As Karen Hughes, head of the State Department’s public diplomacy program, notes in an in-depth interview with PRWeek (available Monday, July 23), her group has sought to ramp up various cultural exchange programs, including those involving journalists, high schools students, women business leaders, and more.
Is skater Michelle Kwan, who the State Department has used for a few goodwill ambassador visits are the world, really going to change people’s minds about what America is just by showing up at a ribbon-cutting ceremony somewhere? Probably not.
But exchange programs creating more person-to-person contact and a more efficient border security process (which the State Department claims to be improving all the time) do seem like the right tack to take. Exchange programs are effectively viral marketing efforts; assuming visitors like what they see in the US, then surely they’ll tell their friends and families back home.
Maybe word-of-mouth techniques, effective for selling soap or vacuum cleaners, can be used to sell America, too.