Stick to the Script – What’s Going on at NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division

By JCuvilly

Well, my summer international experience has officially come to an end. My final visit has landed me along with the MAIGC posse to NATO. After going through a serious security screening, we were permitted on the campus of the organization. I really wanted everyone to walk in single file, as it seemed most appropriate given the high security measures and my self contrived thoughts of what NATO is and what they do. Prior to this visit, when I heard of NATO images of soldiers from allied countries (including the U.S.) fighting wars was in my mind. After this visit, I now know NATO is responsible for more.

NATO is the North American Treaty Alliance and defines itself as a political and military alliance between its 28 member countries. As a part of this alliance the 28 member countries meet regularly to ensure the security and democracy of their countries are protected. The member countries work together in consensus to share defense resources, manage crises by developing partnerships in support of disaster relief and preparedness, and counter piracy in addition to other active initiatives. NATO continues to enhance its processes and reassess its relevance to sustain and grow the alliances partnerships and member countries.

With all the work being done at NATO, one can understand how communication is important in sharing the work the member organizations are doing. To ensure communication is fluid between the public and media, NATO has a division of public diplomacy. I learned that before the Cold War, communication was not as fluid and not widely available publicly. The Cold War did change the way communication was done because NATO continues to place an emphasis on communicating with messages the average citizen of its member organizations can understand.

NATO’s rather large public diplomacy division handles press and media relations and public engagements and visitors (like our group). NATO appears to use its public engagements as opportunities to educate the public about its true missions and dispel the perceptions that exist concerning the alliance. Another way NATO interacts with the public is by responding to inquiries on social media and via email. On the press and media relations side, NATO focuses on providing global reach and using modern approaches to reach journalists. They share developing insights with journalists promptly and accurately using the media relations staff and a dedicated NATO spokesperson. The public diplomacy office speaks on behalf of all members, so therefore it is important for them to relay clear and respectful messages that cover national interests. The office also prepares speaking notes for the Secretary General, any public statements, and develops contingency lines. NATOs credibility resides in the accuracy of its messages. The division has an important responsibility to ensure that messages presenting the uniform and concise position of the member organizations is of utmost importance. At NATO, sticking to the developed script is a best practice for communicating with the public and media.

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