Public diplomacy in an age of perpetual crisis: assessing the EU's strategic narratives through six crises

Juan Luis Manfredi-Sánchez, Nicholas Ross Smith

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The purpose of this research is to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the EU's public diplomacy – towards both domestic and external audiences – during times of crisis. The EU's public diplomacy is examined across six major crises: the Eurozone crisis (2008), the Ukrainian crisis (2014), the migrant crisis (2015), the Brexit referendum (2016), the new transatlantic relationship (2017) and the COVID-19 pandemic (2019). The goal of examining these crises in conjunction is to derive policy-relevant insights. Design/methodology/approach: This article adopts a problem-driven approach – the problem being how successful is the EU at public diplomacy during times of crisis – that draws theoretical and empirical insights from Communication Studies, International Relations and EU studies via a “strategic narratives” framework. It situates the EU as a unique public diplomacy actor, one which is becoming more prominent due to the mediatisation of diplomacy, especially driven by the advent of cyberspace. Findings: The article finds that the EU has been experiencing a cycle of crises that have affected the political, economic, symbolic and social foundations of the common project. The EU has had some notable success – such as restoring confidence at the height of the Eurozone crisis – and some notable challenges – such as effectively combatting disinformation. Regardless, the EU has the potential to better manage these and future crises by engaging in an effective public diplomacy strategy that tells a shared European story that informs and inspires people, both domestically and externally. Originality/value: The article offers an original examination of the EU's public diplomacy response to six different crises. It looks at different types of crises and utilises concepts from different social science perspectives. It offers novel strategic and policy recommendations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-258
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Communication Management
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 18 May 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Crisis communication
  • Foreign policy
  • Leadership
  • Propaganda
  • Public diplomacy
  • Public sector

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Strategy and Management


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