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Leadership and communications after the pandemic

Digital format, 17/06/2020, Conference for Aspen Junior Fellows Alumni

Italy’s measured reopening after the acute stage of the pandemic has been distinguished by a steady flow of information, but that Italy has yet not learned how best to promote itself is problematic. Here’s the paradox: although rich in appeal of various sorts, the country remains incapable of making the most of its strong points.

There is the positive Italy of excellence in food, fashion, culture and nature; but there is also a negative one that brings to mind organized crime or deadlocks and delays in infrastructure and mobility. Thus, any effort at communicating the country’s strong points must perforce address and correct sectors and aspects that damage its image and even its ability to function properly.

What does it mean to communicate? Etymologically, the word is comprised of the Latin prefix “cum” (with) and the root “munus”, which has two essential meanings: “gift” and “duty”. The gift of communication and the duty to use it are concepts that concern institutions, businesses, societies and individuals. In this latter case, rather than a strategic and structured obligation, this involves a value-based approach to both conveying messages as well as to the ways individuals choose to do so.

The new media offer an especially interesting tool for disseminating messages. In the case of businesses and institutions, they provide a platform for making themselves known, reaching specific targets (i.e. millennials), strengthening reputations and, in some cases, even for launching themselves (e.g. digital start-ups). In all cases, they are places in which to express and exchange points of view. The social media – a village no longer global but hyper-global – makes us all actors in a message that, among other things, is forced to navigate an environment sometimes hostile to correct information. These media have become key to potentially giving everyone a voice in the public debate. Why potentially? Because of the possibility, on the one hand, of being drawn into irrelevant or distorted discussions and, on the other, of being denied access to the web altogether.

Infrastructure innovations are going to be decisive in this sense. In particular, 5G could be a major opportunity to expand the digital culture and create an increasingly aware citizenry. The role of data and, even more importantly, of education will be decisive as tools for building the social and cultural antibodies to the “fake news” currently infesting the public debate. Combatting false messages and foregrounding honest, transparent, positive and credible ones could truly make a valuable contribution to the crucial and long-anticipated better promotion of Italy.