By Augustine Holguine
All singing aside, the last establishment that we visited during our Brussels study tour was NATO. A lot of people, myself included prior to this visit, really did not understand the main purpose of NATO and what they do. During the first week and a half we visited government, no-profit organizations, public relations/ad firms, and multinational corporations and I received valuable information that I will apply to my future career. NATO is surprisingly an interesting organization. NATO was founded by the North Atlantic Treaty in 1949, and was originally headquartered in Paris and moved to Brussels in the sixties. (For more information about NATO check out their site http://www.nato.int/nato-welcome)
Allison Hart our main speaker, works as an information officer for the U.S. and Canada engagement section under the public diplomacy division. She gave us the history of NATO and why it was founded. All of the 12 founding member countries (currently 28) formed an alliance that if one country is attacked then all members will fight together to protect their rights, security, and freedom. Allison described the alliance as the 3 musketeers, all for one and one for all. Over the years NATO has evolved, but their commitment is still strong. They have 3 main tasks: collective defense, crisis management, and cooperative security. All 3 tasks are used in all of their operations. The public diplomacy division is similar to the U.S. embassy’s public diplomacy department, but with a different focus.
The second speaker Tony White, NATO’s press officer discuss with us the organization’s media relations. This department functions as the public relations department of NATO. Their responsible for press releases, delivering messages to political headquarters, and dealing/working with journalists. Oana Lungescu NATO’s spokesperson found time in her extremely busy schedule to talk us about her role as a spokesperson. She started out as a journalists, which gives her the advantage of understanding the objectives of all parties involved in the press in NATO. She understood the importance of using technology to reach the public. Mrs. Lungescu is an avid twitter user and occasionally has videos on YouTube. Mrs. Lungescu has a stressful, but rewarding job. Actively communicating with 28 countries is not an easy feat.
I appreciate and support all of the work and efforts of our military members, but I confess I was only slightly interested in the military for a multitude of reasons. Nevertheless, upon hearing the 3 speakers discuss their role in NATO, my interest in military affairs slightly increased. I will always have a strong interest in politics and international relations and who knows maybe one day military affairs might be an area of interest for me in 20 years.
Mrs. Lungescu left us with a few words of wisdom. The best journalists are the proactive ones and a good journalists/communicator should always think “Am I connected to the public?” Being proactive and having confidence is key and as she stated, ” don’t wait for the phone to ring.”