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Strategic Communication Masterclass: 31 st October 2011. Conrad Bird, Head of Public Diplomacy & Strategic Communication, FCO. Why strategic communications?. Protecting the UK depends increasingly on an ability to influence individuals, groups and states.

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Strategic Communication Masterclass:

31st October 2011

Conrad Bird, Head of Public Diplomacy & Strategic Communication, FCO


Why strategic communications?

  • Protecting the UK depends increasingly on an ability to influence individuals, groups and states.

  • States and non state actors are taking advantage of a globally connected world to recruit individuals and encourage hostile behaviours.

  • The modern media environment means that people’s perceptions and misperceptions can matter as much as the reality and persuasive words, deeds and images can be transmitted globally instantly.

  • Hard power remains effective, but as the nature of conflict becomes more asymmetrical alternative methods of influence, such as strategic communications, will play a more important role.


Different definitions exist ….

‘Focused United States Government efforts to understand and engage key audiences to create, strengthen, or preserve conditions favorable for the advancement of United States Government interests, policies and objectives through the use of coordinated programs, plans, themes, messages and products synchronized with the actions of all instruments of national power.’

Strategic Communication is first and foremost a process that supports and underpins all efforts to achieve the Alliance's objectives; an enabler that guides and informs our decisions, and not an organization in itself. It is for this reason that Strategic Communication considerations should be integrated into the earliest planning phases - communication activities being a consequence of that planning’ NATO

‘Co-ordinated actions, messages, images and other forms of signalling or engagement intended to inform, influence or persuade selected audiences to support national objectives’


Strategic communications

Understanding audiences and harnessing our assets to engage and influence them: our definition of strategic communication

Strategic Communications

Communication covers words, images and public actions. It includes public information, public affairs, information operations, defence diplomacy, soft power activities and diplomatic campaigning.

  • Systematic: planned strategies – short, medium and long-term

  • Delivering Objectives; focused on FCO/HMG priorities

  • Understanding audiences: research, polls, influencer mapping etc

  • Connecting with them: via combined HMG efforts, PD Partners, Commonwealth & Chevening, Posts, Ministers, credible voices - using channels they consume

  • Change attitudes/behaviours: delivering and measuring our impact

  • Systematic: planned strategies – short, medium and long-term

  • Delivering Objectives; focused on HMG priorities

  • Understanding audiences: research, polls, influencer mapping etc

  • Connecting with them: via combined HMG efforts, PD Partners, Commonwealth & Chevening, Posts, Ministers, credible voices - using channels they consume

  • Change attitudes/behaviours: delivering and measuring our impact

‘The systematic and coordinated use of all

means of communication to deliver UK objectives

by influencing the attitudes and behaviours of

individuals, groups and states. Communication

covers words, images and public actions. It

includes public information, public affairs,

information operations, defence diplomacy, soft

power activities and diplomatic campaigning’.


The 5 ‘modes’ of and influence them: our definition of strategic communicationstratcomms we identified

  • Reassure: Public messaging designed to reassure and build trust in the institutions responsible for protecting the citizens of the UK

  • Prompt: Activities designed to engage UK individuals, communities and businesses to inform, alert and drive behaviours that build resilience

  • Indirect Influence: Activities that reduce the likelihood of actions against UK interests by building international influence (soft power)

  • Direct Influence – non state: Activities designed to change attitudes and influence the behaviours of individuals or groups, including those who are hostile or potentially hostile to the UK or are vulnerable to hostile messaging

  • Direct Influence – states: Communications in support of diplomatic efforts designed to influence friendly or hostile states, either on a bilateral or multi-lateral basis


10 practical principles …. and influence them: our definition of strategic communication

  • Clear and measurable communications objectives flowing from well-defined policy objectives

  • A strong evidence base, including understanding of drivers of attitudes and behaviours, and of competitors’ activity

