The art and science of communications: From strategic to personal

Tag Archives: nation building

Strategic communication in the foreign policy, development and security arena – what’s that all about?

It’s about contributing to policy and guidance, providing strategic counsel, nurturing linkages and relationships between policy mechanisms, coordinating between national, international and non-governmental entities.

It’s about communicating in a highly charged, ethically challenging, fast moving, traditional and digital, multi-spectral, politically sensitive, conflict-ridden and culturally diverse environment.

It’s about employing media relations, advocacy, lobbying, grassroots activism, de-radicalisation, crisis management, new technologies and old.

It’s about the utility of forums, blogs, twitter, facebook, TV, radio, print, street chatter, posters, networks, crowdsourcing, mobile technology and academic discourse.

It’s about taking part in conversation, dialogue, consultation, education, monitoring, analysis, research, polling, cooperation and collective action.

It’s about understanding narrative, strategy, tactics, messages, identity, objectives, framing, behaviour, attitude, opinion and delivery.

It’s about appreciating sociology, anthropology, history, culture, group dynamics, behavioural ecomonics, organisational theory and psychology.

It’s about engaging with people, publics, stakeholders, governments, activists, opinion leaders, think tanks, NGOs and the military.

It’s about developing media industry, legal infrastructure, free press, media literacy, social activism, technology for development, institutional communications and public affairs.

It’s about managing media liaison, press releases, events, synchronisation, internal communications, spokespeople and social media.

But, simply put, what it’s really all about is bringing all of the above together.

That’s what it’s all about.

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The International Symposium on Cultural Diplomacy 2010:

“Culture, Globalization, and International Relations over the next Two Decades” – Berlin, May 23rd – 30th, 2010

Symposium Agenda

The International Symposium 2010 will be split into three complementary parts. The program will begin by looking in greater detail at “culture” and identity” and how these terms are used and understood today. During this part of the program participants will have the opportunity to experience Berlin’s famous “Carnival of Cultures”.

The second part of the program will build on these components by considering the role that culture plays in contemporary international relations and the process of globalization. During these three days the concepts of cultural diplomacy” and “soft power” will also be explored in more detail.

The final part of the program will apply these discussions to one of the key issues that will determine global politics over the coming years: Afghanistan and stability in Central Asia.

The Symposium will be split into the following three parts:

“Defining and Understanding Culture in an International Context” : 23rd – 25th May)

A Three Piece Puzzle – “The Relationship between Culture, International Relations and Globalization” : 26th – 27th May

“Understanding Afghanistan and Central Asia: Supporting Democracy and Stability – The Path Ahead” : 28th – 30th May

This final part is being held in cooperation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the German Marshal Fund (GMFUS), UNESCO, the European Commission, the US State Department and in partnership with leading international organizations.

Further details about the event can be found at the icd website:

<http://www.icd-internationalsymposium.org>

http://www.icd-internationalsymposium.org


The public sphere in Africa and other parts of the developing world is changing rapidly, thanks to “digital leapfrogging”, whereby areas which have had no or limited analogue communication systems are being catapulted into the digital age.  No longer subject to the linear progression of technology, these areas have embraced digital, especially mobile telephone, methods.  People who have never had access to basic communication equipment are making their first telephone calls and text messaging on hand-held devices similar to, or even more advanced than , those available to subscribers in the developed world.

With little infrastructure to build on, entirely new digital communication systems and associated social media networks are springing up.  At the heart of this revolution are dynamic innovators, not least Frontline SMS and Kiwanja.net. CB3 was fortunate to catch up with Ken Banks, one of these pioneers, to find out exactly how this revolution is developing and how technology is changing the communication landscape in the developing world.


Interesting snippet caught on Newsnight last night (28/04/09) about energy and climate change issues in the US.  Ethical man Justin Rowlatt covered Powershift 09 as part of his series.  But the crucial communications aspect of Powershift seems to be that a green activist movement, normally shunned by mainstream governments, is being seen as a method of encouraging and persuading American voters of Obama’s climate change agenda, using activists (seen being trained in how to resist arrest) as ambassadors for a government policy.

Ambassadors of US energy policy?

Ambassadors of US energy policy?

Now this proximity of traditional enemies is not new – Shell and BP have taken considerable steps to be seen as green through apparent (and only occasional) connectivity with activist groups like Greenpeace, although emnity is deep and remains for obvious reasons.  And there are many political groups who will support political pitches, including that of the incumbent government.  But the use of strident activists to promote a government policy against a generally accepted stance i.e. the fossil fuel economy, seems to be a new leap.  This is not Astroturf but using genuine activism for policy endorsement.

