How to make G7 communications transparent and effective

g7-summit-taormina-2017Italy holds the G7 Presidency for the year 2017. Our mission is “Building the Foundations of Renewed Trust” and it is based on the belief that governments should first and foremost adopt policies that meet citizens’ overall expectations. Over the last few years, citizens have increasingly claimed more transparency from governments and international organizations. Since it is not possible to build trust without transparency, we decided to develop an online strategy based on a pioneering approach with regard to traditional G7 communications.

The strategy relies on three main tactics. The first is to convey the message that the G7 is not only a two-day discussion among prominent political leaders in a beautiful location with severe security restrictions. Indeed, there is a long and sensitive negotiating process, led by the Sherpas, to prepare the joint statement and the other documents approved during the Summit. We decided to describe the long journey leading to the Taormina Summit (May 26-27) by announcing all the Sherpas and Sous-Sherpas’ meetings as well as other technical working sessions, and reporting on the relative discussions, without disclosing the positions of the single governments.

The first reaction of our readers was very positive. People appreciated our choice to publicize the agenda and the topics of the meetings and even to publish pictures or videos of the working sessions. The general public thus had the chance to discover to a certain extent what was happening behind the closed doors of such a big international event. Before the Summit, between February and the end of May 2017, we posted around 70 articles on the G7 Presidency website, more than 170 tweets on the English account @G7, and another 170 tweets on the Italian account @G7Italy2017.

These impressive quantities of content helped us execute our second tactic: dismissing the widespread idea that the whole G7 Presidency is just about the Summit. Actually, there is so much more. Throughout the year, there will be a total of eleven ministerial meetings in several Italian cities, addressing a wide range of topics: Culture, Foreign Affairs, Energy, Finance, Environment, Transport, ICT/Industry, Science, Labor, Agriculture and Health.

We have already dedicated a number of articles and tweets to these meetings and their preparatory processes. Every month so far, we have also prepared a video recap of all the events, meetings and technical sessions held over the previous 30 days. In this case, the target audience is narrower and consists mostly of professionals who deal with the specific topics. Although we did not expect a lot of engagement on this content, feedback was actually very positive and readers appreciated being able to follow step-by-step the overall activities of the G7 Presidency.

The third tactic of our strategy is to highlight the activity of the so-called “engagement groups” (Business 7, Civil 7, Think Thank 7, Labor 7, Science 7, Women 7 and Youth 7). These groups represent civil society and they each organized their own summits over the course of the Presidency and then submitted policy recommendations to the G7 leaders. We have covered all these engagement groups’ activities on our website and on Twitter. This is an important piece of our overall strategy, aimed at emphasizing the inclusiveness of the G7 Presidency and its efforts to gather input from the grassroots level.

As we designed the communication strategy, we were well aware that it was going to be challenging. So far, its implementation has been possible thanks to several components, but two key elements are worth highlighting: the involvement of all the experts working in the Italian G7 Sherpa team in the development of the content strategy and, secondly, the effective coordination with all the ministries, public institutions, non-governmental organizations and private companies engaged in the communication of the whole Presidency. This is a key lesson that we’d like to share with the countries that will be hosting the G7 in the near future: good international communication, especially online, requires an overall and coordinated effort of the whole host country.

By Antonio Deruda (@AntonioDeruda)
Digital Team of the Italian G7 Presidency