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Author Christopher Paul discusses strategic communication

On Tuesday, May 24, 2011, author Christopher Paul, Ph.D. spoke at IWP about his new book Strategic Communication: Origins, Concepts, and Current Debates (Praeger, 2011).  Dr. Paul, who earned his doctorate in sociology from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2001, is a social scientist for the RAND Corporation. His remarks at IWP came as part of the work of the Institute’s Center for Culture and Security.

He shared three foundational premises of the book: that how the US presents itself abroad matters, that our nation needs to do a better job at presenting itself, and that there is not much agreement about the details of how to improve strategic communication.

Dr. Paul described several core elements of strategic communication, including its constituent elements of informing, influencing, and persuading; its demand for clear objectives and coordination; and the reality that actions can communicate as powerfully as words.  In his remarks, he explained different ideas of what strategic communication should encompass, and shared his own vision for strategic communication.

Dr. Paul reviewed some of the challenges for implementing strategic communication in the government, including anti-American sentiment and the lack of a clear strategy.  The Department of Defense faces specific difficulties of its own, including a traditional hard power focus within the department, legal constraints, and the difficulty of matching message, audience, and medium. 

Solutions for these various challenges, said Dr. Paul, involve knowing one’s target audience, implementing a strategy in a region from the beginning of an operation, understanding key branding concepts, and applying discipline in communication practices.

In addition, Dr. Paul offered some broad recommendations, such as the need for an end goal, for commanders to embrace strategic communication, for clear objectives, and for a government-wide definition of and strategy for strategic communication.