Fol­low­ing Juncker’s ex­am­ple to be more me­dia-friendly

E DII TO RII A L

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

It is good to see that the new EU ex­ec­u­tive, just two days in of­fice, is lead­ing by ex­am­ple when it comes to im­prov­ing me­dia re­la­tions and com­mu­ni­cat­ing bet­ter with the dis­en­fran­chised pub­lic of more than 450 mln Euro­peans.

Its Pres­i­dent Jean-Claude Juncker has pledged to be more me­dia-friendly with his spokesper­sons no longer at­tached to Com­mis­sion­ers, but re­spon­si­ble for pol­icy ar­eas, cov­er­ing the work of more than one Com­mis­sioner. In all, thir­teen will speak on the record, most of them for­mer jour­nal­ists, while Juncker him­self is ex­pected to be more of­ten present in the press rooms in Brussels to meet the me­dia not only to de­liver the good news on achieve­ments, but also when prob­lems arise.

Ob­vi­ously, this comes out of the bat­ter­ing that the EU es­tab­lish­ment has had in the past few years of eco­nomic and other crises, with un­em­ploy­ment, youth and im­mi­gra­tion is­sues on the lips and minds of almost ev­ery Euro­pean cit­i­zen nowa­days.

This is prob­a­bly why the sem­i­nar last week on a “new era for gov­ern­ment, me­dia and com­mu­ni­ca­tion” in Nicosia was well timed, but partly went off course.

The event, hosted by the gov­ern­ment’s me­dia ma­chine – the Press and In­for­ma­tion Of­fice – and the Bri­tish High Com­mis­sion also high­lighted the short­falls of the Cyprus gov­ern­ment when it comes to not only talk­ing to the pub­lic, but also lis­ten­ing. With the majority in the hall ab­so­lutely clue­less about the need for frank and ef­fi­cient com­mu­ni­ca­tions, it was clear that some gov­ern­ment de­part­ments have not yet grasped the im­por­tance of con­vey­ing the right in­for­ma­tion to the con­sum­ing pub­lic, ei­ther through the tra­di­tional press or the so­cial me­dia plat­forms. One case in point was the lack of a round-the-clock press spokesman at the For­eign Min­istry, while one piti­ful ex­cuse given was that an­nounce­ments were posted on the min­istry web­site, but not after 2.30pm when pub­lic ser­vants go home.

Even the com­ments by the pres­i­den­tial com­mis­sioner for re­form that jug­gling be­tween news and pol­icy was a thin line, fell just short of im­ma­tu­rity, es­pe­cially com­ing from an al­legedly pro-business ad­min­is­tra­tion that is mov­ing at the same pace as the civil ser­vice and has yet to de­liver on many prom­ises, some 18 months in of­fice.

First of all, why the PIO re­sources are not bet­ter utilised to give out in­for­ma­tion ( and not nec­es­sar­ily pol­icy) is beyond rea­son, as in the past many of­fi­cials from the depart­ment have been sec­onded to var­i­ous gov­ern­ment of­fices to han­dle press and pub­lic in­for­ma­tion. Per­haps some min­is­ters pre­fer to en­joy the ego-trip of fif­teen seconds of fame and a news clip on popular TV.

On the other hand, the ad­vi­sor brought in from the UK, Alex Aiken, said it all: “The key el­e­ments of a suc­cess­ful gov­ern­ment com­mu­ni­ca­tions strat­egy are to pro­mote, ex­plain and jus­tify ac­tions and de­ci­sions.”

This is a civil ser­vant, who has an opin­ion but does his job pro­fes­sion­ally, re­gard­less of po­lit­i­cal ide­ol­ogy. In the UK, he said, his col­leagues are bound by a code of con­duct and en­joy the con­fi­dence of the min­is­ters. Greater still, they are not afraid to speak their mind when they be­lieve a se­nior gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial (or even the PM him­self) may have put his foot in it, with all the neg­a­tive reper­cus­sions for an ad­min­is­tra­tion this may have had. After all, it’s all about project a clear and hon­est im­age. Some­thing to learn about…

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