Thursday marked the first day of the European Digital Diplomacy Exchange Road show program, with a training organised in Sarajevo. The activities took place in the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina from morning to midday. Participants joining the event came from different ministries and state institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but surely had at least one thing in common: interest for the fast developing subject of digital diplomacy and enthusiasm to learn new skills through the sharing of best practices.
The event was opened with an introduction to the past work of the overall project. As mentioned by Ms Ingrid Omahna from the Centre for European Perspective, who has been closely involved with the project from the beginning, the aim of the European Digital Diplomacy Exchange is bringing different stakeholders, public affairs officers of state institutions, PR representatives of ministries and other decision makers to the same table, to work on the challenges and opportunities the digital world enables. The project has already included representatives from multiple countries and different institutions in past trainings, meanwhile the road show training will be composed of two day trainings for individual countries.
The sessions on Thursday were initially based on a historical overlook of the media space, it´s developments, opportunities/challenges and also a sneak peek to the future possibilities. Certainly technological developments, among which the rising popularity of social media platforms is only one piece of the puzzle, have brought a considerable change in the lives of people. The environment that enabled the public audiences to only be a listener in traditional media monologues in the past have grown into a dialogue, that enables active citizens. This positive change also brings a challenge for state institutions who need to actively deliver on their promise for active representation of their audiences, also through participation in social media platforms and other public sphere channels in order to contribute to a future that listens to audiences, and embraces a future closest to the interest of all the citizens.
The participants were also included in a workshop on rhetoric and polished their communication skills. Both the lectures were presented by Mr Matt Jacobs coming from the U.S. State Department, who has also worked on the project from the very beginning. Today´s programme was also spiced with the experience of Dr Jasmin Mujanović, from Elon University, who has gained the attention of the general public through his activism and participation on social media, and New media editor Mr Alexandar Brezar. Both speakers, who joined the discussion in a digital fashion, with an online conference call, presented their personal overview on the challenges, threats but also opportunities new digital trends have in store for the digital diplomacy of tomorrow.
The training on Friday marked the second and last day of the event in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The program of the day was composed of two discussions. The first was organized by Matt Jacobs on how to develop effective messaging campaigns. Effective communicating of anyone working in the digital realm is highly dependent on their skills and experience to understand how this fast evolving realm is developing. Some of the messages of the day were how to approach communication with a structured and conceptual way. The personnel working as PR officers or those, who are a digital ombudsman of their institution in another way should also strive to work on the long run and not only focus on the audiences engagement on particular messages that can be highly rewarding or disappointing. As Mr Jacobs stated, this is a constant balance between output (actual posts, number of engaging articles) and outcomes (the wished engagement of audiences and their feedback on a certain issue), that should be kept in balance. One thing is certain, many output does not necessarily correlate to massive outcome, but without output thinking of any outcome would be fruitless. Reaching the right balance therefore rests in the hands of each institution, to find a recipe that fits their needs and especially the needs of their audiences.
The second discussion tackled Digital disinformation, an elephant in the room of today’s reality and societies. As Mr Darjan Vujica said, on the base of his wide experience on this topic from his analytical work in the U.S. Department of State, disinformation is not new. It has been present in past timelines, only using different platforms. Today´s technically led world only enables much more opportunities for individuals who work with this type of false informing, making disinformation as easy as ever. The topic revolved on the experience of the speaker, sharing of good practices and the participation of the training participants that exposed the challenges they are experiencing. The participants reached out to the trainers during the overall training, touching upon topics from how to develop a more supportive environment for those working as digital diplomats within their institutions, to being very practical on how to build engagement and bring as much of their audiences to the table, to build transparency to the real extent of the name. The program that ended on this day left everyone, both trainers as participants, more informed about digital diplomacy and their work within this fascinating field, learning from one another to tackle the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow in a more constructive manner.