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Govts 'must switch to new interaction methods'

Sharjah, February 25, 2013

The rapid march of information technology worldwide and its vigorous uptake by populations, particularly the younger generations, has revolutionised the modes of interaction between the government and its people, said experts at a session of the Government Communication Forum held in Sharjah recently.

The fourth session of the first day entitled ‘Communication in Election Campaigns (Obama’s Re-election Campaign 2012)’ highlighted the communication principles for electoral campaigns showcasing the campaign of Barack Obama in 2012.

The segment scrutinized the backstage preparations and dynamics involved in electoral campaigns. It also looked into strategies and innovative ways of communication that played a pivotal role in Obama’s re-election for a second term, and examined the key role of the media in influencing or shaping public opinion.

Moderated by Randa Habib, the director, Agence France Presse (AFP) Foundation in the Mena region, the session featured Jim Messina, campaign manager for Obama's 2012 re-election campaign, and Colleen Harris, former press secretary to Prince William and Prince Harry.

Making case for the ever-increasing role played by IT and social media as strategic enablers in the realm of government communications, Messina said, “Technology has completely revolutionized the way people communicate; hence, government communications need to reflect prevailing trends. The basics for government communications is clarity in messaging, speed in communicating it, and making sure it gets delivered where the people are."

"You will find that social media is able to deliver on all three criteria," he stated.

"For example, Obama’s second presidential campaign needed to have a different approach to the one we had in 2008. We needed to be where the people are – at the grassroots – and have a running dialogue with local populations, because local issues are what matter to them the most,"
explained Messina.

"We built a campaign in which messages were focussed, simple and authentic across multiple channels such as TV, radio and the internet," he added.

Messina is credited for being the mastermind behind Obama’s 2012 campaign. With the guidance of technology’s foremost leaders, he re-drew the presidential campaign course, merging technology and politics in a way that was both unpredictable and unprecedented.

From 2009 to 2011, he served as deputy chief of staff to Obama where he was integral to the passage of the landmark healthcare and economic stimulus bills.

Speaking at the forum, Colleen Harris underlined the need for leaders to adapt communication avenues that are in tune with fast-evolving times, and that a government needs to stay focussed on its vision even if it meant delayed results.

Harris has held senior communication positions with both the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom before being appointed communications secretary to The Prince of Wales, Prince William and Prince Harry.

A trained teacher and counsellor, Harris has also led several national and international communication initiatives and campaigns and worked across the EU, the US, the Middle East, Africa, Australia, and South America, handling a range of issues including the environment, education, transportation, in addition toconsumer and financial services.

According to Harris, leaders need to be clear on their vision and strategy, because then their messages will be easily understood by their audiences, reinforcing public trust and confidence.

"On the other hand, it is important to remember that vision and strategy often relate to the longer term, which takes time to achieve. This needs to be understood, because today’s world often calls for quick answers, sometimes at the cost of long-term interests," she stated.

"A balanced approach – one that satisfies the demands of both short and long terms – will ensure thatdisappointment and bigger problems are kept at bay," remarked Harris.

The annual forum is a first-of-its-kind event in the region that seeks to enhance mechanisms in government communications in Sharjah, the UAE and the wider Arab world.-TradeArabia News Service




Tags: government | interaction | Obama | Prince William |

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