This site uses technical and analytics cookies.
By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies.

Communication is a foreign policy tool

The Foreign Ministry “promotes and defends Italy’s interests worldwide so must communicate to the world what Italy is and does. For us, communication never comes as an afterthought to decisions: it is an integral part of and helps determine them”. In short, said Manzo, “communication is a foreign policy tool”. The point was explained by the head of the MFA’s Press and Institutional Communication Service, Giuseppe Manzo. Manzo was speaking at “Communications Week”, a collective annual event that brings together the worlds of creativity, technology, publishing, art and design.

To represent Italians to best effect throughout the world, said Manzo, technology and its great potential must be exploited. “It offers us opportunities to speak to citizens directly and quickly”, he added. These opportunities are exploited in full by the Farnesina, following Minister Terzi’s lead, as shown by the 4 million hits on the MFA site, the 26,000 Twitter followers, and the 50 MFA offices with an account on at least one social media channel.

Sites that serve citizens

“And there’s another challenge”, explained Manzo, “which we do not want to lose at a time when the distance between citizens and government is becoming greater and greater – rightly or wrongly […] That challenge is to explain that the MFA, which in the collective imagination is a closed place, a place of secrets and strange negotiations on issues that are hard to understand […] is actually a service centre for citizens and businesses”. This is the principal that inspires “sites at the service of citizens”, like those of the Crisis Unit, with the “Safe Travelling” and “Where we are in the world” portals. And which serve business too, with the new “Innovitalia” platform.

“This work is being taken forward by using the skills and expertise of our people to best effect. The MFA’s communications system is poor in material resources but rich in ideas and knowledge. And it is capitalising on these assets”. As Manzo, who is the Minister’s spokesperson, underscored, “the MFA’s budget amounts to 0.21% of state spending. In France the figure is 1.78%, in Germany 1.1%. Spain and Holland, too, spend proportionately more on foreign policy”.

“Is Government a maker?”

Manzo gave a presentation at the workshop entitled ““Is Government a maker?”. Also taking part were Serenella Ravioli, head of Institutional Communications at the Ministry of Home Affairs; Guido Schwarz, spokesperson for the Minister for Education, Universities and Research; Roberto Basso communications adviser of the Minister for Territorial Cohesion; and the head of the Ministry for Economic Development’s multimedia department, Emanuele Cigliuti.

The event opened with a video featuring interviews with Ministers Cancellieri, Passera, Profumo, Barca and Terzi. The video highlighted a previously unknown quantity: their knowledge of and familiarity with the new communication technologies. Terzi defined the new smartphones and tablets as “essential working tools” that keep you connected and informed wherever you are. Also important are social media channels like Facebook, where the MFA had 300,000 interactions.

The most innovative best practice

In a discussion moderated by Stefano Epifani, lecturer in communications technology at UniversitàLa Sapienza, the speakers illustrated some of the most innovative communications best practices being tested by the Ministries involved.

Opening up to social networks, transparency, open data and the involvement of citizens are some of the new communication approaches adopted. By using the new channels, government departments have an opportunity to convey messages rapidly, cut costs and enable greater sharing of information and engagement with and by the public, especially young people.

Examples discussed during the debate included:

– “Twiplomacy”, the innovative use of Twitter by Italian diplomacy; “Innovitalia”, the platform for Italian researchers worldwide;
– “Agent Lisa”, the virtual police officer who interacts with users on Facebook on security issues;
– “Dashboard”, a project that brings together the dossiers of the Ministries of Transport and Economic Development and thus simplifies communication;
– OpenCoesione, the first Italian portal on the implementation of the investments made by the Regions and central government.

You might also be interested in..