The inauguration of the 45th President of the United States received considerable media coverage. This was not least because the man being sworn in was President Donald J. Trump: a television personality and real estate developer who had just pulled off what is arguably the most surprising political defeat in recent history. While international news crews and agency photographers all faced east, their cameras panning across the National Mall towards the Capitol scaffolding draped in stars and stripes, one participant offered a novel viewpoint. The Argentinian ambassador, wrapped in a thick grey woollen coat and scarf, used his smart phone to take a collection of pictures from the podium itself.
Demonstrating an affable informality, Martín Lousteau uploaded a small album of photographs to Facebook, giving his followers and the wider public a glimpse of what it’s like to be standing a few feet away as the US experienced the transition of power. The pictures are not professional – they are unmistakably amateur. A shot of the crowd is taken at a skewed angle. Another is out of focus. These imperfections give the photographs a charm and a personal touch, reflecting well on the ambassador as a person and allowing the embassy to reach out to a new audience not traditionally associated with political pageantry.
Simultaneously, this small act was sending out a strong message: that Argentina is present and playing an important role on the international stage. With a shift of power from nation states to networks, diplomatic interaction has evolved from closed conversations to open debate. This is reflected in the tools diplomats now choose to communicate with. Through digital engagement, Martín Lousteau effectively made diplomatic capital out of a non-story. He transformed himself from a spectator into a participant.
Lessons for organisations:
- Unique insights: the ambassador’s status gives him access which he can then share with others, democratising diplomacy in the process.
- The advantage of the ‘unofficial’: mainstream media will lead from similar perspectives whilst the ambassador’s uploads offer an alternative view.
- The digital tourist: photographs are not edited or approved but appear natural and in the moment, thereby aligning them with the average social media user.
- Photographs fit into a broader, strategic narrative of transparency and Argentinian representation in the international community.