Special Reports

IPRI Trainings: Workshop Series on Strategic Communications and Call for a New Media Strategy

The Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI) plays a significant role in planning conferences, workshops, lectures, and research that affects public policy regarding varying themes of governance, economics, conflict and peace. IPRI was founded in June 1999. The institute is committed to researching, analyzing, and evaluating emerging strategic issues and regional and global events relevant to Pakistan's national interest and policy. A two-day workshop on strategic communication was held in Islamabad on January 9 and 10, 2023.

The workshop aimed at evaluating the narrative-building strategies Pakistan should employ to further its national goals. Digital journalism and storytelling were among the topics of discussion along with Developing through Dialogue and Advocacy, Understanding the Social Media Landscape-From Democratization to Disinformation; StratCom in Foreign Policy; Understanding Medium Shift in Narrative Building; and Governance, Policymaking, and Strategic Communications.
The Director of Advocacy and Communications, IPRI wrapped up the first day with an introduction to the workshop and a primer on strategic communications, followed by three sessions led by well-known media and policy specialists. 
Mr. Talha Ahad, the founder and CEO of Pakistan's first digital news network, The Centrum Media, was one of the presenters. He spoke on the numerous meanings of digital journalism and storytelling and how it creates and shapes the narratives surrounding us. The influence, impact, and ideas of journalism and storytelling have changed due to the development of digital media, dissemination, and accessibility of such mediums. Moreover, the concepts, theories, and applications of Strategic Communication in this sector were explained in the session. 
Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi, a motivational speaker and recipient of the Nelson Mandela Award, also gave an impassioned speech on Developing through Dialogue and Advocacy. He concentrated on advocacy and activism, which are instrumental in drawing attention to social problems and influencing the behavior. Advocacy and activism–also known as behavioral change interventions–influence stories, behaviors, people, societies, and states. 
A brief session on understanding the social media landscape was also presented by Mr. Waqas Jan, a public relations practitioner associated with Pakistan's first-ever internet observatory, monitoring trends and fake news across the digital sphere. In this session, issues with digital media, from bot account activity to false news and Twitter trends, the evolving nature of information and information warfare, and the multifaceted function that strategic communication plays at this level, were discussed. 
Mr. Baqir Sajjad, Dawn's foreign affairs correspondent, opened the second day by highlighting the importance of strategic communications in foreign policy, including the role of soft power, and effective strategic communications through diplomats, etc. 
Panelists from prominent newsgroups, including senior editor from The News, Amir Ghauri, senior journalist Essa Hasan Naqvi, and senior producer Aoun Sahi, participated in the group discussion session on comprehending the medium shift in narrative building. 

Dr. Adnan Rafiq led a session on governance, policymaking, and strategic communications, while Spokesperson Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, gave the keynote address. The special session by Ambassador Mumtaz Zahra Baloch focused on how strategic communication operates at the state level, as well as insight into the value of public diplomacy and the influence of advocacy and strategic communication in the policy circles. It will also demonstrate Pakistan's global attempts to promote its narrative and stories. 
The event was led by Ambassador Dr. Raza Muhammad, President of IPRI, and Director of Research Dr. Raashid Wali Janjua, Mr. Siddique Humayun, Director StratCom IPRI, Ambassador Asif Durrani. Media specialists, journalists, editors and other notables participated in the event. Certificates were also distributed among the 50 participants, selected from 500 applicants from renowned departments and institutions. 
Throughout the conference, decision-makers and media experts made remarks about the value of effective media communication. The guests stressed the role social media development, communication, and strategic discourse play in determining the national narrative. Furthermore, discussions on non-state actors, fake news, propaganda, and media repression that work against the geostrategic goals were held. With the advent of digitalization, foreign policy procedures have evolved. Proactive strategic communications could support Pakistan in safeguarding its geostrategic objectives and adjusting to new statehood realities.
Key Takeaways
▪  Effective strategic communications could help Pakistan protect its geostrategic objectives and adapt to the emerging geopolitical circumstances.
▪  Development of narratives aided by digital journalism and exposure to digital media assists in reorienting the core principles of journalism, narrative structuring and storytelling.
▪  The most deeply ingrained social faultline in Pakistan, which has a diverse and multiethnic population, is intolerance. As a result, tolerance can be restored through well-crafted communication.
▪  As a result of digitalization, conventional methods of diplomacy in foreign policy have evolved. The state must therefore concentrate on digital diplomacy and its tactical forms of strategic communication.
▪  Our social fabric is impacted by fake news and Twitter trends, which have been studied using sentiment analysis and data mapping. Due to the growth of citizen journalism and easy access to broadcast technologies, fake news and misinformation have become more prevalent.
▪ To counter the dissemination of misinformation on social media, we must enact frameworks and laws that censure fake news. In the light of this, mainstream media stakeholders should support the shift of the current media landscape toward digital media.


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