Much attention has been devoted recently to the phenomenon of diffusion of power – a process that deprives states of control over the flows of information. Communication technologies – the internet in particular – has provided individuals with unprecedented possibilities to balance the power of states. On the other hand, it has also provided governments with a unique possibilities to observe events happening all over the world. Sceptics would say that states have obtained additional means of control over societies. But let us not join the dispute between cyber-optimists and cyber-realists at the moment and try to focus on one of the opportunities the new reality provides.
Joseph Nye argues, in his brilliant book The Future of Power, that “in an information age, communication strategies become more important, and outcomes are shaped not merely by whose army wins but by whose story wins”. The statement does not reduce the importance of classical elements of power. It highlights a new element that should be taken into account when decisions on foreign policy are being made. This fact seems to remain underestimated. However, key international players – the United States being in the front row – have started investing in so-called e-diplomacy. The concept has not been well-theorised yet. It remains primarily in the domain of practitioners and can be understood as the practical incarnation of a state’s cyberpower in international relations. Interesting research of the US experience in the field of e-diplomacy has been recently published by Fergus Hanson.
Another fact worth attention has also been highlighted by Joseph Nye. People are nowadays overwhelmed by the volume of information they have to deal with. “Attention, rather then information, becomes a scarce resource.” It should be regarded as the main challenge of effective use of soft power. As a result, a new – somehow unusual – field of interdisciplinary activity opens. It is the field where two activites as old as the hills can be merged: diplomacy and marketing.
It is nothing new for the marketing industry to sell ideas. And marketing is nothing but the art of changing people’s behaviour. With the rise of inbound marketing methods that are primarily based on the web, brands have successfully built patterns of interactive communication with customers globally. Moreover, it is nothing new for states and regions to advertise themselves as perfect places to spend vacations, for example. Why not go further and encourage foreign offices to use cutting-edge marketing technologies to promote their goals, as is being done through conventional channels of public diplomacy? Undoubtedly, however, promoting one’s foreign policy goals is not the same as promoting a new shiny product. But still, the field of inspiration seems to be very wide. The question is standard: who is going to be the first? Who is going to pave the way through this field and thus gain the biggest profits?
Igor Lyubashenko is an academic teacher, new media enthusiast and international relations analyst. He has a PhD in Political Science from the Maria Curie-Sklodowska University in Lublin. His professional experience includes implementation of international projects in Ukraine and Moldova, academic teaching as well as working in the field of marketing communication. His scholarly interests include external policies of the European Union, political and economic processes taking place in Central and Eastern European states (in particular in Ukraine and Moldova), and more recently influence of information technologies on social and political processes.