Strategic Communications: Morning session summary

June 24, 2009
…so there’s been a bit of a delay getting the necessary wireless access, but we’re good to go now.
 
We’re also under the Chatham House Rule so observations will be general rather than specific.
 

This morning we’ve been hearing about how the new media landscape has profound implications for the area of strategic communications. ‘Citizen journalists’ can produce and distribute information with a speed that cannot be matched by the lumbering bureaucracies of complex organisations.

 
Most recently, graphic images of the crisis in Iran have found their way to millions of viewers across the world despite the best efforts of the Iranian regime to control information.

 

The new speed and flexibility of communication networks also have implications for Western democratic governments and institutions. Organisations are struggling to find the right balance between the time pressures of filling the information space and the (sometimes painstakingly) slow task of verifying the facts on the ground.  
 
Difficulties are compounded in situations where public policy is being carried out by a variety of departments, countries or international organisations. ‘Turf wars’, egos, and departmental independence hinder effective communication.
 
It was noted that in the UK there is no coherent national communications strategy, while in Afghanistan countless parties are responsible for distributing messages about the conflict and reconstruction efforts. 
 
Military, international and non-governmental organisations acknowledged that they have plenty to learn from communication failures in the past and as participants in a media arena that is undergoing profound change.
 
But it’s perhaps straightforward to identify the problems in theory, far more difficult to implement solutions in practice. Especially when it seems that what is required is a wholesale change in the communications culture within, and across, sprawling bureaucratic organisations.
 
That’s where we got to this morning, but better refocus on the afternoon session. I’ll try and get another summary up later…(or I might throw it all in and enjoy the sunshine).