Log on to www.israella.org, and something is quite apparent when the page opens. This Consulate office, which represents the State of Israel for Arizona, Southern California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming, is breaking ground in the emerging space of “Digital Diplomacy.
I recently interviewed Dillon Hosier, Political Advisor to the Consulate General about this initiative. Dillon told me that the core objective of this program is to reach out and speak to constituents – getting them involved in a conversation about Israeli issues.
One of the core strategies in conducting digital diplomacy is the creation of what Dillon calls citizen ambassadors, which is similar to the idea of having citizen journalists. Beyond informing the public, Dillon sees the role of citizen ambassadors as a way to share their ideas and concerns about the State of Israel.
This initiative is not meant to promote Israel per se. Using venues like online town hall meetings, the digital diplomacy team adheres to basic social media principles of being transparent, open to controversy, and most important – a listening post.
What is equally impressive about this initiative is the fact that Dillon and his team developed the platform with zero budget, other than the cost of hosting the site. Using open sourced software and free social media sites such as Twitter, FaceBook, and YouTube Israel’s LA office has in effect, become its own mini-media enterprise that serves to engage and promote conversation about the State of Israel.
I was also struck by the fact that each regional Consulate has, in effect, it’s own branding. With my living in Texas, if you log on to the Houston office’s site, which serves the Southwest region of the U.S., it’s a totally different look and it’s content is completely different.
I’d like to see other consulates (actually all Consulates from all countries all over world) emulate what Dillon and his team are doing. The notion that diplomacy can be done with traditional speeches and thinking one can control a message seems a bit outdated today.
With citizens having the power of the social web, it might give a great voice of reason and even greater chance for world leaders to truly hear what is on the collective minds of its citizens.