Strategic communication

Although strategic communication can be implemented in every policy area, in Estonia, its development is focused on national security and defence.


Strategic communication means the planning of state activities, assembling these as a unified communicative whole, and forwarding this to the society. To do this, state authorities coordinate their activities to ensure that the messages forwarded to the public are well-considered, clear and supportive of the values laid down in the constitution of Estonia.


Prerequisites for strategic communication in Estonia are democracy and freedom of speech, meaning that government communication is only one of many competing voices beside opposing parties, business organisations, citizens’ associations, and foreign communication.


The need to strengthen strategic communication arises from security policy considerations: the threats endangering Estonia have been tightly connected to hostile subversive activities, polarisation of the society and damaging our reliability in the eyes of our alleys.


The National Security Concept of Estonia (PDF) and the National Defence Development Plan for 2017–2026 (PDF) determine strategic communication as one of the six broad development directions of national defence (continuity of the state and the society, international activity, strategic communication, internal security, support of the civil sector for military defence, military defence), describe the capacities that need to be developed and provide authorisation to carry out related activities. The goal of strategic communication within the context of the National Security Concept of Estonia is to support our security policy, keep the public informed about the security situation and avoid the panic, neutralise hostile subversive activity, expose fake information and prevent its spread.

 

In order to achieve the main goal of our security policy – to safeguard the independence and sovereignty, the continuity of the people and state, territorial integrity, constitutional order and public safety of Estonia – we have to strengthen cohesion in the society, enforce the positive international image of the state, and develop defences to neutralise hostile cyberattacks. This is what strategic communication deals with.

 

Strategic communication entails the following:

  • Analysis.
    To monitor media and the public opinion about security issues;
     
  • Coordination and planning.
    To coordinate and plan the communication of authorities so that government communication would represent common positions regarding security issues both in and outside of Estonia. To carry out communication-related activities in order to unify the society to a greater extent and guarantee support for the choices made by Estonia with regard to security policy.
     
  • Government communication during a crisis.
    To develop the capability of government communication to react to security crises.
     
  • Informing the public.
    To inform the public of malicious disinformation and help decrease its influence in the Estonian society.

Principles of strategic communication
 

The principles of Estonian strategic communication are dialogue, values, actions and participation:

  • Dialogue means relations both with the society as a whole and with separate target audiences. Dialogue can take place in very different ways, such as through media, a public opinion poll or direct communication.
  • Values that determine actions become clear in the dialogue with the society. The acknowledgment of values determines how a state solves various situations.
  • Actions speak louder than words. Words can merely support actions. Actions can be understood in different ways, which is why the initial idea of the person forwarding the message becomes clear through the synergy of actions and communication.
  • Participation means the broad inclusion of the population in achieving the goals of strategic communication.
 

During crises, the cyberattacks against the image of Estonia intensify. In the rapidly developing information society, mere response is not sufficient; hence, the strategic communication of the state needs to be proactive so that the messages important to Estonia would be efficient both in Estonia and in the information space of our allies. We need to work hard to ensure that we have many influential international partners who care about Estonia’s well-being, understand us and whose support we could rely on in a crisis. Successful strategic communication increases the ability of the state to manage security risks, threats and crises by spreading information and therefore offers a greater sense of security to our people.


NATO as well as the institutions and Member States of the European Union are developing strategic communication for similar purposes. For instance, the Government Office is the Estonian liaison agency for the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence, which was founded in Riga in 2014. Estonia has sent its representative to the centre located in Latvia and contributes as a full member to the development of the joint informing capability of the defence organisation. Estonia has also sent an expert to participate in the work of the East StratCom Task Force, which is operating by the European External Action Service. Moreover, Estonian institutions are in close contact with colleagues in the field of strategic communication from our nearby countries – Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Nordic countries – and actively exchange information and organise joint activities.


All institutions participate in implementing strategic communication. It is difficult for each institution alone to achieve the desired result and therefore it has been decided that the development of this field is being managed and coordinated by the Government Office.

 

Last updated: 17 January 2018