The circumstances may be unique to the cap and trade issue in the US, but this approach does beg several questions – are there other circumstances where political policy can be matched with vocal activists against a form of accepted, conventional wisdom?  And further, are there circumstances in developing  and post-conflict countries which can be used in a similar way?

This is not necessarily countenancing covert support to student groups under totalitarian regimes, but where foreign agencies are already engaged (be they UN, NATO etc) do we make full use of grass roots activism (as limited as it may be) to achieve policy goals, or do we still tend to go down the route of mainsteam key leader engagement because it’s easier, more straightforward (relatively!) and more in line with our conventional
Western way of doing things?  Are developing embryonic government institutions, struggling with democracy, encouraged to look towards the power of activist groups or are they merely maintaining their traditional opposition towards them?  Are they, and therefore we, missing a trick?

Womens activist groups in Afghanistan - holding a vital key?

Womens activist groups in Afghanistan - holding a vital key?

After all, most governments have always had difficult relationships with autonomous grass roots organisations, unless, of course, they’re onside already.  As ever with trying to improve the performance of public diplomacy and foreign policy communications in a rapidly changing information environment, the above requires some serious unconventional and politically risky thinking.

But that thinking, at the very least, should be done.


Conflict Prevention in the Multimedia Age
3-5 June, Bonn/Germany
Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum

The conference secretariat is busily finalising content and organisational matters – as you can  see in the attached programme overview we have about 45 panels and workshops lined up so far. In terms of content the number of events has nearly tripled compared to last year. A topical overview is online available here

Javier Solana, High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Secretary-General of the Council of the European Union will open the conference (tbc), Ramtane Lamamra, Commissioner for Peace and Security of the African Union has also agreed to join. Moreover we have lined up a number of German politicians and we are still waiting for a decision of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. We also have asked the Jordanian queen and some other international political VIPs  who have not yet confirmed.

In terms of content experts and speakers it looks better and better nearly on a daily basis. Just two colleagues who have agreed to join recently are Howard Rheingold, the Internet visionary and Brian Storm, multimedia guru from New York . Ahmed Salim, CEO A24 Media has also agreed to come. We have started publishing all those names on our website.

An attractive evening programme will give you a chance to enjoy the scenery of the Rhine river and the hospitability typical for this German region.

Partners include (in no special order): German Armed Forces, Stanford University, Reuters, University of Saarbrücken, University of Melbourne, Eyes and Ears of Europe, Intermedia, FoeBud, Chaos Computer Club, Radio Nederland, Media21, Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Committee for the Protection of Journalists, InWEnt, Commonwealth Broadcasting Organisation, FiFF, Interdisc. Fora RWTH, GPACC, SIGNIS, Friedrich  Ebert Foundation , DART Centre, n-ost, Thomson Reuters, Oxford University, OECD, UNHCR, Nokia Siemens Networks, IPI, Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union, EBU, Zurich University of Applied Sciences

The conference is generously supported by the German Foreign Office, the Foundation for International Dialogue of the savings bank in Bonn , the State Government of North-Rhine Westphalia, the City of Bonn and DHL

Contact / Conference Secretariat:
DW – MEDIA SERVICES GmbH
Kurt-Schumacher-Str. 3
53113 Bonn , Germany
P +49.228.429-2142 (Press inquiries: +49.228.429-2148)

F +49.228.429-2140
mailto:gmf@dw-world.de


CB3 is working on a programme of training and advising for an Iraqi government Ministry.  The remit is to prepare the Ministry’s communications department to conduct a PR campaign through ‘conventional’ or ‘mass’ media.

However, this does raise the question; today, what exactly is conventional media?  In the good old days that meant the mainstream TV, radio and print outlets.  But today, even in a post-conflict and developing nation like Iraq, the influence of digital capabilities is changing exactly how one gets the message through to the audience, both via the conventional media and directly.

Even in Iraq, there's 400 channels with nothing much on ... but there is also the internet.

Even in Iraq, there are 400 channels with nothing much on ... but there 's also the internet.

Digital convergence means that the supply of information or copy to the conventional media no longer means relying upon the journalist, editor, camera and sound person of that media.  With very few resources, digital copy can be prepared for direct use by that media.  The distribution of a press release, followed by facilities, press conferences and/or interviews can now easily be supplemented by digital video packages, the video news release.  In-house capacity building can allow the production of useable video, to be placed directly on the websites of conventional print, TV or even radio outlets.  And given the pressures upon conventional media outlets, these moves will be welcome – the dietary requirements of conventional media are changing, fast.

