#5 Dialogue with experts: Pandemic communication

25 May 2020

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#5 Dialogue with experts: Pandemic communication

CID NATO continues the series of dialogues with experts to analyze how the pandemic influences different verticals of national security. Today we discuss about the strategic communication with Elena Marzac, Executive Director, IDC on NATO; Aurelia Peru, doctor habilitat in political sciences, ex-presidential adviser; Dionis Cenușă, Associate Expert, Expert-Group, researcher and doctoral student at the University of Giessen.
The pandemic has created economic, political, social and health challenges, but has also become a source of concern for communication experts. Some of these challenges are directly or indirectly related to communicated information.

The national institutions of the Republic of Moldova, including those involved in crisis management, face strategic level challenges in the field of communication management:
– The presentation of false information, amplified by social networks, promotes a set of narratives that erode the ability to cope with the pandemic.
– Lack of effective government stratcom. Following the political crises of 2019, the institutions are still adapting to the new realities, and the pandemic demonstrates how difficult it is for them to face the situation.
– The presence of the elements of the information warfare characterized by the increased activity of the “agents of influence” (NGOs, media, political forces, church, etc.).
– The lack of a culture of interinstitutional communication and the cohesion of the message conveyed by credible communicators weakens citizens’ trust in public institutions.
– The lack of a joint decision on the action plan and insufficient coordination have given rise to a lack of decision-making transparency.
– Lack of institutional capacity among national media organizations.
– The press and the authorities found themselves on different barricades. The press has limited access to information.
– Lack of scientific communication from the academic and medical environment.
– The communication crisis has generated several adjacent crises – in parallel with the health crisis, a political one is emerging. Individuals seek to capitalize politically and control the information. Communication was altered by the desire to communicate in an electoral style.
– Lack of cognitive, affective and behavioral approach in the communication with the public. A message of solidarity from the decision makers was missing.
– Absence of formal opinions of health experts.
– Due to communication deficiencies, the population may misunderstand the crisis situation, and may not trust the crisis management solutions offered by the authorities.

Recommendations and good practices

Government institutions:
– To establish a Strategic Communication Center with branches in the relevant institutions.
– To provide correct and complete information, in a temperate and professional tone, which does not create panic and a state of insecurity for the public.
– To adopt a common way of thinking and mentality regarding strategic communication, which must be present at all public authorities, but also at the level of all national policies and strategies.
– To educate the public at all levels: strategic, operational, tactical.
– To develop the relationship with the press. The “alliance” with the journalists must be built by each institution. This relationship can be maintained by continuously providing accurate statistics and information.
– Establish and strengthen partnerships between state institutions and civil society, including non-governmental organizations and the media.
– To depoliticize the actions of the Audiovisual Council.

Civil society:
– To become a platform that focuses on prevention, and not just on reaction to what happened.
– To develop independent communication platforms.
– To act as a bridge for social cohesion.
– To be more actively involved in raising public awareness.

– To respect the Journalist’s Code of Ethics.
– To be more incisively involved in the transparentization of the actions taken by the authorities.
– Provide unbiased information.
– Educate the audience.

Academic environment:
– To insist on the allocation of research funds in the field of communication.
– To strengthen its contribution to the education of future communicators.

Development partners (NATO, EU, USA, Romania and others):
– Introduction of a unified communication type.
– Adaptation of the communicated information to the specifics of the Republic of Moldova.
– Structure and detail the information on official communication platforms.

The Information and Documentation Centre on NATO is a noncommercial, autonomous organization set up as a part of the 2006-2009 Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) Republic of Moldova-NATO. The Center promotes the Euro-Atlantic values and principles, informs the society about the multiple aspects of security, and supports the governmental institutions in security and defense sector reform.

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