Reinhard: U.S. Must Overhaul Public Diplomacy

WASHINGTON, D.C. Keith Reinhard, chairman of Omnicom Group’s DDB Worldwide, believes the U.S. Government is no longer a credible messenger in the Middle East and that Congress must overhaul its public diplomacy efforts “to defuse the hatred that spawns terrorism.”

Reinhard made his remarks on Monday during testimony before the House Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations.

The hearing, which focused on reinvigorating public diplomacy efforts, also featured testimony from former J. Walter Thompson chairman Charlotte Beers, who served for 17 months as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy under President George W. Bush.

Specifically, Reinhard said the government needs to establish a broad communications strategy, provide more money and staff to support public diplomacy efforts, and enlist the creativity and expertise of the private sector. “Let me emphasize that this is not about ads or catchy slogans, it’s about actions,” Reinhard said.

In January, Reinhard incorporated his group, called the Business for Diplomatic Action, which is a private sector task force of professionals from the fields of communications, marketing, political science, research and the media. So far, PepsiCo has paid to distribute a “World Citizen Guide,” for American students traveling to other countries. The purpose of the guide is to get students to act like “ambassadors” for America.

Beers, in her testimony, argued that not having a central leadership in the State Department to coordinate public diplomacy hurts American efforts to improve its image abroad. “This is not a game for people who don’t understand how to do it,” Beers said. “It isn’t enough to expand the initiatives [the government has]. You can’t expect to get the job done without the private sector.”

Although Beers, during her tenure, presided over the $15 million “Shared Values” campaign done in 2002 by New York Interpublic Group shop McCann-Erickson, no new ad campaign to improve America’s image is expected any time soon.

Patricia Harrison, the current Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy who succeeded Beers, said in her testimony that “We should forget about image. Image is about us. We should be building long-term relationships with people.”