PESHAWAR: Minister for Local Government and Rural Development Department (LG&RD) Inayatullah Khan called the Information and Public Relations department “ineffective” as he spoke of the importance of communication on Thursday. He criticised the department’s role while speaking at the launch of LG&RD’s communication strategy, From Complexity to Clarity, on Thursday.
Inayatullah, who was the chief guest, said the government does a lot of work which is hardly disseminated to the public. “We have taken 40 to 50 steps but we are unaware of what we have done or achieved ourselves; how can the public have knowledge of it?” he asked.
The minister stressed on the need for a strong public relations wing for his department.
“LG&RD is the biggest department in the province with over 44,000 elected representatives and while it does a lot of work, nobody knows what is being done or has been done.”
He lauded his department’s efforts to create the strategy but called for a permanent communication strategy instead of a temporary one reserved for 2016-2010.
The communication strategy is a five-year plan prepared with the support of German agency GIZ. It aims to focus on communications and public relations to keep citizens informed in an effective manner.
Presenting on the occasion, Additional Secretary and Reforms Management Cell (RMC) head Barkatullah Khan highlighted the components of From Complexity to Clarity under which a separate unit for communication will be established with proper staff and communication specialists.
“The strategy will support key functions of the department through improved citizen engagement, better media management and stronger information exchange,” Barkatullah said.
He added the communication strategy is the first of its kind within the context of governance reforms in Pakistan. “We are strongly focused on effective reform management to deliver results for the betterment of citizens,” the RMC head said. In addition to seeking funds from donors for launching communication related activities, the department will also allocate funds from its own resources.
Strengthening public outreach
According to the five-year communication action plan described in the strategy, the department will have a designated official spokesperson who will be a senior level officer and will be trained in order to enhance her or his skills so she or he becomes a responsive, responsible and effective spokesperson.
The communication action plan states the IT cell of the department will be responsible for consistently updating the official website. Moreover, the plan calls for the publication of internal newsletters and development of multimedia content for outreach and publicity.
A communication working committee (CWC) and newsletter working group of the department will initially work on multimedia content development jobs and newsletters respectively and the jobs will later be shifted to the communication unit when it is established and becomes fully functional.
The CWC will create a social media policy for the department and will also develop standard working guidelines for press releases and media interviews to ensure maximum coverage in print media.
The strategy paper also incorporates social media guidelines and a social media menu which includes networking on Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo, blogging, video-sported websites like YouTube and using Wikipedia for sharing departmental content.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 15th, 2016.