  • Systematic evaluation applied to all activity

  • Systematic use of messages and narratives that resonate with target audiences to change attitudes and/or behaviour

  • Multi-skilled teams empowered to deliver quickly and flexibly


10 practical principles …. and influence them: our definition of strategic communication

  • Integration across Government, with policy and international partners

  • Innovative channels that connect with audiences and the use of powerful visual imagery:

  • Use of credible voices, brands and mechanisms that can connect with audiences effectively

  • Use of case studies of UK overseas activities eg development programmes, to generate trust and support UK objectives

  • Sharing of best practice techniques and examples to drive up standards across Government


‘A whole of Government effort’ involving policy and partners…

Plus GoP, NGOs, networks, international partners etc….



Strategic communications efforts contain big moments supported by ongoing activity

…your evolving story

…another chapter in…

Every activity is…

Ongoing dialogue


Learning the lessons from Libya supported by ongoing activity


Some principles were in evidence supported by ongoing activity

  • The presence of clear and measurable communications objectives flowing from well-defined policy objectives:

  • UN1973 mandate and subsequent objectives gave clarity on how the campaign should be pursued, the objective of which can be defined as ‘to support the UK role in NATO and the coalition to protect Libyan people, isolate Qadhafi, put pressure on him to step down and encourage those around him to defect’. Beneath this, specific target audiences were identified and communications objectives identified for each segment.


Some principles were in evidence supported by ongoing activity

  • Integration of plans and delivery across Government, with policy and with international partners; policy and communications officials from Cabinet Office, MoD, FCO, DfID, RICU, and others met immediately the crisis broke to form a co-ordinated strategy and response. This was chaired by the Cabinet Office Head of National Security Communications.

  • As a result, all appropriate resources and modes of operation were brought into play early and co-ordinated: these included:

    • plans for public communication,

    • influencing hostile actions and behaviours,

    • deployment of soft power assets (in particular, DfiD’s humanitarian assistance, Chevening Scholars, Wilton Park, BBC World Service and, in the longer term, British Council and the Westminster Foundation for Democracy)

    • diplomatic campaigning (for instance, on the London Conference for Libya).


Some principles were in evidence supported by ongoing activity

  • Agile, multi-skilled teams empowered to deliver quickly and flexibility within governance frameworks; to escalate communications up the hierarchy rapidly, a senior FCO official was specifically appointed to head up a dedicated Libya strategic communications surge team at No10 and personnel seconded in from the FCO, Home Office, MoD and DfID.

    • Daily battle rhythm and weekly/monthly planning grids

    • Core script (updated daily to reflect events and audience insights) (Principle: development and systematic use of narratives that resonate with target audiences to change attitudes and/or behaviour

    • Daily media monitoring (with daily social media and Arab opinion boosters)

    • Weekly audience tracker

    • Competitive analysis

    • Liaison with international partners, NATO and INC


Some principles were in evidence supported by ongoing activity

  • Identification and activation of credible voices, brands and mechanisms that can connect with audiences effectively alongside HMG across all risks, together with proactive management of relationships with NGOs;

  • individuals and groups who were credible with target audiences were identified early and deployed; these included Libyan diaspora and defectors, ex-Ambassadors, commentators and NGOs (both in the UK and in the Middle East). These were regular deployed across media channels.

  • ‘Eyewitness series’ was created to maintain support across target audiences


Some principles were in evidence supported by ongoing activity

  • The use of innovative channels that are proved to connect with audiences and the use of powerful visual imagery:

  • digital diplomacy has been employed extensively to influence audiences, with all departments active in this area. The FCO’s digital capability in the Middle East acted both as a source of insight into audience attitudes and opinions and a channel to amplify messages.

  • In addition, technical assistance was supplied to the INC’s own London-based web team to advise them on their social media and web strategy. Equally, powerful images (such as human rights abuses in Misrata) were sourced and transmitted across all channels.


Thank you and questions supported by ongoing activity


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