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Dubai Media Office hosts strategic communication training event
By A Staff Reporter July 24, 2018
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DUBAI: The Government of Dubai Media Office (GDMO) on Monday hosted a strategic communication training event in cooperation with The Executive Council (TEC) of Dubai and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Attended by communication professionals from key Dubai organisations, the training was delivered by senior government communication officials from the UK who included Edwin Samuel, the UK’s Regional Arabic Media Spokesperson; Suzanne Edmond, Deputy Director, Strategic Communications & External Affairs, UK Department for Transport; and Fergus Sheppard, Head of News at Westminster City Council.

Commenting on the occasion, Ayman Mahmoud, Director of Government Communications at The Executive Council of Dubai, stressed the important role that strategic communications plays in supporting the overall development of the emirate. Mahmoud highlighted how crucial it is to keep abreast of industry news and developments to warrant progression across the various sectors; and to develop communication capabilities of national cadres to sustain innovation and entrepreneurship – especially as Dubai continues its journey towards being a world leader on all levels.

“A focus on strategic communications is a critical step towards government excellence. It is imperative that communication professionals are exposed to the rapidly changing communications landscape and the latest regional and global trends and tools, with an analytical view of insights and developments and their implications,” he added.

Alia Al Theeb, Manager, Strategic Communications, GDMO, said: “We are happy to host this training session in cooperation with The Executive Council of Dubai and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office. This session is part of an agreement signed in May this year between the Government of Dubai and the Government Communication Service of the United Kingdom to exchange best practices and expertise in government communication. Strategic communication is a critical element in successful government communication, and it has played an important role in Dubai’s ability to establish strong cooperation with diverse stakeholders and convey an accurate picture of its growth and achievements to the world.”

She expressed her appreciation for the extensive expertise of the three speakers who delivered the training session. “The meeting comes as part of a series of initiatives undertaken by GDMO to help communication professionals in Dubai enhance their understanding of advanced communication strategies. Our cooperation with the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office adds significant value to these efforts.”

The MoU signed between the Government of Dubai and the Government Communication Service of the UK in May is aimed at establishing platforms for cooperation and sharing knowledge and best practices. It seeks to improve the practice of government communication in Dubai and the UK and facilitate information exchange between the two parties.

REBUTTING RUMOURS

Fergus Sheppard, Head of News at Westminster City Council, shared learnings from three communication crises including the Grenfell Tower fire in North Kensington, London, which caused the death of 72 people. He outlined how a central communication response team was created to manage the media storm in the aftermath of the crisis. The task involved providing regular updates, responding to a multitude of media queries, rebutting inaccurate reports and rumours, monitoring social media and communicating key measures taken to rehabilitate the victims of the fire. The communication team worked to demonstrate the fact that local authorities were taking practical action to help the victims and were in control of the situation. Detailing another crisis that involved the forced eviction of travellers who had established illegal structures on Dale Farm in Basildon, Essex, Sheppard explained how communication teams worked to belie misrepresentations of the eviction as a human rights or racial discrimination issue. The success of the communication efforts were validated by the results of surveys which showed that an overwhelming number of people supported the authorities. In dealing with yet another crisis involving the discovery of traces of pork in Halal chicken sausages served in schools, the Westminster City Council’s communication efforts focused on “telling the truth” about the incident and informing and reassuring people speedily about remedial measures.

STRATEGY

Suzanne Edmond, Deputy Director, Strategic Communications & External Affairs, UK Department for Transport presented a case study on the communication strategy to manage the collapse of Monarch Airlines. Monarch Airlines had gone into administration last year with 110,000 passengers abroad and 300,000 future bookings. The CAA conducted a two-week flying programme of almost 570 passenger flights, transporting 85,000 people to the UK from 40 airports in over 15 countries.

A 24/7 communications hub gave Monarch passengers full, clear and timely information and reassured them that the government was in control of the situation. Proactive, early and regular briefing of the media throughout the operation helped ensure that coverage was factual and provided crucial information for affected passengers. Lessons learned from the crisis included the importance of partnership and building on planning from previous situations, setting out clear communication principles, shaping the story aggressively before it starts running in the media, having a well-coordinated stakeholder engagement plan and ensuring proactive handling of customer queries on social media.

Edwin Samuel, Britain’s Regional Arabic Media Spokesperson, delivered a session about the role of the spokesperson. He said that spokespersons need to master the art of storytelling and engage audiences in conversations about issues that they care about. Emphasising that content is king, he stressed on ensuring the novelty of content and saying things consistently, truthfully and credibly. At the same time, he pointed out that tone matters as much as content. Speaking about Arab audiences, he observed that they notice everything and “know us better than we know them.”

In a session on dealing with the media, Fergus Sheppard talked about the importance of being open with the media. Media won’t go away even if organisations don’t comment; if they can’t get a comment, speculation fills the void, he pointed out. He also stressed on the importance of acknowledging mistakes to the media and communicating plans to correct them.
 

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