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The Power of Strategic Communication in Palestine

Harnessing the Potential of Local-Centric Communication

By Ali Ghaith

As we celebrate the 300th edition of This Week in Palestine (TWiP), it is only fitting to consider the power of communication and the role of words as vehicles for change. Over the years, as a consultant in advocacy, media, and communication, I have had the privilege of observing and assisting local and international organizations in amplifying their messages and achieving their goals through strategic communication.

Communication is a potent instrument that can build or erode presence; it is a fundamental aspect of human interaction that is essential to the success of any organization or advocacy effort. In an era of information overload, selecting the appropriate communication channel and crafting the right message suited for that channel is more crucial than ever.

Given the dynamic and complex nature of the Palestinian context, the ability of international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) and the donor community to acclimate and respond to emerging issues and opportunities is of utmost importance. Moreover, strategic communication enables these organizations to adapt their messaging and tactics to the changing environment, ensuring that their interventions remain relevant and practical. This adaptability is indispensable to navigate Palestine’s complex sociopolitical environment and address the population’s diverse needs.

Since 1948, the media landscape in Palestine has undergone significant changes due to shifting political, social, and technological contexts. Likewise, the significance of the written press has evolved, with digital media shaping the future of journalism in the region.

In the aftermath of the 1948 Nakba, the written Arabic press played a vital role in disseminating information, mobilizing public opinion, and safeguarding Palestinian identity. During this turbulent period, Arabic-language newspapers such as Filastin and Al-Jihad were essential in keeping Palestinians informed and connected.

After the 1967 Naksa and Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the Palestinian media landscape changed dramatically. Numerous newspapers were closed, and journalists faced censorship and work restrictions. Yet, despite these obstacles, the written press remained an essential medium for Palestinians to express their views, advocate for their rights, and record their struggle for self-determination.

Following the 1993 Oslo Accords, the establishment of the Palestinian Authority (PA) ushered in a new era for Palestinian media. With the support of the PA, a more diverse media landscape emerged, marked by the introduction of contemporary newspapers and the expansion of television and radio stations. The written press continued to play a crucial role in informing the public and facilitating political debate, despite political interference and self-censorship challenges.

In the twenty-first century, digital technology has substantially impacted the Palestinian media landscape. The rise of online news platforms, social media, and citizen journalism has expanded the scope of information reach and given Palestinians new avenues to express their opinions and engage with the global community. However, this change has presented difficulties for the traditional written press, as newspapers struggle to adapt to shifting consumer preferences and must compete with digital sources for audiences and revenue.

Strategic communication is crucial for INGOs and the donor community in Palestine.

The proliferation of online news platforms and citizen journalism presents several implications and challenges that can affect the quality of journalism as a whole. Primary concerns include a lack of accountability and regulation, the decline of local news, and the potential for privacy breaches.

To preserve high-quality journalism in the digital age, it is essential to invest in journalism education, promote ethical standards, and encourage collaboration between traditional news organizations and digital platforms, ensuring that the public has access to trustworthy, accurate, and diverse information sources.

Since 1948, the written English-language press in Palestine has played a significant role in bridging the information gap, advocating for Palestinian rights, connecting with the global community, diversifying perspectives, and adapting to the digital era. By making information accessible to a larger audience and presenting alternative viewpoints, the English-language press has promoted comprehension, dialogue, and collaboration. In an increasingly interconnected world, incorporating digital platforms and new formats has allowed these publications to maintain relevance and reach a larger audience. TWiP is a model Palestinian publication, having endured for more than two decades while adapting to technological developments.

TWiP plays an essential role in the Palestinian media landscape as a credible, reliable, and multifaceted communication tool.

