Communicating on the ground


The role of communication in diplomatic missions does not appear anywhere in the official texts, but in fact it valorises all the other roles.

Communicating what?

In order to be able to represent, negotiate, inform and act, an ambassador should know and be well known to his contacts: he must communicate in all senses of the word. In the chancery, there is always a press officer to assist him. Communicating is above all explaining to the authorities locally and to all those players who may exercise some influence what France does. It is not only French policy in relation to the host country, but is also its positions on current issues. Every day, the Department of Communication and Information sends texts and official statements to the diplomatic offices, which also receive by wire commentaries on international events. It is the responsibility of the missions to make the best use of this material according to the circumstances. The reaction would not for example be the same in the United States where "lobbying" is the rule and in an authoritarian country where an embassy taking too active a part in influencing public opinion would quickly be accused of interference.

Information: the magazine Label France prints 150,000 copies in nine languages.

Communicating is making France as it really is more widely known. Foreigners generally have a fairly pleasant idea but it is often out dated and distorted by stereotypes. France should not of course deny its gastronomy and its perfumes, but should always refresh memories that it has also produced the TGV and clean coal power stations and indeed that it is the fourth largest economic power in the world.

Contacts: the number of "clients" received by an embassy in one year can reach several thousand.

Communicating with whom?

Communicating is done by distributing documents, magazines and files. It is much more effective using personal input. The Ambassador is someone who listens and who, if possible, speaks the language of the host country, in private as well as with public figures. However, it also extends to wider circles: universities, seminars and the general public through the media. Any opportunity should be seized……or initiated. The ambassador needs a vast address book. On his arrival, he makes visits to numerous public figures and continues to enlarge his circle both in the capital and in the provinces. He should personally know most members of the government and top civil servants, as well as the most important members of parliament, bankers, industrialists, academics, journalists, union officials, writers and artists. After a few months, he should know who is the most appropriate contact on any subject and be able to telephone him. He therefore has to create relationships that are more familiar that simple administrative contacts may be. It is the purpose of the diplomatic social round, which sometimes makes non-professionals smile or grit their teeth - more is said with a glass in one’s hand than in an official office. Basically, the residence is the framework and support for this communication, which is where an ambassadorial couple are most able to support each other. The spouse of the ambassador, even when deputised by a steward for the "wining and dining", has a great deal to do in order to add that "something special" to the welcome offered at the "home of France", which will help the country’s image.

An embassy should make known what it does: communication is the modern form of representation.