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Club news – Embassy 37

Join the press gang

Being a press attaché in London is demanding, but a press club for diplomats is here to help, says its new president, Cristina Nita.

Your typical day as a press officer is up at dawn with the breakfast news and the work doesn’t stop until you go to sleep,” says Cristina Nita, media officer at the Romanian Embassy and the newly-elected president of the Diplomatic Press Attaché Association of London (DPAAL).

“I was struck by the sheer volume of news when I first arrived,” she recalls. “All major news organisations are based here and they communicate in English to a global audience, so being a media officer in London is a huge responsibility.”

Yet Cristina was surprised to find that an association for press attachés did not exist in London. Having established a similar group in Brussels, she set about forming one.

After a few exploratory meetings, a core group of press attachés convened to discuss the aims of an association, e-elections were held and the Diplomatic Press Attaché Association of London was launched in 2010. Membership is free and open to all media officers at London’s diplomatic missions.

Mutual support
“The aim of DPAAL is to offer mutual support so that press attachés can work more efficiently. It’s a forum where we can discuss issues and advise each other,” explains Cristina. “It’s especially helpful for newcomers who can get practical assistance from those of us who have been in London for longer. It’s good to have a place to anchor.”

Since its inception, DPAAL has arranged a number of networking events, including social events at various missions, as well as the Foreign Press Association where members could meet journalists from the British and foreign media. DPAAL members have also received briefings from the head of news at the Foreign Office; Mayor Boris Johnson’s Director of External Affairs; and the Marshal of the Diplomatic Corps.

But a lot of work goes on behind the scenes too, adds Cristina. “We exchange a lot of information via email. People ask each other advice, share media contacts and discuss media-related topics.”

If a request comes in, Cristina forwards it to the membership and asks for reactions; she then collates the responses and distributes it to the list. Increasingly, members respond using the ‘reply all’ function so that all members can join in the debate.

Briefings and networking
DPAAL also arranges in-depth briefings on hot topics. Seminars on digital diplomacy – whether embassies should be on facebook and use twitter – and media monitoring are in the pipeline.

(Incidentally DPAAL also has its own facebook page [dpaalondon] and Cristina wants colleagues to visit and ‘like’ the page.)

Meeting and networking with journalists is also important. Field trips to news organisations such as the BBC are being planned and DPAAL has invited a top journalist for a discussion on the role of a press attaché in a 24/7 news environment.

Two-way exchange
DPAAL is increasingly being used by journalists too, adds Cristina. “They get in touch via our website wanting contacts with press officers. Often they want to travel to a country or want to arrange an interview with an official, so we put the journalist and the press officer together.”

That’s a lot to coordinate, but Cristina is fortunate to have the support of a dynamic board that includes Spyros Diamantis (Greece) as Vice President; Maria Monteiro (Portugal) and Jennifer Quinn (Canada).

Continuity and inclusivity
Elections for a new board are held every December. “That ensures more people to get involved, which is very important for continuity, so that when I leave, I can pass on the torch,” says Cristina.

For her term, Cristina’s aim is to make DPAAL more inclusive and to broaden the membership to as many missions as possible. “The more members we have, the bigger our pool of experience and contacts,” she concludes.

Membership is open to all media officers at London’s missions. If want to join DPAAL, email dpaal@dpaal.org.uk or contact them via the website on www.dpaal.org.uk or facebook (www.facebook.com/dpaalondon)


Cristina Nita launches the DPAAL website at the Foreign Press Association

DPAAL visits the Marshal of the Diplomatic Corps at St James’s Palace

DPAAL meets the London Mayor’s head of media Guto Harri at City Hall

DPAAL President Cristina Nita

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