StratComms: ‘Citizen-government dialogue is more crucial to the reform process than ever before’

March 09, 2021

Since its launch in 2014, the European Union Advisory Mission in Ukraine (EUAM Ukraine) has progressively expanded the field expertise it shares with its Ukrainian counterparts. In a joint effort to further the civilian security sector reform process, the Mission’s experts offer advice and mentoring in areas such as Domestic Security, Policing, Judiciary, Anti-Corruption, and Human Rights but also Strategic Communications. Here, one of EUAM Ukraine’s Strategic Communications Advisers, Hasse Resenbro, answers questions about this specialized subject and details how the Mission is investing in strengthening the “StratComms” capacity within its counterparts.

First, could you explain in a few words what “StratComms” means?

Hasse Resenbro: Strategic Communications (StratComms or StratCom) should not be confused with “communication strategy”. Whereas a communication strategy is a product (often a document) describing how communication can support an institution’s overarching strategy, strategic communication is a process. This Strategic Communications process takes place through the facilitation of advanced planning and the coordination of actions and activities put in place to satisfy the long-term strategic goal of the institution. These actions and activities are here mostly related to communication, but they can also include operational, logistical, and political initiatives.

As an example of how the counterpart’s communication capabilities are gradually expanded, the Mission’s StratComms Team has been working, since November 2020, with the Department of Patrol Police to strengthen their capacity to manage large-scale communication to the public.

What is the substance of your project with the Department of Patrol Police? What does it consist of?

H.R.: Within the coming weeks, the Department of Patrol Police will launch a comprehensive, multi-channel information campaign developed in collaboration with our StratComms Team and fully funded by EUAM Ukraine. Long and close cooperation with the National Police of Ukraine, including the Department of Patrol Police, is the platform on which we have been cooperating to plan and prepare the upcoming Road Traffic Safety campaign.

It is not a simple campaign, but an integrated, quite sophisticated almost three-month-long campaign effort covering five major cities and regions, and a considerable percentage of the population. Therefore, our aim, in this cooperation, has been to enhance the capacity within the police to manage the campaign planning and execution process in the future, as a prerequisite for embarking on the course towards a Strategic Communications approach.

Can you explain why StratComms is becoming even more important in EUAM Ukraine’s 2021-2023 mandate?

H.R.: Indeed, Strategic Communications is becoming an increasingly significant driver of the Ukrainian reform process. As such, Strategic Communications is foreseen to become a cross-cutting issue for the Mission in its work with its various Ukrainian partner institutions. In the coming mandate, EUAM Ukraine will boost its Strategic Communications capability in an effort to deliver comprehensive communication advice and support to the strategic level of the Mission’s counterparts.

“An increased level of straightforward public information contributes to building public trust in the institutions and allows the public to engage with the institutions and vice versa.” (Hasse Resenbro, EUAM Strategic Communications Adviser)

We see communication as an indispensable component of the reform process. Firstly, communication itself and the process of developing it opens up the institutions and fosters transparency. Secondly, an increased level of straightforward public information contributes to building public trust in the institutions and allows the public to engage with the institutions and vice versa. Everybody here realizes, that citizen-government dialogue is more crucial to the reform process than ever before.

What would be your message to Ukrainian institutions that might consider investing in Strategic Communications?

H.R.: We see that many Ukrainian Civilian Security Sector institutions already have improved their communication capabilities at the operational and tactical level. Nevertheless, a huge potential remains to be unlocked, if the institutions we advise can be capacitated to plan and integrate communication as part of their strategic decision-making process. To be strategic, communication needs to be elevated to the strategic level and change from a reactive to a pro-active instrument.

Integrated public information campaigns are one of several effective mechanisms to execute Strategic Communications. If applied at the right time, in the right dose, and towards a carefully defined target audience, such campaigns can contribute to behavioural changes in support of national interests such as reform, improved security, welfare, or health for the citizens. For this reason, EUAM invests in building capacity within its counterparts to plan, prepare, execute and measure the impact of public information campaigns.