Sheikh Sultan Bin Ahmed Al Qasimi addressing the International Government Communication Forum last year.
Ahead of the 10th edition of the International Government Communication Forum (IGCF) scheduled to be held from September 26-27 in Sharjah, Jawaher Al Naqbi, Manager of the International Government Communication Centre, has emphasised that a credible communications strategy based on transparency and trust between governments and the public is vital for the success of government bodies and institutions, adding that new and emerging communication technologies could spur a wave of disinformation that undermines trust and amplifies fears.
Al Naqbi pointed out that successful government communication is essential not only to foster socio-economc changes but to also facilitate meaningful engagement by the public. She stressed that at the heart of effective government communications are six key pillars that pave the way for establishing an agile, impactful, and human-centric strategy.
Al Naqbi added that the 10th edition of the forum will evaluate the historical experience of government communication, discuss its current realities, and envision its future, in addition to reviewing mechanisms, tools, and changes in public perceptions, to bolster the role of government communications in leading communities towards a sustainable and prosperous future.
Importance of study and assessment
The IGCC Manager said the first pillar for successful communication is the adoption of scientifically-backed methodologies and strategies to increase both effectiveness and reach of the message. She also highlighted that relying on indepth research and studies that assess the public's mood, needs, ambitions, demographics, and education levels is vital to delivering a robust communications programme. Al Naqbi added that a holistic approach was the way forward as government communication is a complex process that deals with many overlapping public-centric issues simultaneously.
Effective communication mediums
Given the abundance of communication channels and information sources, Al Naqbi has pointed out the importance of choosing the right medium to reach the target audience. She explained that for instance, communication targeting youth and young adults would need to utilise social media and other digital platforms rather than the print medium.
Al Naqbi also urged government communication teams to leverage the potential of the rapidly evolving communication landscape and ensure the presence and active engagement of government spokespersons on emerging media platforms to translate their vision and policies into effective day-to-day practices.
Analysing public opinion
The third pillar discussed by Jawaher Al Naqbi underscored the importance of using scientific tools to analyse public opinion and mood. She explained that addressing the public without being sensitive to their needs and expectations will only yield null results. For a message to have an impact, it is essential to be delivered in a well-coordinated and timely manner to resonate with the needs of the public.
Jawaher Al Naqbi
Successful communication strategies call for the inclusion of specialists and experts in humanities, behavioural, economic and social sciences, and data analysts, on government communication teams, she added.
Open and transparent dialogue with civil society institutions
Underlining that interaction on social media platforms was insufficient to strengthen the relationship between government entities and the public, Al Naqbi pointed out that the fourth pillar of effective communication calls for a direct engagement between public entities and civil society institutions that represent diverse community segments.
She explained that establishing a strong relationship with civil society institutions is key to activating a successful partnership with the community as it heightens accessibility and provides a space for the public to share their concerns and feedback. It is also instrumental in helping create a positive view about government bodies and their practices.
Trust: The quickest way to reach the public
Quoting the oft-repeated maxim that ‘Trust is hard to gain but easy to lose’, Al Naqbi explained that ‘trust’ formed a central pillar in the success of any government communication.
Building trust in government communication teams should run parallel with the act of boosting the public image of both the state and society, she said. Erosion of trust will negatively impact the relationship between governments and communities and widen gaps in effective communication with the public, especially during a crisis.
To build trust, government communications must demonstrate credibility, transparency, greater acceptance of public opinion, and strategic planning, she asserted.
Partnering with media
Jawaher Al Naqbi cited the role of the media as the sixth pillar of an effective communications strategy. Governments must aim for a positive relationship with the media to better communicate with the public and build legitimacy for their decisions, she explained, stating that with an array of information sources, any weak link in this partnership could have negative consequences such as conflicting news and disinformation.
Al Naqbi emphasised that in the UAE, the media had positioned itself as a development partner to government institutions since the founding of the country, and has played a significant role in supporting the country’s vision and strategies.
Jawaher Al Naqbi called on the private and public sector, media, and those interested in government communications to attend the 10th edition of the International Government Communication Forum organised by the Sharjah Government Media Bureau (SGMB), under the theme, 'Historic lessons, Future ambitions' at Expo Centre Sharjah.
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