Communication 101 for Government Officials

The United States values freedom of the press as an essential component of democratic governance.

Good morning.

Thank you, Dr. Jeff Ramsay, and your superb team, for the invaluable support in organizing this week’s media training for government spokespeople.

A very warm Batswana welcome to Mr. Eduardo Cue for being with us this week to share his wealth of media experience, insight and wisdom.

You have all tough jobs. Napoleon once said: “Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets.”

Jeff, I don’t know if it feels that way in Botswana some days. But watching spokespeople in the US deal with the media reminds me they are truly some of our most skilled, courageous, and agile diplomats. Because your jobs are absolutely essential for the preservation of a healthy democracy.

The United States values freedom of the press as an essential component of democratic governance. Democratic societies are not infallible, but they are accountable, and the exchange of ideas is the foundation for accountable governance. A free public and private press drives active debate, investigative reporting, the expression of different points of view, especially on behalf of those marginalized and under-represented in society. The U.S. commends media professionals around the world for the important role they play, and for their commitment to the free exchange of ideas.

In Botswana, our ongoing engagement and direct partnerships reflect our countries’ shared values and commitment to democracy’s fundamental principles including a robust and independent civil society and free press.

The U.S. Embassy’s support for the media in Botswana includes professional development training, journalist exchanges, and visiting experts such as our guest this week, Mr. Cue.

As spokespeople, you are the voice of government, using your expertise to convey important strategic messages and policy information to the general public in Botswana. The important roles and responsibilities of government spokespeople cannot be overemphasized. You are charged with conducting briefings with the press; developing media strategies and communication policies with the media and the public; planning and managing media campaigns to put out consistent, long-term messages; and evaluating the effects of communication on the public’s opinions and behavioral changes. A government spokesperson must also advise government officials on potential media reactions to proposed policies, and work to mitigate these reactions when necessary. As I said, it’s a tough and heavy responsibility, and I commend you for the important work you all play supporting Botswana’s democracy.

Recognizing both the difficulty and importance of your work, the U.S. Embassy has invited Eduardo Cue to share his expertise with you this week and to learn from your experiences as spokespeople of the government of Botswana. Mr. Cue, an American freelance journalist with many years of experience as a government spokesperson, has trained both journalists and government spokespersons in many continents.

Mr. Cue worked as a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and was based in Geneva, New York, Colombia, Chad, South Sudan, and Mali. Mr. Cue also worked as a regional public information officer in Bogotá and as a media consultant in New York. In Chad, Mr. Cue gave briefings and interviews to the news media about the plight of more than 200,000 Sudanese refugees who had fled the Darfur region of Sudan into eastern Chad. That’s just a few of his many accomplishments. We are grateful for your visit, Eduardo.

Thank you for the honor of inviting me to this morning’s launch of what will be a great week of learning and professional growth and development. Pula!