Govts need good public communicators: UAE conference told

Expert warns that ineffective communication can damage a government's reputation

Shounaz Meky

Published: Updated:

The expansion of social media is forcing governments to use more effective spokespeople to carry their message to the public, a panel of experts from the private and public sector have told a conference on communication.

Speaking at a debate at the International Government Communication Forum (IGCF 2015) in Sharjah, UAE, chaired by Turki Al-Dakhil, General Manager of Al Arabiya News, Moroccan Communications Minister Mustafa Al Khalfi said "government communication has become an interactive process today, rather than a monologue that dictates government messages to the people.”

“Social media represents a great opportunity for us to achieve true interactivity between the government and the public,” he added.

Office of the UK Prime Minister’s news planner, Robin Gordon-Farleigh expanded on the topic saying it was the job of a spokesperson to deliver vital messages to the public while "remaining credible at all times."

He added: “Efficient communication planning should be implemented for the government spokesperson to deliver the right message to the people ... it is all about preparing the right person to be in the right place.”

James Rubin, former U.S. assistant secretary of state for public affairs, said communication was essential as the world became “increasingly democratic” and that people worldwide were playing a greater part in influencing foreign policy.

He said inefficient communication could negatively influence foreign policy.

“Officials often think that the problem lies in communication, but actually most of the time, it is a policy problem,” he explained.

“The rule is that good policies can be damaged by a bad communication strategy. But at the same time, a great communication strategy cannot fix what bad policies have occurred.”

Khaled Hazem, industry solution manager at Microsoft’s government Middle East & Africa public sector, said spokespeople needed to enhance their knowledge of social media tools.

Hazem said: “They have to keep a close eye on social media feeds and utilise them to come across as more realistic and more credible."

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