April 28, 2015

Getting our message across is vital in times of conflict

We have asked several foreign ministries to answer some questions about their #DigitalDiplomacy. Here’s a guest post from the Foreign Ministry of Israel.

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How big is your social media footprint?

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ network of Twitter channels includes 130 active tweeters, of which 80 are run by our embassies and consulates around the world, some 45 are official accounts of diplomats and heads of missions, and the rest are the HQ’s main channels, maintained in Jerusalem.

How big is your social media team?

The Digital Diplomacy Dept, which is responsible for the MFA’s online presence as a whole (web 1.0 & web 2.0) is comprised of 12 employees. Seven are in charge of the social media activity in different languages, on various platforms. In addition, in each of our missions abroad there is an employee who is responsible for the mission’s social media presence.

What are your main objectives and challenges?

1. Translating Diplomacy into the language of Social Media: 

Our main goal as a department in general, and as the branch responsible for the MFA’s social media presence, is to explain a reality which can be quite complex at times, with messages which are easy to follow while maintaining engagement with the members of the community. This requires an ongoing process of identification and ‘translation’ of the messages that are drafted at the policy-makers level to the language of social media. Getting our message across is vital in times of conflict, when quick response is necessary, and there is a race against time to give original, accurate information. At times such as these we make sure to keep the message focused and as simple as possible, while making sure it doesn’t become boring and repetitive.

Example from our campaign to raise awareness to the international Holocaust remembrance day, in January 2015

2. Training: 

Being the team responsible for social media training for all MFA employees, in the HQ & abroad, we put a lot of effort into training sessions for new & long-serving diplomats. These trainings include VC’s with specific missions to evaluate their social media activity, as well as week-long, region-wide seminars to employees responsible for social media in their embassies & consulates. Social media training is now a basic part of all diplomatic training – every Cadet course in the last few years has included a 2-day seminar on social media tools which can (and should) be used by our new diplomats as working tools in their future postings.  Having a relatively small staff requires us to constantly balance between the various types of training and actual social media activity. However, we realize that these two missions are complementary:  Getting more Israeli diplomats around the world to skillfully use these tools allows our message to better reach target audiences using social media worldwide.

What is the key achievement you are most proud of?

Although it is always a ‘work in progress’, the network of channels, consisting of our missions and of our diplomats who actively use twitter as a means to spread information and to engage with their communities has grown significantly in the last couple of years. This has, in turn, allowed our content to have more impact and a wider global reach.

We are proud of how a traditional institution such as the MFA is gradually adjusting to new tools and incorporating them in most spheres of its activity

What advice would you give to other ministries and governments to make a lasting impact on Twitter?

Since authority is the government’s strongest asset, one should insist on the accuracy of the information you tweet. Never jeopardize your organization’s reputation for the sake of a few ‘easy’ retweets or followers, which might severely damage your accumulative influence potential and your ability to effectively get your message through in the future.

By Gal Rudich (@Galtweets), Head of New Media Section, Digital Diplomacy Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel (@IsraelMFA)

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