We cannot afford failure on the international media front

Khalid Dalal (Photo: JNews)
The most recent crisis, in which the country’s stability and security were targeted, was nipped in the bud. But the crisis, nonetheless, has highlighted various issues that we should swiftly pay attention to, and aptly address.اضافة اعلان

One of the most serious of these is overseas media coverage of our domestic affairs. There was our exposed side, where we received a painful punch.

Report after report, quoting anonymous and sometimes suspicious sources, has claimed things that turned out to be totally groundless. National mainstream outlets have played a very minimal role, and have been ignored by the masses that emigrated to international media outlets, or unfortunately, to non-professional social media channels to know what is going on.

Objectively and honestly, Jordan’s influence on the international media circles is not vigorous enough and can be better. In the time of crises, it suffers failures, something that is preventable if this vital file is handled well.

Building productive ties with influential global media outlets is the key to influence, and communication and interaction with these organizations should be persistent, well planned and goal-oriented. Contacting them, or reacting to their stories, only when there is a crisis, is counterproductive. There are rules that govern the management of foreign press’ coverage of events, and we should take that into consideration in order to succeed.

The most important rule here is that the Western media in particular, which are the more powerful and, subsequently, credible, listen to you when you deal with them promptly and ably. They accept no nonsense, and nonsense backfires. From experience, direct, to-the-point narratives are the best policy when you deal with foreign reporters from influential newspapers, radios, and TV networks, or other outlets.

When business is as usual and there are no emergency situations, officials should not fear being interviewed by the foreign press. Sometimes the language barrier is a problem, but that is manageable. At their leisure and in their “free” time, politicians can arrange background, deep background, or off-the-record interviews, which are safe and very useful in placing matters in their proper context. This will help a lot, and what would be more valuable is to keep in touch with the journalists interested in our country, even casually. Use such rapport to deliver subtle messages every now and then to ensure the targeted reporter or columnist grasps the big picture, and when the moment comes, it is likely that these opinion leaders will ask the right questions, and publish a reliable story that includes our side’s views.

Op-eds are another effective tool. Media advisers of senior officials should be fighting to secure a spot or airtime for their bosses to speak for Jordan. On the other hand, we should build bridges with widely read columnists, who can do the job for us in most cases, if we play it smart.

There are other principles and rules that govern foreign press management. Among them: Do not leave anything to chance. Strategic planning and preemptive action executed at the institutional level do magic. The state should contemplate every scenario possible and be ready with its narrative. After all, the golden rule in media is that the narrative that goes public first is the strongest and most convincing.

To achieve it all, maybe a special bureau at the Prime Ministry should be formed, to be run by a minister perhaps, to deal with international media, acting as the government’s senior coordinator for international media and communication. This official’s mandate should be drafting and implementing an annual strategy to communicate with media overseas, think tanks, and decision-making circles in influential capitals across the world. Messages should be communicated with these parties following full coordination with concerned state departments, including Jordan’s embassies in the target countries; and in a way that serves higher national interests.

History has taught us that we have numerous enemies. Accordingly, we have to have our arsenal ready, including tools to influence international media for our benefit. This is a winnable battle, given the great esteem Jordan and His Majesty King Abdullah enjoy worldwide. This is a privilege that we can take advantage of to drum up support for our causes in the world’s decision-making centers. Let’s not wait till it is too late.

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