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The history of the Public Diplomacy Interest Group... How it all started

The idea to set up a Public Diplomacy Interest Group came up at the ICA pre-conference “Advancing Public Diplomacy Research: Bringing Together Political Communication and Public Relations” organized in May 2015 in Puerto Rico and co-sponsored by the Political Communication and Public Relations ICA Divisions and the USC Center on Public Diplomacy. The pre-conference aimed to spark discussion that could lead to new collaborative initiatives between these interdisciplinary fields, and illuminate tangible methods to investigate public diplomacy and nation branding from different angles and perspectives. Scholar at the pre-conference agreed there was a great need for a venue to present public diplomacy and related research.

At the end of the event, the organizing committee, Diana Ingenhoff (University of Fribourg), Kathy Fitzpatrick (American University), Candace White (University of Tennessee), and Spiro Kiousis (University of Florida), proposed the formation of a dedicated Interest Group and participants voted in favor. Consequently, we formed a volunteer working group and Alina Dolea (University of Bucharest) joined us to coordinate the collection of required signatures and the submission of the official request to the ICA board. Finally, we succeeded in collecting signatures from more than 80 interested scholars.  The board of the International Communication Association (ICA) officially approved in January 2016 the formation of a Public Diplomacy Interest Group within ICA.

The aim of the newly established Public Diplomacy Interest Group is to bring together scholars investigating topics related to public diplomacy, nation branding, country image and reputation, public relations for and of nations, as well as political, global and cultural communication influencing international relations. It seeks to gather all perspectives, research methods, methodological approaches, and theories including the recent critical approaches, to encourage dialogue and debate on these growing interdisciplinary topics.


The Inaugural Business Meeting took place at the ICA annual conference in Fukuoka, Japan, on 11th of June 2016. Here, the first officers for the period 2016-2018 were elected:


Diana Ingenhoff (University of Fribourg, Switzerland) – Chair

Alina Dolea (University of Bucharest, Romania) – Vice Chair

Candace White (University of Tennessee, USA) – Secretary

Lindsey Bier (University of Southern California, USA) – Student and Early Career Interest Group Representative

For the first conference sessions held at ICA in San Diego at Hilton San Diego Bayfront in May 2017, we were allocated five paper and three poster presentations, plus the business meeting, as we received a total of 38 submissions. We additionally organized a full day post-conference on “Bridging practice and disciplinary perspectives on the formation and effects of country image, reputation, brand, and identity” on May 30, 2017, in San Diego.

For the second conference sessions held at ICA in Prague at Hilton Old Town in May 2018, a high amount of 54 submissions (+38%) resulted in six paper sessions and four poster presentation, plus our annual business meeting. Additionally, we organized a doctoral and postdoctoral pre-conference on "Emerging Research and Trends in Public Diplomacy and Nation Branding" on May 24, 2018, in San Diego.