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Delegates at the session. Image Credit: Dubai Media Office

The National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority (NCEMA), in cooperation with the Government of Dubai Media Office (GDMO), today organised an interactive knowledge-sharing session on ‘Strategic Crisis Communication and Media Management’. Attended by representatives of government media offices and media directors of security departments across the UAE, the session discussed case studies and models for effective management of communication and media during crises and emergency situations.

A key highlight of the discussions was a case study of the fire that broke out at the Jebel Ali Port last year. The study details how effective coordination and close cooperation between GDMO teams and relevant government departments in Dubai enabled the dissemination of accurate information on the incident across media platforms, which in turn prevented rumours and misinformation.

Obaid Rashid Al Hosan Al Shamsi, Vice President of the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority, outlined the Authority’s processes and protocols for managing various kinds of crises. He pointed out the importance of developing new strategies, ensuring the highest vigilance and being prepared for various crisis scenarios. He said that specialised teams need to be trained effectively and detailed crisis plans need to be developed to avoid reactive responses. He highlighted the importance of ensuring adaptability and agility, developing an integrated approach and acquiring solid expertise to ensure that crises are managed effectively.

Al Shamsi said under the framework of National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority’s vision, the UAE has developed various specialised crisis response strategies. The management of media is one of the key factors behind the effective management of crises and emergencies of all magnitudes, he noted.

"With the UAE’s emergence as a global hub for various sectors, it is vital that we maintain the highest level of strategic preparedness based on simulations of various potential crises. We need to put in place comprehensive plans to deal with all dimensions of a crisis.”

He expressed his appreciation for the strong cooperation between the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority and the Government of Dubai Media Office and called on various relevant departments, entities and media institutions to work closely with each other to share best practices, knowledge and expertise to serve the interests of the nation.

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Mona Al Marri addresses the session. Image Credit: Dubai Media Office

In her address, Mona Ghanem Al Marri, Director General of the Government of Dubai Media Office commended the exceptional role played by the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority (NCEMA) in addressing crisis situations and safeguarding the security and stability of UAE society through effective coordination with government agencies. The Authority played an instrumental part in combating the COVID-19 pandemic and easing its repercussions by integrating the efforts of various federal and local authorities, she said. Al Marri expressed appreciation for NCEMA’s active role in promoting exchange of knowledge and expertise between federal and local departments to raise the preparedness of government media communication teams in dealing with crisis situations.

She further said the cooperation with NCEMA in organising the session forms part of GDMO’s efforts to create a learning platform to support government departments and other key stakeholder entities in enhancing their strategic communications and media management expertise. “The session is also aligned with GDMO’s objective of promoting a purposeful exchange of insights and experiences between organisations at the forefront of managing crises, which contributes to building a strong nationwide base of knowledge on crisis communications. We are keen to share our expertise and experiences in successful strategic crisis communication and media management with various local and federal media offices, Al Marri said.

Timely and effective strategic communication during a crisis contributes significantly to advancing an organisation’s reputation by inspiring confidence, consolidating trust and reassuring stakeholders. She noted. It is critical that strategic communication teams constantly and rapidly update media outlets and the public with reliable official information during crises to prevent the spread of rumours and defuse misinformation, she stressed.

Rapid circulation of information

During the session, Salem Belyouha, Director of the Media Services Department at the Government of Dubai Media Office, spoke about media management mechanisms for crises and emergency situations. He explained how social media platforms are key to the dissemination of reliable information on the widest possible scale to ensure the public is made aware of the latest accurate facts about a crisis.

“The information revolution has changed many traditional concepts and practices in the field of strategic communication and led to the creation of digital and social media platforms that ensure that information and images reach millions of people all around the world in a matter of seconds,” Belyouha said. “It is imperative that organisations develop clear strategies for using social media effectively during crises to ensure that official information is released quickly and in a timely manner, including images and videos that enable audiences to form an accurate picture of events and developments,” he added.

Coordination and collaboration

Alia Al Theeb, GDMO’s Senior Manager, Strategic Communication, gave unique insights into the Government of Dubai Media Office’s media management during the Jebel Ali port fire incident, which she said set an example not only for effective crisis communication, but also seamless cooperation between communication teams and government agencies, under the leadership of Mona Al Marri.

“Various GDMO teams including strategy, editorial, strategic communication, social media, government relations and media relations worked closely with each other to manage communications during the Jebel Ali Port fire. GDMO teams ensured effective coordination with teams that were handling the incident on the site, including the Jebel Ali Port Authority, Dubai Police, Dubai Civil Defense and Dubai Corporation for Ambulance Services,” Al Theeb said.

“The key to successful management of the incident boiled down to the swift dissemination of updated and reliable information to the media backed by photos and videos, which ensured the public was constantly informed about the facts emerging from the incident in one of the world’s largest container ports,” Al Theeb said.