Message to spokespersons: meet changing world with more effective communication

By Wan Lixin
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Shanghai Daily, November 14, 2016
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Leading publicity officials and spokespersons aired their views on how to hone their communication skills at a forum held over the weekend in Shanghai.

The forum, the first of its kind, was sponsored by the State Council Information Office (SCIO) and China Executive Leadership Academy Pudong (CELAP) and attended by over 80 spokespersons, experts and media representatives.

In addressing the forum, Jiang Jianguo, vice minister of the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee and minister of the SCIO, said that China's news release system, as a by-product of the country's reform and open-up and modernization, is uniquely Chinese and emblematic of the changing times.

Since China first established its own spokesperson system in the early 1980s, over the decades, spokespersons have worked at the frontline of news and views, participating in and contributing significantly to the modernizing process. Jiang said the system brings home the people-centric values of the Party, reflecting the modernization of the state's governance abilities, and speaking volumes for the confidence and opening-up of socialism with Chinese characteristics.

In today's world, Jiang stated that spokespersons should show political confidence, demonstrate competence in agenda-setting, and pay greater attention to topical relevance, proper proportions and efficacy, and prove their dexterity at exploiting the full spectrum of media resources.

In addressing the forum, Dong Yunhu, director of the Publicity Department of the CPC Shanghai Committee, said that following the directives of the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee and SCIO, Shanghai has been a pioneer among China's provincial-level cities in introducing the spokesperson system in 2003, which has helped safeguard the positive image of the Party and government in a timely, optimal, and powerful manner, effectively reflecting the achievements of reform at national and municipal levels, and creating a public opinion ambience favorable to the city in its pursuit of innovation-driven development and economic upgrading.

Given the powerful influence of government information disclosure on opinion-shaping at home and abroad — and in view of China's rapid development, our changing international situation and the public's radically changing demand for information — there is an urgency to cultivate more capable spokespersons, according to Zhao Qizheng, Dean of the School of Journalism of Renmin University of China.

Allowing for mistakes

All this means government information should be disclosed more often and more quickly, allowing for a wider scope of questions and supplying more pertinent answers.

Such developments place new demands on spokespersons, who need to be politically mature, correct in their standpoints, courageous enough to take responsibility, cultured while keeping abreast of domestic and international situation, and rational without being brusque.

For this purpose, spokespersons need special training, and should be awarded relatively senior administrative titles worthy of their responsibility and prestige, Zhao argued.

Without such titles, it would be difficult for part-time spokespersons to be fully dedicated. They are also in need of a routine support team which they can depend on for relevant expertise, since individual knowledge is obviously not enough to meet the demands of the job.

Importantly, to help keep spokespersons abreast of related developments and relevant opinions, they should be allowed to attend important conferences within their respective sectors. Zhao stressed that, given the challenges confronting spokespersons, allowances should be made for their mistakes. Their superiors should be more tolerant, extending them ample protection and support.

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