As NATO member states strive to develop Strategic Communications (StratCom) capability there is growing recognition of the need to draw upon the experience and expertise of commercial marketing and communications companies. Unfortunately, a lack of real understanding as to how the two sectors can best support each other still constrains progress. Government organisations often assume that commercial companies are driven solely by financial profit, yet many are involved in achieving  complex behavioural change in humanitarian and political arenas. There is also a perception that the commercial sector is less bound by constraints of classification and bureaucracy and does not possess the specific expertise to enter the security domain. In summary, we are too often held back by the notion that the commercial sector doesn’t understand NATO’s definition and application of StratCom. This misunderstanding cannot continue if we are to match the capabilities our adversaries seem to have already achieved.

In 2016 the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence (StratCom COE) recognised that it could play a key role in bringing the commercial and military StratCom communities closer together.

This project was the result. Bringing together renowned commercial experts and NATO StratCom practitioners in a ground breaking seminar, it aimed to answer the following questions:

  • What can NATO learn from the way in which the commercial sector has adapted to the challenges of the information revolution?
  • Can we approach “citizens” in the same way as “customers”?
  • Which commercial techniques can be used to complement government communications?
  • How does the commercial sector develop and sustain expertise?
  • How can we create better partnerships between the government and commercial communications sectors?

We conclude that the results of this research will benefit all defence personnel who are working to develop and sustain StratCom capacity and capability, not just established specialist StratCom practitioners. We therefore hope it will be afforded a wide circulation.