Welcome to the NATO Strategic Communication WikiEdit

We're researching into how multilateral organisations involved in complex foreign policy environments can use strategic communication more effectively to achieve organisational objectives. NATO in Afghanistan is our primary case study. The basis of the research is centred around how strategic communication management can be improved to service the needs of the organisation.

This wiki embraces the idea that collaborative practice may contribute to the body of knowledge and therefore increase the quality of research output. Feel free to edit anywhere in the wiki.


In the 21st century, we live in an information rich environment, evidenced by 24/7 media coverage, real-time reporting, interactive internet usage, citizen-reporting and exponential communication technology development. This environment is global, where information can be accessed and provided from almost anywhere on the planet and where anyone with cheap and simple technology can contribute to the generation of narratives. Even the developing world is undergoing a communication revolution, ‘digital leap-frogging’ into this new world.

The world of journalism is in turmoil as rapid technological advances and user-generated content wipe away traditional business models. Equally, the fields of public relations, corporate communications and marketing are fighting to develop new ways of operating.

Political communications is also in transition, as shown by new electoral campaigns attempting to harness the power of this new environment.

In this rapidly developing global information environment, foreign policy is also succumbing to the new rules, with ‘new public diplomacy’ finding its way into ministries of foreign affairs and embassies across the world.

And as an extension of foreign policy, warfare is not immune to the changes taking place. Whereas propaganda, deception and the manipulation of information are as ancient as warfare itself, the driving need to harness communication and information within the contemporary information maelstrom is being felt across militaries, politico-military alliances, insurgent groups, war-torn societies and terrorist entities.

In strict military terms, modern militaries have been developing capabilities over the last decade or so. Public affairs, media operations, information operations and, more recently, the notion of strategic communication have become increasingly a feature of modern military forces.

However, alongside the brisk and relentless changes, the development of military and diplomatic information and communication capabilities in the post 9/11 warfare environment, mostly signified by asymmetric counter-insurgency warfare, has been far from smooth. Adversaries have also utilised communications capabilities to potent effect.

Widespread comment and opinion, sourced largely from and about the Iraqi and Afghan theatres, have indicated that in contemporary warfare information utility and communication remain problematical, failing to effectively and efficiently contribute to the achievement of strategic objectives. In short, strategic communication has failed to deliver. This has been recognised at national levels, especially in the US, but the backdrop of NATO’s operations in Afghanistan has also provided similar sentiment.

Equally, NATO’s operations in Afghanistan present challenges considered highly contemporary in nature, in that they involve widespread communication issues through the politico-military and multinational organizational structure of NATO within a counter-insurgency context.

Within the field of international relations, whilst there are academic studies into the Afghan conflict, counter-insurgency, information operations, multinational organizations and NATO, none appear to address the issues presented by communication capabilities of multinational politico-military coalitions conducting counter-insurgency campaigns.

However, discourse in global, multinational and organizational communication capabilities within the corporate world is replete with academic work. Much of this is centred around the Excellence theory, proposed by Professor James Grunig in the 1990's after an extensive 15 year research programme. Although not without its detractors, this theory has been widely tested across the world. Further, there has been academic work associating this theory with public diplomacy and, notably, with public relations functions within NATO in a peacekeeping context, namely in Bosnia-Hercegovina.

This research intends to use previous related work, ongoing stances and established public relations theories, such as the Excellence theory, in order to examine their applicability to communication capabilities within a counter-insurgency context. From this study it is intended to forge a general normative theory for such capabilities under these circumstances.

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