Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Communication and Information

Major Professor

Peter Gross

Committee Members

Candace White, Roxanne Hovland, Kenneth Gilbert


This dissertation looks at U.S. public diplomacy practices in a country that until twenty years ago was controlled by a hard-line Communist regime: Romania. The study investigates the relationship management approach to public diplomacy employed by U.S. diplomats in Romania and it is the first to empirically test the application of relationship management theory of public relations to public diplomacy. Through in-depth interviews with six former U.S. diplomats who served in Romania during 2001-2009, we learn how diplomats must find various ways to build and maintain relationships with the civil society to which they are assigned. The findings reveal that U.S. diplomats’ main role in Romania was to engage in direct relationships with members of the civil society and facilitate bilateral relationships between members of the two countries. In addition, this study found a new role of diplomats abroad, that of building communities of like-minded people in the society in which they operate. This study expands the theoretical framework in public diplomacy by proposing two new models for public diplomacy practice. First, under the relational paradigm, this study establishes the goal of public diplomacy as the management of long-lasting relationships between members of two countries, with the aim to create hubs of networks in the countries of interest. Under the relational paradigm, the newly proposed model for the relationship management process provides an in-depth understanding of how U.S. diplomats engage with members of the Romanian civil society in order to accomplish the public diplomacy goal. Second, to better understand the uniqueness of the relationship management process between any two countries in the world, this dissertation proposes a framework of public diplomacy built on seven relational dimensions identified here as image, reputation, trust, credibility, communication, dialogue, and relationships. Testing the relationships management theory in public diplomacy is an important undertaking, which could broaden the scope of public diplomacy and can provide a framework for a comparative line of research between public diplomacy and public relations.

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