Advocates or adversaries? An exploration of communicative actions of within-border foreign publics and their affect on the host country's soft power

Kelly S Vibber, Purdue University


This project brings together theories from public diplomacy, public relations, and digital communication to establish a more concrete theoretical and empirical understanding of how within-border foreign publics contribute to modern diplomacy efforts. Taking into account the overall shift in how diplomacy is being practiced in conjunction with the advent of various digital communication technologies and the increasing number of international migrants, this dissertation empirically tests the theoretical connections that have been posited between public relations concepts and current diplomacy efforts. Drawing largely on the concepts of soft power and sociological diplomacy, this project explores the connections these concepts share with public relations theories on the organization-public relationship and communicative action in problem solving. This study draws specifically on the within-border foreign public of international students, a group which has historical precedence in diplomacy and usually maintains solid and active communication ties to friends and family members in their home country. Through a two-stage survey design the project empirically tests what factors most influence an individual's perceived relationship with the country and how they embrace different types of communicative action based on that relationship. The first survey examines how key antecedent variables contribute to an individual's direct relationship with a host country (or the country's soft power) and how this relationship in turn influences their communicative action for or against the host country. The second survey tests the impact of communicative action by within-border foreign publics (individuals with the direct relationship to the country) on their friends and family members who are still living in their home country (individuals with an indirect relationship to the country). The model for the second survey again tests how key antecedents, including the communicative action of a friend or family member living in the host country, impact the perceived (indirect) relationship with the country and resulting communicative action for those who do not have a direct or in-person connection to the host country. The project found support for both models on the whole, but not all hypothesis were supported. The discussion highlights key positive and negative implications of active within border, foreign publics, as well as some practical suggestions for cultivating positive experiences for this public and in turn bolstering the soft power of the host nation.




Kim, Purdue University.

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