The US embassy embraces social media: 21st Century Statecraft in Wellington



@davidhuebner, February 24, 2011: President #Obama just finished talking with Prime Minister Key to assess whether more assistance is needed. #eqnz #CHCH Thursday, 24 February 2011 12:22:58 p.m.

That is one of the many tweets I posted during the hours and days immediately after the Christchurch earthquake.  Yes, I am the U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa.  And yes, I tweet regularly, sometimes several times a day.

Have you heard of the phrase “21st Century Statecraft”?  It’s a philosophy developed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and involves complementing traditional foreign policy tools with new instruments of statecraft that fully leverage the networks, technologies, and demographics of our interconnected world.  In other words…using social media as a major form of outreach

Back in 2010, Secretary Clinton stated, ” …we find ourselves living at a moment in human history when we have the potential to engage in these new and innovative forms of diplomacy and to also use them to help individuals be empowered for their own development.”  She was right, and the empowerment aspect was and is revolutionary, as current events continue to show.


Here at U.S. Embassy Wellington we didn’t need to be pushed or cajoled.  We instinctively recognized the potential to engage using social media, and have been using social media for the past two years.

We started off with tweets @usembassynz.  Since then we have extended our outreach through Facebook (Embassy pages forNew Zealand and recently Samoa), Twitter (@davidhuebner@usembassysamoa), YouTubeVimeoUstreamAdobe Connect,iTunes, and FlickR.

And of course we have two blogs, with a third under development.  My Ambassador blog ( focuses on my travels, experiences, thoughts, and work as Ambassador.  I don’t shy away from potentially controversial topics, and of course I welcome comments.  The other blog, , is focused on America’s long, rich rugby history and on the U.S. Eagles’ road to the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

One of our most creative and successful projects in the past year was using UStream and the UStream Facebook app “my UStream” to conduct live broadcasts to our Facebook and wider online audiences.  One very successful broadcast involved a livestream with National Science Foundation scientists while I was in Antarctica.  Another one was a livestream of Secretary Clinton’s townhall event in Christchurch back in November 2010.  Both streams were hugely successful with a large number of people tuning in.

So, is all this working the way I’d hoped?  Absolutely.  Our platform is protean, unpredictable, dynamic, interactive, interesting, evolving, and occasionally profoundly annoying.  Just like the real world.  And that’s what makes the platform successful.

By combining traditional outreach with social media outreach, by cross-promoting and affiliate-linking content across all our social channels, and, most importantly, by interacting with our online audiences instead of just pushing out information, we are having real conversations with real people from all walks of life.  Not just those who traditionally see a foreign Ambassador.

And that’s the way it should be, right?

Editor in Chief at here SMNZ, I have a passion for social and digital media. When not writing and managing SMNZ I am the Head of Innovation at TAG The Agency, a digital ad agency and the Head of Sales and Marketing for End-Game, a software development agency. I'm also involved with a number of startups and I am always keen to support those that are bold enough to give things a go. Start something, better to try than to live wondering what if...

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