Leading communication experts at IGCF 2021 stress importance of collaboration with behavioural science and data analytics

 Leading experts in the field of communication stressed the importance of maintaining continuous collaboration across the essential fields of behavioural science and data analytics at a panel discussion held on the first day of the 10th annual International Government Communication Forum (IGCF 2021), on Sunday.

The session, titled ‘The efficacy of communication messages: A cross-disciplinary collaboration involving behavioural science and data analytics,’ was attended by senior government officials and representatives from the private sector. Members of the panel who shared their key insights and industry perspectives on the topic included HE Ali Bin Mohammed Al Rumaihi, Bahraini Minister of Information Affairs; David Halpern, Chief Executive, Behavioral Insights Team; HE Saeed Al Eter, Chairman, UAE Government Media Office and HE Mohammed Jalal Al Raisi, Director General of the Emirates News Agency (WAM). The session was moderated by Badriya Al Bishr, a Saudi writer, novelist and media professional.

Members of the distinguished panel proposed a strategic means of integrating new sciences into various existing communication departments, including the creation and implementation of a framework designed to address the needs of current and future government communication departments, which in turn, can play a key role in the move to obtain an effective level of public communication.

Al Rumaihi said, “Arab governments today have become more aware and understanding of what is going around. We need to be at pace with the times and using social media platforms has helped in stirring this awareness, especially in the move to handle the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We should not be afraid of social media, but rather be able to use it in reaching out to the people. At the end of the day, only the truth will prevail.”

Speaking on the occasion, David Halpern, CEO of Behavioural Insights Team, introduced the EAST framework to the audience, “The approach to these difficult times should be Easy, Attractive, Social and Timely ‘EAST’, which shows how social norms differ, yet we are all affected by the times. The solution here lies in capturing the message in a more concise format. People nowadays have a lot on their mind, and we only have one quick moment to convey our message.”

Al Eter pointed out that “80 per cent of people today get their news and updates from social media platforms. This just shows how important and relevant it is in facilitating information distribution. The role of the government then is to promote awareness – making use of the most effective means. However, we should turn to use of focus groups to understand the impact of these messages as not everything on social media represents our community.”

For his part, HE Mohammed Jalal Al Raisi argued, “The UAE implemented a unique strategy in dealing with the Covid-19 challenge. We used a three-pronged approach that made wide use of Transparency, Awareness and the provision of Continuous Support. The key operative goal was to make sure that the government provides help and assistance to everyone at all times.”

Participants lauded the session as it proved to be both timely and strategic, aiming to solve the challenge of securing effective communication with the public. The members of the panel explained that the need to collaborate is brought about by the distortion caused by the rapid evolution of modern communication tools. To address this, public communication experts should develop a keen understanding of individual psychology and mentality, conduct a thorough examination of data and study of communication patterns, the panel recommended.