Taking the UK as an example, in 2007, Tiscali noted that 63% of Uk adults would prefer to watch on-demand products on via the internet and MediaGuardian reported that 43% of UK internet users watch webTV – which takes into account much more than your traditional media providers such as BBC or SKY.  More peple are accessing their information via the internet and from an increasing number of sources.

Further, those digital packages, ultimately flexible, can be distributed via digitally networked media – YouTube, facebook, itunes etc, and incorporated into wider campaigns.  Yes, that’s using user-generated content sites.  Why? Because if you’re going digital on the web, it’s worthwhile remembering that, of the top 100 global websites the top 70% of websites are content-based, and of those,70% are user-generated (from Alexa).

Bottom line – In Europe and the US digital broadcasting is growing massively, and the trend is taking effect in other areas of the world.  With less than half a million landlines in Afghanistan but approaching 6 million cutting edge mobile phones, and with internet usage almost doubling in the last two years, this is already happening. A comprehensive 2008 report on Pakistan’s new media habits, from the MIT Media Lab, tends to cement this perspective.  There may be a degree of ‘digital divide’ but it is narrowing and the dietary requirements of the recipient audiences, the man on the street, are also changing rapidly.

The digital domain - it's not just a 'Western' thing

The digital domain - it's not just a 'Western' thing

Those who are waking up to the digital broadcast reality are taking it one step further.  Instead of providing copy or spokespersons directly for the traditional media, they are producing their own content and hosting it themselves.  Produce good stuff, which can be seen as untainted with propagandistic rhetroric, and the conventional media (and user-generated sphere) will soon be feeding off organisations’ websites.  Why spend money and time on cameramen and journalists when the organisations who ‘get it’ are providing useable digital content anyway?  Of course, the critical capacity of journalism is still required, but extended provision of good copy, which can be further investigated, cannot be a bad thing

For the communications practitioner, almost anywhere in the world, this represents three approaches to dealing with conventional media – servicing the digital requirements of traditional media outlets, taking part in the external user-generated environment and providing one’s own digital outlet.

Basic conventional media techniques are no longer enough.  The information environment is now criss-crossed with intertwining networks, including the conventional media.  Dealing with the conventional media in isolation, through the once acceptable tunnel-visioned approach, just won’t cut it anymore – even in the less developed and post-conflict areas of the world.


You know what it’s like – some bad stuff happens somewhere, the ‘international community/coalition of the willing’ occasionally decide, for whatever reason, to do a little bit of liberal intervention, ‘nation building’ gets on the agenda, and the establishment of a free media is pushed hard. However, it is often forgotten, or at best an afterthought, to involve communications as a direct contributor to the creation or development of democratic government institutions and systems in host nations.  Although the establishment of a free media is well served by many respected NGOs, such as IWPR and Reporters Sans Frontieres, developing or new government institutions and political bodies are often ill-prepared to engage with this free media and the public at large.

Will their successors be able to handle a free media?

Will their successors be able to handle a free media?

Basically, the demand side of civil and democratic society, i.e. a free media, gets much more attention than the supply side, ie the governments and political parties.  The fantastic work of NGO does often indeed produce a free media but the government (and private) institutions who are required to engage with this media have no idea how to engage with them.  For example, I’m thinking of the notion of a BBC-style Question Time being conducted in DRC or Sudan – it just ain’t going to happen that often (although something similar has been conducted in Sierra Leone).

Let’s face it, many regimes have often had their very own special way of dealing with the media – coercion, blackmail, disapperances, even the banning of any free media whatsover.  So when these regimes change, by force or otherwise, the newly developing government (and private) institutions, often have little cultural legacy, regarding communicating to a free media and the public at large, to draw upon.

‘Nation building’ aims at host nation governments taking on their democratic responsibilities – rule of law, fiscal and monetary regulation, ethical governance, human rights, security etc.  Part of these responsibilities is engagement with its citizens (pretty much a cornerstone of democracy), often via a free media.  Indeed, in relatively stable liberal democracies, considerable investment is made in PR and media training and research, to enable institutions to fulfil this responsibility.  Yet, while NGOs, IGOs and the international community may fall over each other to provide assistance in developing governance, legal institutions, security, economics and media freedom, newly developing institutions are often left to fend for themselves in a rapidly evolving information environment.

It is vital that in international democracy assistance that the needs of both the supply and demand sides of democratic life are invested in.  A free media needs a political system able to engage constructively with it.  When thinking of civil society and the media, those involved in foreign policy intervention, development initiatives and post-conflict reconstruction, need to consider the communication needs, expertise, resources and training, of the very institutions they purport to be helping develop.