audience's language use. Because only once we pattern-match to our communities, and not the other way around, can policy making begin to reflect and initiate the changes our communities want and need.