Over one hundred professionals and academics took part in the International Symposium on ‘Transnational Connection: Challenges and Opportunities for Political Communication’, organized jointly by IE School of Communication and Annenberg School for Communication of  Pennsylvania University, at IE University’s Segovia campus. 

Participants spent two intensive days gaining insights from key speakers and working on round tables to analyze the most innovative ideas on political communication and how to link research in the field with practice, coupled with the challenges and opportunities of transnational collaboration among universities, institutions and political parties. The Symposium brought together leading experts in the field of communication that included Shanto Iyengar ( Stanford University), John Kelly (Harvard University), Adrian Monck (Director of Communication for the World Economic Forum), Monroe Price (Annenberg) and Marc Smith  (Connected Action Consulting Group).

The first day participants examined the differences between communication models in Europe and the US. In one of the first round tables, the professor from Stanford University and well-known guru in the field of political communication in the US, Shanto Iyengar, underscored the fact that “research on political communication in the US is arguably the most advanced and serves as a benchmark for universities and political parties worldwide”. Academics from Israel, France, Greece and Japan shared key research findings in their respective countries and recognized that they view the US as world reference in the sector. Bruce Bimber, professor of the University of California, added that “A large part of our efforts are currently focused on exploring the increasingly stronger relation between citizens and political parties as a result of social networks and online platforms”.

During the second day researchers in political communication were placed in contact with professionals from the sector. International experts agreed that social networks and online tools have brought about a “revolution” in the working lives of journalists, institutions and political parties, given that the information now circulates faster and part of public opinion is shaped by these new platforms, which now rival more traditional forms of communication. This means that professionals in the sector, both journalists and communication managers, need to rethink the way they work and their communication strategies. Journalists see their main role, vis a vis the role of new platforms, as that of being able to analyze realities and communicate them from all their different perspectives. They also underlined the fact that they carry out their work using a communication model that enjoys certain prestige based on adherence to strict codes of behavior.

Communication professionals working for political parties pointed to the US as a world leader in terms of the role played by communication advisers. In Spain, communication advisers do not enjoy the same level of importance, while in Anglo Saxon countries advisers form part of the upper echelons of the party, and their opinions carry considerable weight in decisionmaking processes. Spanish political parties feel the greatest challenge of election campaigns is that of changing the paradigm of “communicating to citizens” to “communicating with citizens”, given that there is a strong demand among citizens for political parties to “converse”. The new tools and social networks are made to do just that. Journalists, for their part, pointed to the role of the media in keeping politicians in check, given journalists’ greater capacity to ask and reveal information on issues that politicians are reluctant to provide proactively.  It was also noted that Spain is very different to countries like the U.S. in terms of electoral campaign debates, given that the format – no questions from journalists and no public present – makes debates more of a monologue between candidates.

A round table comprised of correspondents from leading international media and communication agencies and directors of central administration,  revealed that Spanish governments and administrative organisms are more focused on communicating with their own citizens than with a global audience. Another round table comprised of experts in public relations and journalists debated the role of companies and how to implement effective communication strategies to achieve influence in institutions.

IE School of Communication organized the symposium in collaboration with leading international organizations: Center for Global Communication Studies of Annenberg School for Communication, International Communication Association (ICA), World Association of Public Opinion Research (WAPOR), International Political Science Association (IPSA), International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) and the European Communication Research and Education Association (ECREA).


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