In 2003, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs drafted its very first communication plan. The concept was to add objectives other than the Ministry’s typical communisations on Italian foreign policy and Ministry activities by its Press and Information Service.
The 2003 plan had two main goals:
- to offer more efficient services by facilitating internal communication between the head office, embassies and consulates, and improving the quality of the consulates’ communication to the public
- to underpin Italy’s role during its six-month Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
The 2004 Communication Plan takes into account the experience accrued over the previous year. It pays special attention to the use of Intranet to reinforce internal communication and share organisational experience and practices to help improve relations with private citizens and businesses. The new, completely redesigned Ministry web site completes this new approach.
In part, the 2004 Plan provides continuity with the 2003 Plan’s contents and methodology. There is continuity of content since the Ministry’s goal of improving services by more effective communication is a permanent one. There is continuity of methodology because the Ministry has adopted the formula of creating working groups for specific projects, operating under the direction of the office for communication coordination set up in December 2002.
Along with the elements needed for continuity, the 2004 Communication Plan aims at creating coordinated image and communication activity, not only in the Ministry’s more visible sectors, but also in those generally ignored.
Specific initiatives will be launched in 2004 within the sphere of relations with the public, internal communication and training in the public relations and communications sectors.
2004 Communication Plan Guidelines
- Develop an integrated image of Ministry activity
- Invest in communication to promote Italian language and culture
- Strengthen internal communication and the exchange of best practices to improve services to citizens
Guideline 1: Develop an Integrated Image of Ministry Activity
The goal is to project an integrated image abroad, one that uses an easily recognised logo and graphic design and that provides a coordinated response to requests from the public. A series of actions will be used to pursue this goal:
1. Promote Ministry-related events.
2. Explain Ministry activities to the public.
3. Expand the Office for Relations with the Public.
4. Invest in public relations and communication training
5. Reinforce the network of embassies and consulate web sites.
6. Assess public response.
Guideline 2: Invest in Communication to Promote Italian Culture
The present government has made culture a key building block of its foreign policy, paying special attention to the great potential that Italy can draw from its cultural heritage and the need for closer ties between Italy’s culture and its economy.
The cultural activity of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is aimed first of all at reinforcing Italy’s general image as a European country, one of the world’s most developed, with solid cultural roots in the past that denote its national identity and hence its international standing.
This general effort is associated with distinctive cultural initiatives undertaken by the Italian Institutes of Culture in sectors such as cinema, publishing, science and technology, wine and food, industrial design, architecture, theatre and opera. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs examines the important economic implications of all these areas with special attention and care.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also makes the network of the eighty-nine Italian Institutes of Culture available to other institutions and bodies working to foster appreciation of Italian culture. These include Italy’s regional and local governments, universities and cultural associations.
Finally, the fourth “Week of Italian Language throughout the World”, traditionally held in autumn, will attract attention to the growing demand for Italian language studies in most countries, also involving the world of culture. In addition, it will also marshal the efforts of thousands of public and private, Italian and foreign operators who work to spread knowledge of our language abroad.
Guideline 3: Expand Internal Communication and Communication with the Public to Improve Services to the Citizenry
A consumer care campaign dedicated to the consular service was started in 2003 and will continue in 2004. Communication plays a primary role in improving the quality of the service offered by Italian consulates. Thanks to the Ministry’s Intranet system, information between the main office and those abroad is exchanged more rapidly, and hence reaches the consulates sooner. That makes it possible to use solutions already tested elsewhere for similar problems (better procedure), provide consulates with immediate consultation on current legislation and procedures; identify common rules of conduct in relations with the public and use of technology.
In addition, a section dedicated to communication (termed MAECOM) was set up in the Ministry Intranet system in 2003. A survey/questionnaire was circulated to identify the problems that consulates deal with repeatedly in their relations with the public. The result was the creation of a special computer program containing all the legal information needed by the consular section.
In 2004, special attention will be given to Italians who travel or live abroad, providing them with information on variations in security and security assessment by the Ministry’s Crisis Unit.