Abu Dhabi to train staff to engage citizens to reduce reliance on PR firms

The government of the capital of the United Arab Emirates has engaged communications advisers Albany Associates and the Thomson Reuters Foundation to train 250 of its employees in communications and reduce its reliance on PR agencies.

ABU DHABI, UAE: The government of the capital of the United Arab Emirates has engaged communications advisers Albany Associates and the Thomson Reuters Foundation to train 250 of its employees in communications and reduce its reliance on PR agencies.

The executive council of the city state of Abu Dhabi is planning to spend $1.5 million on the two-year contract as part of a greater effort to engage its population of 600,000.

Abu Dhabi is governed by the council, which is chaired by crown prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

“This is the first time there has been a cross-government, comprehensive training program, and they are making a big thing of making their government more accountable to its people,” Jem Thomas, Albany Associates' head of operations, told PRWeek UK.

In 2011, the UAE held its second election for members of its advisory council in what was seen as an attempt to introduce democratic representation gradually.

Albany will lead work on the contract, in an effort to train both media teams and non-communications specialists, such as department heads. The syllabus will cover subjects from preparing for interviews to using social media, with the initial program involving workshops before culminating in crisis-management exercises.

“If the government is going to communicate with various publics, it will need to do this strategically rather than on an ad-hoc basis,” Thomas added. “They use PR agencies a lot and fully admit that, but they want to reduce their reliance on agencies and be more sure about how they engage them. It's about being more mature.”

Albany and the Thomson Reuters Foundation will report to the general secretariat of the executive council.

The former is a small agency that specializes in helping foreign governments set up communications capabilities. The latter, which is the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, also provides media training and claims to have instructed more than 2,000 United Nations staffers.

Abu Dhabi's move comes after the UK government said last April it was making a £100,000 (about $167,000) investment in training 1,500 of its comms staffers in subjects such as digital skills and measurement.

This story originally appeared on the website of PRWeek UK.

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