The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) completed its first full online Course on eDiplomacy: Public Diplomacy and Social Media on 23 September 2020, with Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. leading the session on “Twiplomacy.”
During the session, the Secretary emphasized the importance of trustworthiness and authenticity in diplomacy. He said, “Our diplomats are trusted around the world, we do a professional job, and that it is important that we have their trust. Diplomacy has everything to do with respecting your colleagues and the best way to show respect is tell the truth all the time. That’s what I do.”
FSI’s Officer-in-Charge (Director-General) Celeste Vinzon-Balatbat welcomed and introduced Secretary Locsin, “a rock star among world leaders in Twitter-verse.”
Secretary Locsin is ranked first of the 50 most active Twitter users among “world leaders” by Twiplomacy.com, a website for studies and experts’ blogs on digital diplomacy, primarily Twitter diplomacy.
In Twiplomacy.com’s most recent study (July 2020), Secretary Locsin was recognized as the first high ranking government official to mention in his tweet the (novel corona) virus, as he assured the Filipino people on 19 January 2020 that the Philippines’s Department of Health and airport authorities were on top of stopping an outbreak.
Thirty-one (31) participants from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and FSI completed the Course. More than half of the learners (58%) were from DFA’s Consular Offices (COs).
The full online delivery of the Course enabled personnel from COs from the northern to southern parts of the country to access FSI Courses.
Participants from Baguio, La Union, Malolos, Pampanga, San Nicolas, Bacolod, Cagayan de Oro, Tagum, Zamboanga, DFA Mindanao, COs in Metro Manila, other DFA offices, and FSI benefited from learning together through online group discussions and workshops.
Seeing on Zoom the participants from COs, Secretary Locsin thanked them for their service. “I really admire that you put in the hours, put in your work in places that are not exactly the most attractive. But you’ve earned your stripes,” Secretary Locsin told personnel from COs.
The eDiplomacy Course is composed of modules on public diplomacy, social media ethics, networking and linkages, and “Diplomat’s Hour,” where Ambassadors and senior officers generously shared their public diplomacy and social media experiences in the Home Office and Foreign Service Posts.
The Diplomat’s Hour lineup included Consul General Henry S. Bensurto, Jr. (Philippine Consulate General in San Francisco), Deputy Chief of Mission Renato Pedro O. Villa (Philippine Embassy in the United States), Undersecretary J. Eduardo Malaya (former DFA Spokesperson), Ambassador Maria Theresa Dizon-De Vega (Philippine Embassy in Germany), and Assistant Secretary Eduardo Martin R. Meñez.
Through storytelling and case studies, the veteran diplomats shared insights and lessons on crisis communication, community engagement and cultural diplomacy, strategic communication and messaging, and responsible social media presence, including responding to positive and negative comments on social media.
The “Diplomat’s Hour” sessions were highly attended that, at one point, Course participants and Zoom “sit-ins” from various Philippine Foreign Service Posts totaled 98.
The participants expressed appreciation for the engaging sessions, which highlighted trust and respect as the linchpin of diplomacy, the importance of basing communication on facts, the openness to be fact-checked, and the emphasis on the role of each person in the DFA, regardless of rank, to become more effective, engaging, responsive, and responsible communicators to various publics.
A second run of the Course is scheduled in the last quarter of 2020.