To remain relevant in the digital age, however, the written press must continue to adopt new technologies, diversify its content, and adapt to the preferences of an ever-changing audience. Developing a robust online presence, embracing multimedia storytelling, emphasizing investigative journalism, providing personalized content, employing AI and machine learning (in information gathering, fact-checking, content personalization, newsroom automation, and more), exploring innovative revenue models, collaborating with digital platforms, focusing on niche markets and local news, investing in training and upskilling, and fostering a culture of innovation are essential strategies. By implementing these forward-thinking techniques, the written press, including newspapers and magazines in either Arabic or English, can maintain its status as a dependable information source and adapt to the rapidly changing digital landscape in Palestine.

Strategic communication is an effective tool for advocacy and policy change. INGOs and the donor community can raise awareness of critical issues, shape public discourse, and influence policy decisions by constructing persuasive narratives and evidence-based arguments. This capacity to effect positive change is vital in the Palestinian context. Addressing the root causes of conflict and promoting a just and lasting peace requires the concerted efforts of all parties involved.

Public diplomacy, which includes cultural exchanges and soft-power initiatives to build relationships, understanding, and goodwill between nations, is one of the donor community’s most effective strategies. Public diplomacy permits influential members of the donor community to highlight their values, culture, and policies, fostering a positive image and advancing their political agendas. Historically, the United States has utilized public diplomacy tools such as the Fulbright Program, the International Visitor Leadership Program, the Middle East Partnership Initiative, and the Peace Corps to promote American values and support its foreign policy objectives.

By leveraging communication tools such as TWiP, organizations can highlight their projects, initiatives, and success stories, thereby attracting funding, support, and collaboration from various stakeholders.

Strategic communication, which involves the deliberate and coordinated use of messaging to influence perceptions, public opinion, and policy, is an additional crucial donor-community strategy. Key players can align their communications with their foreign policy objectives and garner support for their initiatives by crafting and disseminating targeted messages through multiple communication channels. For instance, the European Union’s External Action Service employs strategic communication to promote its foreign policy priorities, such as democracy, human rights, and sustainable development, and to counter disinformation and propaganda.

Communication facilitates dialogue, coordination, and joint action between various actors. Collaboration and multi-stakeholder engagement are essential donor strategies to advance political agendas and address global challenges. By forming alliances with governments, international organizations, civil society, and the private sector, key players can pool their resources, expertise, and influence to accomplish shared goals. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) illustrate the significance of partnerships and multi-stakeholder engagement in driving global progress, with effective communication being crucial for promoting cooperation and accountability.

Strategic communication also allows INGOs and the donor community to raise awareness and promote understanding of their work. By carefully crafting their messages, these organizations can present complex issues in a manner that is accessible and engaging to a wide range of audiences, including the general public, policymakers, and potential partners. In addition, a well-structured narrative can aid in establishing trust and credibility, which is crucial for organizations operating in Palestine’s challenging environment.

Furthermore, strategic communication enables organizations to influence public perceptions and attitudes. INGOs and donors can highlight the impact of their interventions and demonstrate the need for continued support by presenting compelling narratives and data-driven insights. This, in turn, can aid in the mobilization of resources, the attraction of partnerships, and the acquisition of political support, all of which are essential for addressing the complex challenges facing Palestine.

The intricate political, social, and economic dynamics of the Palestinian context pose unique challenges for INGOs and government representatives. These organizations must ensure that their messaging is sensitive to the local context and effectively tailored to resonate with their intended audiences by creating persuasive narratives that account for the complexities of the Palestinian situation and avoid potential pitfalls and misinterpretations.

Strategic communication fosters in the target audience a sense of ownership and agency. INGOs and donors can make their initiatives culturally sensitive and align them with the needs and aspirations of the Palestinian people by incorporating local perspectives and voices into their messaging. This inclusive approach promotes social cohesion and sustainable development in the region.

Building trust and credibility with local communities, partner organizations, and international stakeholders requires transparent and consistent communication. Effective communication is essential to fostering positive relationships between INGOs, government representative offices, and their diverse stakeholders in Palestine and can be achieved by developing targeted outreach campaigns, designing stakeholder engagement activities, and creating dialogue and collaboration opportunities that contribute to the organization’s overall mission and objectives.

