Strategic communications should become a more prominent component at the highest levels of government, at an early stage in the development of government strategies, during a crisis response or a contingency operation and generally as a critical component of policy-making, says a new Chatham House report.

Recent operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya have underlined that UK foreign policy goals cannot be achieved by military power alone. Increasingly important are non-military means and ‘soft’ power in order to connect with populations both at home and abroad. Strategic communications, correctly defined, are an integral part of this approach. 

Strategic Communications and National Strategy, aims to raise awareness of the role of strategic communications and clarify how it can contribute to facing future security challenges.

The report considers the contribution strategic communications can make to national security strategy in its broader sense as directed, managed and delivered not only by the highest levels of government but by all constituent pillars of governance, including the military, diplomacy and trade, throughout the policy process.

Although the UK government clearly has a good understanding of the importance of strategic communications, this understanding is relatively limited in its sophistication and imagination, and policy in turn proves difficult to coordinate and implement.

Key findings of the report include:

  • Strategic communications should become a more prominent component at the highest levels of government, at an early stage in the development of a complex stabilization or other operation, during a crisis response or a contingency operation and generally as an organic part of policy-making.
  • In addition to understanding the what, why and where of strategic communications, governments and strategic communicators across the policy process must be able to recognize the ‘who’: the audience to whom policy is addressed. Strategic communications must recognize the diversity in audiences and their different motivations, interests and ideas.
  • In planning government strategies and the delivery of policy, activities should be considered and undertaken as much for their communicative value as for their physical impact.
  • Strategic communications is not best achieved through a fixed, central structure – an ‘Office for Strategic Communications’ of some sort. It is the fostering of a strategic communications culture, rather than the design of more formal structures, that will promote the necessary changes in current practice.

Notes to Editors

Read Strategic Communications and National Strategy
Chatham House Report, Paul Cornish, Julian Lindley-French and Claire Yorke.

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