In a debt crisis, you lose your freedom, sovereignty - and money too: Dr. Portas

-     Use traditional and social media judiciously to manage financial crises, PDGCF told

Effective communication through judicious use of traditional and social media during financial crises can preserve the freedom and sovereignty of nations, the Public Diplomacy and Government Communication Forum (PDGCF) was told in Dubai.

Addressing a plenary session on Crisis Communications: Managing Financial Crises at the Forum on Sunday, Dr. Paulo Portas, former Deputy Prime Minister of Portugal, said: “Every time you have a debt crisis, you lose your freedom and sovereignty, and money too”.

The prominent Portuguese media and political figure, often called by governments to advise on managing financial crises, said governments should establish a strategy to reduce the potential of risk and raise the potential of communication.

Importance of Perception
“In the digital era, perceptions are more relevant than facts.  To face or overcome financial crises, coordinate your communication with multilateral agencies, international funding agencies and communicate directly to the public.”

Messages to different people sometimes are contradictory. If you are expecting a major crisis, don’t be contradictory. The best case is the International Monetary Fund (IMF) when it issued communication on austerity. The results were bizarre. The technical team was contradicting the political statements - which caused confusion among people.

“Concentrate on truth, and be transparent. The government and the nation can solve the problem, and then it’s the victory of the nation. So, solve it together, or collapse together,” he said.

Dr. Portas said the main battle is not on the traditional media, which can cannibalise social media. The battle has to be won on social media rather than on the traditional media. 

One Goal, One Message
“If you wish to solve the problem, establish one goal, one message. Choose one goal and never abandon it, particularly in the case of financial bailouts. “

Dr. Portas emphasised the need for effective choice of language. “Avoid ‘technocratic’ language to communicate like Credit Default Swap, which is not understood by common men. “

He also advised government to explain the cause of crises and ask people to accept them, but with one condition - to make sacrifices. “When asking for sacrifices, you should also share sacrifices,” he warned.

The Forum
Organised by the Government of Dubai Media Office (GDMO), the Forum looks at a range of communication issues that governments encounter in the light of recent political, social, environmental and security developments.

The event discusses communication success stories and learnings from major campaigns, crises and events. The Public Diplomacy and Government Communication Forum brings together ministers, senior government officials, academics and experts in the fields of communications and media from the region and across the world.

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