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Theoretical Implications of Strategic Communication Part 3: Cutting SC Down to Size

March 27, 2011

Just to finish off (for now anyway) my thoughts about the rise of the concept of strategic communication part 1 here and part 2 here

  1. The problem of multiple objectives can’t be resolved by better coordination (although better coordination is desirable) it comes from the fact that countries have multiple  objectives.  It then follows that states have to make choices and tradeoffs between objectives.  It is important not to allow the military aspects of strategic communication to limit the recognition of the set of relevant objectives at the national level;  for instance economic objectives (exports, investment, tourism)  will feed into the trade offs that need to be made.  For example giving prominence to communications and actions focused on combating violent extremism  might undermine the attractiveness of the US as a place to invest, work or study in.  Deciding how to make these tradeoffs is the role of politics.
  2. Hence rather than seeing strategic communication as an overarching national level concept it is better seen as something that should be conceptualized  at theatre, operational or issue levels.  The consequence is that the employment of these means is subordinate to national level objectives.   I get the impression that strategic communication has grown from something that operates at a theatre level to something that exists at a national level.  Of course this reflects the nature of the modern communication environment but also reflects the the absence of a national level strategic communication concept that has created space for an operational level concept to expand to fill the gap.
  3. What would a national level concept look like?  One idea would be for a national branding strategy that provide a context for (and limit on) subordinate strategic communication strategy.  The branding strategy would have the responsibility for balancing different priorities (and keeping the in mind that there is more to the US than combating violent extremism). At present there seems to be a tendency to see the US public diplomacy problem through the lens of CVE and neglect the strength of other aspects of the US position eg here and here.
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