The State Department is a unique organization with unique needs. It is tempting to emulate success management and media techniques of successful private firms (what would Google do?). We can and have learned much from them, but the USG is the only organization with the worldwide presence, reach and responsibilities. Who and what we are and the fact that we represent the United States of America enhances our opportunities and constrains them. We saw this at work in the Cairo speech PD effort.
All forms of traditional media carried President Obama’s Cairo speech and we in PD can no more take ownership for that than a rooster can claim credit for the sunrise. My organization – IIP – added an interactive twist of the new media with tools such as SMS messages to reach mobile users, IIP’s multimedia interactive platform, CO.NX, interactive blogs, live chats and platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. The Digital Outreach Team communicated with the blogosphere in Urdu, Persian and Arabic. We posted also contextual information and the speech translated into Arabic, Bahasa-Indonesian, Chinese, Dari, French, Hebrew, Hindi, Malay, Pashtu, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Turkish and Urdu. In addition to serving overseas posts, America.Gov also carried the speech in English and the languages mentioned above for readers worldwide.
I believe that this was the first time this robust mix of new media technologies in so many languages was applied for an event worldwide. Tell me if I am wrong. But I feel a bit like a guy who has just won the lottery. It makes me feel great, but don’t think that we can count on that particular strategy to produce similarly happy results regularly far into the future. Not every event will be a important as this one and the test of our online communities will be seeing how they do with less exciting things.