Can communications solve the clash of cultures?

This was a fascinating debate moderated by Mike Wooldridge, world affairs correspondent for BBC News.

It is impossible to capture the full flavour of the debate, but it certainly struck a chord with delegates eager to ask questions and make a contribution.

It was apparent that most thought that there was a role for PR people and professional communications. There was perhaps less consensus on what this role should be.

Abdel Bari Atwan, editor in chief of Al-Quda Al Arabi, made a passionate contribution that appealed to some and clearly aroused anger from others. His theme was that the media was responsible for much of the culture clash because it failed to report Christian extremism in the same way as it reported Muslim extremism.

UPDATE: Mohammed A. Tahlawi, senior member research and advisory group, Saudi Aramco Affairs made the important point that every PR person can play a role today. That is to remind clients and employers about the importance of understanding and being sensitive to different cultures.

Abdel Bari Atwan also emphasised the importance of blogs and how we all – PR professionals and journalists – need to start thinking about how we will cope with this change.


About Stuart Bruce

International communications consultant and PR trainer specialising in online public affairs, digital corporate communications, online PR and social media; frequent national media commentator and conference speaker.
  • http://www.sixtysecondview.com David Brain

    Stuart this sounds like it was an interesting debate. The image of the Middle East is indeed an emotive subject and I just posted on it last week after a trip to Jordan and an Edelman study we did last year on the issue with the World Economic Forum. What you seem to have experienced is what I do most times I go to the region, which is that there is frustration that the whole region is branded by the problems of a few parts of it (when bombs go off in Madrid and London, no-one talks about a European crisis)balanced with the realisation that the media has to do its job and report on the troubles. As we all know, war is pretty good copy and the messages about the potential of a region of 300 million disproportionately young people, the birth-place of three civilisations and terrific tourist destinations gets drowned out. Our study (available on my post) shows that even at C (board) level, the first impressions of the region are about Oil and gas, sand and dessert and war and terrorism. The image job for the Middle East is a big one, but I suggest much can be done if the will and funding is found.