The day I visited NATO

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On September 30th I had a fascinating experience, I visited NATO Headquarters in Brussels.

Before going into the details of my visit to NATO, I will make a brief introduction about NATO.

NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization was founded by the Signature of the North Atlantic Treaty in Washington on April 4th, 1949. Currently, the organization has 28 member states including Romania.

The fundamental principle of NATO is collective defense, which means the attack against one member country is an attack against all. Simplified, we could say that it is guided by the saying all for one and one for all.

NATO aims to protect the freedom and security of its members by political and military means. Regarding political means, NATO promotes democracy and encourage cooperation between its members on security issues. Regarding military means, NATO is committed to the peaceful resolution of disputes. If diplomatic efforts fail, the organization can manage the situation in a military manner. For more information about NATO visit the official website of the organization.

About my visit to NATO

My visit to NATO is due to Mircea’s father who invited us to a mini-tour of his workplace. Even more, he set us up a meeting with Steven Mehringer, chief of communications services in the NATO Public Diplomacy Division.

Because we arrived half an hour before the meeting with Steven, we had time to visit the largest and most important meeting room and one of the rooms for press conferences. Both rooms are large, beautifully furnished and modern equipped.

When we got to Steven’s office Mircea and I were equally nervous and enthusiastic. The situation changed after Steven began to tell us about his job: the emotions decreased and the enthusiasm increased.

I liked very much that Steven combined its experience in NATO with general ideas related to communication and public relations.

What do you think happens when you don’t send a message?
It was one of Steven’s questions. We came up with all sorts of answers, but the real answer was very simple.

Someone else will send the message for you, but it is likely that the outcome may not be for your benefit.

This happened to NATO. In 2010 when Steven Mehringer began his job at NATO the organization was present everywhere yet nowhere in social media.
A detailed research proved that many accounts claimed to be official NATO reports, but they were sending a wrong message.
At that time Facebook was booming, and there were many fake facebook pages.
One of these pages was administered by a Danish guy who was keeping it updated based on information found on NATO’s website or in the media. Although it was only a fan page, he succeeded to form an active community. For this reason, he was contacted by NATO for collaboration. The Danish guy was willing to give the administrator rights to NATO explaining that he felt the need to create such a page just because there wasn’t one.

Steven told us that at the beginning of his career at NATO he has encountered many difficulties, besides the fact that he had to take from zero the communication with the public, it was necessary to strengthen relations between the members of his team. But with great determination and consistency has led to achieving these objectives in a relatively short period.

As I suspected, it isn’t easy to manage communication for an organization like NATO because often you bump into classified information that can’t be made public and also you need to find the right way to send a message.

Currently, NATO’s strategy is based on story telling. Its latest campaign is entitled Return to Hope and tells the story of six people who have returned to Afghanistan determined to make this country a better place.

One of this six persons is a US soldier named Pitcher Josh, he lost his leg during a mission in Afghanistan. What is special in his story is that after receiving a prosthesis and has recovered mobility he asked to be sent back to Afghanistan to continue his mission.

I am very glad that I had the opportunity to meet Steven Mehringer and to learn insights from an organization as big as NATO. All this would not have been possible without Mircea’s father initiative.

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