Moreover, strategic communication facilitates collaboration and synergy between various Palestinian stakeholders. By articulating their objectives, strategies, and accomplishments, INGOs and the donor community can foster dialogue and coordination with local partners, international organizations, and other relevant actors. This collaborative approach can assist in maximizing the impact of their interventions, dissuading the duplication of efforts, and ensuring that resources are allocated efficiently and effectively.

It is impossible to overstate the significance of strategic communication efforts for INGOs and the donor community in Palestine. As these organizations are frequently at the forefront of initiating positive change, their ability to communicate effectively is essential to achieving their objectives. These organizations are able to convey their messages, engage their target audiences, and ultimately mobilize support for their causes as a result of their strategic communications efforts.

Looking ahead, the future of the written press in Palestine will likely be determined by its capacity for adaptation and innovation in the face of digital media. This may entail adopting new formats, such as online editions and multimedia narratives, and prioritizing investigative journalism and in-depth reporting, thereby distinguishing the written press from the rapid, often superficial nature of digital news. In addition, collaborations between traditional newspapers and digital platforms may provide the written press with new opportunities to capitalize on its strengths and engage a broader audience.

TWiP has established itself as a credible communication tool that plays a multifaceted role in the Palestinian media landscape. It is an indispensable communication tool for promoting and documenting the Palestinian experience locally and globally. With its thematic print and online publication formats, TWiP reaches a diverse audience that includes influencers, decision-makers, intelligentsia, and the global community. This platform has the potential to inspire and influence the development of Palestine, as well as promote investment opportunities and foster relationships with INGOs, donors, and their local partners in Palestine.

As a thematic publication, TWiP focuses on diverse aspects of Palestinian society, culture, politics, and economics. The magazine contributes to a more nuanced and thorough understanding of the Palestinian experience by providing in-depth analysis and well-researched articles. It also serves as a repository for Palestine’s historical, social, and political developments.

TWiP facilitates communication and understanding between local Palestinians and the international community through its broad reach, including over 50,000 online viewers worldwide. In addition, by providing accurate and reliable information, the magazine helps to challenge stereotypes and misconceptions about Palestine and fosters greater empathy and support for the Palestinian cause.

Credibility and reach make TWiP an attractive communication tool for INGOs, donors, and their local partners in Palestine. These organizations utilize this platform to increase their visibility and positioning throughout the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. By highlighting their projects, initiatives, and success stories, TWiP helps increase their work’s visibility, attract funding and support, and foster collaboration among various stakeholders.

TWiP’s online presence allows it to keep up with the growing preference for digital content consumption as the media landscape continues to change. By providing print and digital editions, the magazine caters to various audiences and maintains relevance in a competitive environment.

In conclusion, INGOs and official government representative offices that operate in Palestine require effective and strategic communication. Due to the region’s complex political, socioeconomic, and cultural nature, these organizations must harness the power of communication tools such as TWiP and utilize the knowledge of seasoned Palestinian communication professionals. By doing so, they will be able to navigate the complexities of the local context, cultivate positive relationships with stakeholders, increase awareness of their work, and ultimately contribute to meaningful change in Palestine. These organizations must recognize the importance of local-centric strategic communication in achieving their objectives and invest in the resources and expertise required to ensure success.

  • Ali Ghaith, the owner and chief consultant of AG Consultancies, boasts over 13 years of experience in advocacy, media, and communication. His expertise has proven invaluable to both local and international organizations and donors working in Palestine. As a practicing journalist, Ali was the regional TV Producer for TF1, France’s leading television network, for six years. He is a familiar face and voice on various local and international TV and radio stations and has participated as a panelist in numerous UN conferences worldwide. In addition, Ali is a strategic communication and digital advocacy trainer and coach with a published manual dedicated to leveraging social media for change.

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