Evaluation is an important part of feedback that is needed in every program to ensure its success. Public Diplomacy just like other program at US Missions overseas should be evaluated to measure its effectiveness against the goals set by Public Affairs department. Since Public Affairs cuts cross multi disciplinary boundaries and uses different tools for different situations. There is no one standard procedure that should be can be used across the board to measure the success Public Diplomacy requires evaluation in the following areas.
It is difficult to measure the impact of Public Diplomacy program within a short time because changes happens gradually and is affected by several factors. It may be several years before the real impact of the student exchange program becomes known in a particular country. It is also difficult conclusion between a Public Diplomacy program and its desired result. For instance teaching English in the Arab World or learning Arabic that not changes the hostilities towards the United States in the Arab World. Time, external events, and other actors can intervene to complicate the cause-effect equation. Most of the time, Public Diplomats look for quick results and they end up measuring contribution, rather than attribution.
Since Public Diplomacy targets the elite mass, getting them to agree to an interview, fill out a survey, or participate in a focus group is difficult. Getting them to do it over the course of several years or more for the purposes of a longitudinal study is truly problematic hence a lot of attention is needed is assessing the impact of the program because new leadership at the White House comes with it new programs and Policies, as well as new approaches to performance measurement. What constituted a priority for one administration may be discarded in the next. As problems become more globalized, however, joint solutions will be required to resolve them. Measuring success in such an environment will likely demand new evaluative approaches and hence more money to investment in measuring success of the program.
Media changes today with lightning speed. Social media may pose a particular challenge in this regard. It is important to examine the usefulness of several tools that are used by Public Diplomats. It is not about how many newspapers publish your press release, opinion piece or commentary. But rather it is about whether you are reaching the right audience with your Public Diplomacy messages. Measuring the impact of your media strategy can be also very difficult because Public Diplomats are competing against other loud voices from critics of the United States that are out there with their massages. Constant evaluation of the media strategy is important to measure the impact of messages and their desired outcome on the target audience.
No organization likes to admit that one or more of its programs are ineffective. Prestige, funding, even jobs, are on the line. Fear of such consequences can lead to inaction, avoidance, or even burying the results of evaluation. Benefits of evaluation include funding and opportunities for new programs and justification for more funding. It also reveals best practice and it can serve to boost morale and the performance of both permanent staff and contractors. Evaluation, however, can help identify those audiences, areas, and circumstances in which well-researched, well-funded, and innovative Public Diplomacy programs can reasonably be expected to produce positive results.
For instance the State Department’s Fulbright programs can produce substantive results; it can stake a claim to not only more consistent funding but also a more significant role in foreign policy deliberations- it should be used for the success of soft power. Hence publicizing the results can attract the public interest from both citizens and legislature. The aim is to get the legislature to support it. It also allows policymakers to consider it in their plans because of its impact and track record in effecting change.
Evaluation of Public Diplomacy program planning, design, and implementation
helps practioners to think ahead of time. The end game in Public Diplomacy is finding and reaching the desired audience, regardless of whether one is trying to inform, advocate, listen, or connect. This has become more important as the spread of democracy has given more people a voice in government, as new non-state actors gain influence, and as developments in communications technologies offer increased access to information and more avenues for direct, non-mediated communication.
The goal of evaluation program is to look for scorecard and story board as a method of doing the evaluation because it is easy to control our actions, but not the results of our actions. Long term benefits outweigh the short term benefits because short terms usually end up as quick fixes.
Measuring impact calls for engagement as opposed to broadcasting, shouting louder. The world out there is where you need to engagement, not in the office. You can have a beautiful policy and branding, but if you fail to reach out to the elite mass using bottom up approach, then your Public Diplomacy remain on paper as a policy. Public Diplomats need to understand that different situations will require different approaches. Sometimes the most effective Pubic Diplomacy program will be conducted in the media spotlight. But sometimes Public Diplomacy is more effective when it isn’t carried out in public. What matters in Public Diplomacy is not what you say, but what you do. It should not be for domestic consumption, but rather to engage foreign public.
It is proven that the most powerful voice out there should not be your voice. It should be the voice of someone who understands your program, who benefited from your program and is ready to spread the word out, and hence change takes place as a result of soft power. Joseph Nye defines, soft power as ‘’the ability to getting others to want the outcomes you want’’. It requires understanding how they are hearing your message, and fine-tuning it accordingly’.