Cablegate: Paris Launches Its First Internet Chat On U.S.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PARIS 003507
DEPARTMENT FOR EUR, EUR/PPD, CA/EX, IRM/OPS/ENM, IM/CIO/IA,
EMBASSIES FOR PAO
E. O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO PREL CMGT AMGT ACOA ANET AADP KRIM
SUBJECT: Paris Launches Its First Internet Chat on U.S.
Visas to Reach Broader and Younger Audiences: Lessons
1. Summary. The Mission conducted its first 'Internet
chat,' and we are pleased by the public's response. In
planning the chat, we contacted several regional posts to
learn about their experiences. Few had conducted chats,
while others expressed an interest in learning from us. We
are, therefore, providing a read-out of our experience for
2. The chat's theme was U.S. visas, and we received over
500 questions from the French public. In a fast-paced one-
hour information exchange, the Consul General and Consular
colleagues, assisted by the Public Affairs Section,
answered 40 selected questions, mostly in French. We
posted the transcript and used the material for a
'Frequently Asked Questions' site on the Mission website.
The Internet-chat mechanism emphasizes USG accessibility
for dialogue with French publics, especially for the
younger generation. We plan two more chats, on other
topics, as part of this pilot project. End Summary.
3. Background: The Public Affairs Section initiated this
pilot chat project as an effort to engage directly with a
wider French public. We expected a mostly young audience,
given that youth are turning to the Internet more and more
for their news and information. We selected 'Ask the
Embassy about U.S. Visas' as our first program. Consular
colleagues enthusiastically agreed to participate in the
4. Logistics: IRM colleagues advised us it would be best
to work on the DIN-network, and not the OpenNet Plus
system, both for Department security concerns and because
of potential slowness of service. We bid out the project
to three chat companies in Paris, and selected the company
with the lowest price: 3,000 dollars for three chats over
the space of a year. The chat company arranged for the
chat page to look just like the Mission's website, but the
page actually belonged to the private chat company. We
posted a picture of the Consul General, his biography, and
allowed the public to register their questions in advance.
We conducted an off-line trial run a few days previous,
answering a few questions to test the system and our
5. Advertising: Ten days before the chat, we began to
advertise it by placing a note, in French and English, on
the website, by sending the note to selected contacts in
our Audience Tracking System (ATS, aka Paris' DRS) who are
active in the fields of education or university exchange
programs or who are exchange alumni themselves. We
contacted selected media, such as the free newspapers, read
by a mostly young public, and several radio shows. Lastly,
we printed flyers and had them available at the consular
offices for visa applicants to take with them.
6. The Chat: We received 280 questions in advance and were
able to survey them and select the ones we thought most
interesting and worthwhile. During the actual hour-long
chat, 187 visitors monitored the discussion, posting 253
new questions for a total of over 500 questions received.
The Consul General, another consular colleague, and a fast
French typist answered 40 questions over the space of an
hour, as Public Affair staff selected among old and new in-
coming questions for them to answer. The questions spanned
the range of visa concerns: student, transit, business-
start-up, au pairs, babies and expiring visas as well as
machine readable passports and visas.
7. Audience Profile: We asked the chat company to prepare
an optional questionnaire for participants to fill out
prior to posting questions. From a pull-down menu,
participants were asked to select their gender, age, region
of residence, general occupation and field of work.
Approximately one-third of participants did not fill out
the questionnaire. Of the two-thirds who did, we learned
50 percent of our audience was female, 37 percent male and
13 percent decided not to respond to that particular
question. Otherwise, the participants were young. 47
percent were under 30 years of age and 29 percent were from
the Paris region. Audiences across France participated,
however. Students made up 32 percent of the audience.
8. Follow-Up: We have posted the chat transcript on the
website, and are adding a 'Frequently Asked Questions'
resource for website posting. We plan on broadening the
topics for future chats. All of these chats would be
collaborative efforts with Mission colleagues.
9. Embassy Paris is pleased by the response to our first
Internet chat. This medium allows us to reach new and
younger audiences and to engage them, in French and in
'real time,' about American society, U.S. policies and
other issues of interest to the successor generation.