The concept of public diplomacy has traditionally been understood in state‐centric terms and has been closely related to a state’s foreign policy. Despite conceptual evolution towards more dialogue and networking, definitions continue to envisage public diplomacy as a state pursuit. The impact of globalization on politics however has provoked an emergence of new civil society players who have progressively increased their influence, power, legitimacy and credibility in the global arena, intensifying the crisis that besets the state. This paper proposes a new approach to the public diplomacy concept that can include actions by non‐state actors. In so doing, it explores two main conditions of civil society organizations that need to be recognized as part of the public diplomacy concept: legitimacy and effectiveness.