Hi there. My name’s Daniel Bennett. I write a blog for the Frontline Club on new media and conflict and I’ve been invited to temporarily take over this blogging space to crosspost a few thoughts on the key points coming out of Albany’s Strategic Communications conference.
We’re under the Chatham House Rule so the 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 areas 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 communications 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 them in practice. Especially when it seems that what is required is a wholesale change in the communications culture within, and across, sprawling hierarchical and bureaucratic organisations.