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'Diplomacy is more than Ferrero Rocher parties'

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Pierluigi Puglia outside 10 Downing Street, London. Photo: British Embassy Rome|Pierluigi Puglia
16:16 CEST+02:00
The Local speaks to Pierluigi Puglia, head of press and communications at the British Embassy in Rome, to find out what it's really like to move in Italy's diplomatic circles.

How did you come to work at the British Embassy in Rome?

My career started in Brussels 15 years ago, working as an assistant researcher at the Université Catholique de Louvain while doing a communications masters.

I returned to Rome to work at the UN Information Centre for a few months, before joining a Fiat-owned company in Milan to work in the online world.  Then I went to work for Rome PR agency; the consultancy role gave me the priceless opportunity of working with a diverse range of business cases and challenges. 

After four years I crossed the threshold of the British Embassy, it was the first time I'd worked directly for a government organization.

How has your career progressed at the embassy?

I've been working at the embassy for almost nine years now - time flies when you enjoy what you're doing! I started in 2005 as a press officer, then in 2007 I was promoted to senior press officer. One year later I got the job as the head of press and communications.

How does embassy work differ from your previous roles?

The logic behind communications work is always the same, what changes is the content. I find it exciting having to deal with ideas, positions or messages that we want other nations to share or buy into.

One day it can be persuading your host country to commit itself to meeting or exceeding the targets set by the EU on the acceptable levels of carbon emissions. The next day we may want to gain support from a partner government in fighting against the use of sexual violence in conflict zones.

The variety of the topics and situations often makes me think of my previous role as a consultant for various clients.

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

Every day is different, although I always start with monitoring the internet and listening to radio news bulletins at home.

Then I go to work and discuss the day's main headlines and the developments in Italy that may deserve ad-hoc reporting for London.

Media monitoring is critical and I rely heavily on my team for this and other daily activities, such as enquiries from the public, social media; the core tools of our digital diplomacy.

We also provide language services for colleagues. I always try to leave some time in my day in order to develop creative ideas for new projects.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

The real challenge is to come up with new ideas for effective delivery of the UK Foreign Office objectives.

I work in public diplomacy; engaging with the wider Italian audience through press articles, events or digital campaigns.

It may not seem obvious but this work can be instrumental in delivering an ambitious set of targets, including the strengthening of bilateral relations, promoting economic opportunities in Italy and the UK, preventing international crime in the two countries and supporting British nationals in Italy.

What do you find most enjoyable?

I particularly enjoy spotting new opportunities that can help make a difference on a particular topic.

Earlier this year our embassy promoted a London-led humanitarian campaign on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflicts (PSVI). With the support of Rome's city council, the message of our campaign was featured on the Colosseum on International Women's Day, March 8th. This spread the campaign message from Rome around the world.

How do you find working within a British environment, in your own country?

I have always enjoyed working with international environments, particularly British. I like the meritocracy and fairness, often mixed with a high degree of informality and an easy-going approach.

Not to mention the well-known British sense of humour!

What is is like to work within diplomatic circles in Rome?

I very rarely take part in Ferrero Rocher-type events, which is what most people believe diplomatic circles are all about!

Having said that, every time I have the opportunity to meet people from other embassies I enjoy spotting the differences and similarities in the way they approach the challenges we face on a daily basis. Sharing information is always critical; you are not reinventing the wheel.

What advice do you have for people who want to work at an embassy in Rome?

All opportunities at the British Embassy and our consulates in Milan and Naples are advertised on our website; the easiest way to be kept informed about job opportunities is via Facebook and Twitter.

More broadly, for an embassy career you have to have the relevant experience, a good knowledge of English and a personal interest in the international dynamics of politics, economics, media and society. 

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