In the current digital environment effective, up-to-date, and engaging communication is a must for all international actors as well as peace operation missions, which need to have a favourable public opinion to effectively achieve their goals. Even though the communication tools we have at our disposal are not new anymore, we still need to learn, develop and adapt to the constantly changing digital environment. Times of underestimation of strategic communication are gone. Actors need to be relevant by keeping in mind that what happens in virtual spaces may transcend into reality, and vice versa. The digital environment is fast changing, unpredictable, and intertwined with reality. Therefore, communicators have to be now more skilled than ever to maintain a high level of public trust by engagement with local and foreign audiences.
Successful strategic communication benefits every entity that exercises it – government, international organizations, private companies, or peace operations and missions. The goal of strategic communication is to establish a trustworthy relationship with the audiences by engaging with them in a timely, transparent and open manner. In the case of the peace operation missions, an opportunity presents itself to better utilize information technologies for strategic communication to increase support of the domestic and foreign public and increase its legitimacy. Improved communication would increase the effectiveness of the strategic communication and would not only help missions achieve greater public support and trust, but significantly contribute to achieving their mandate.
To effectively communicate in strategic manner, solely acquiring technological hardware and software is not enough. Missions need to recalibrate their communication efforts and address the question of “why to communicate” in greater detail, develop communication strategy based on the answers and make necessary organizational shifts. They need to take into account that, due to the rapid development of digital technologies, environment in which they operate has significantly changed. Increase of information warfare, and constantly changing digital landscape demand an organizational shift, where strategic communication should be set among the core mission activities.
Faced with many (communication) challenges, missions need to address the most pressing ones such as institutional organization that is not in favour of embracing strategic communication, lack of personnel, skills, training, and no policy, guidelines, monitoring and evaluation of communication activities. Their mandates, compositions and institutional cultures are also factors to be considered.
The course on Digital Communications in Civilian Crisis Management will provide up-to-date communication knowledge for peace operation missions’ communication experts with the aim of enhancing their strategic communication skills with a special focus on digital communication and establishment of a stronger presence of the mission in the digital space.