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Was held the Forum on cooperatives, press, networks and fake news by Ascoop

24 October 2019

Coops4dev participated in the Forum of Cooperativism and Public Opinion held by Ascoop in Bogotá with six leading panelists exposed on reputation and positioning in the era of fake news left many reflections and learnings.

The event, which was attended by more than 90 cooperative members, among them executives, publicists, communicators and other officials, analyzed the context of the relations between the cooperative sector and other actors in the economy and development, and specifically the impact that the flood of digital communication has on companies and cooperative enterprises with all its advantages and risks and the supposed financial and power crisis of the mass media.

The forum was opened by the executive director of Ascoop María Eugenia Pérez, who highlighted the fact that despite great effort cooperativism still has low rates of presence and recognition in public opinion. “This weak networking with the other actors in the economy and particularly with press and opinion leaders, have made digital communication emerge as an alternative to strengthen the positioning, recognition and interaction of cooperatives with their groups of interest ”, she said, but stressed that this alternative has its risks and mentioned that there are already cases of Colombian cooperatives that have been victims of false information or systematic attacks on social networks. Hence the analysis of the advantages and risks of digital communication of cooperatives becomes as a priority issue. "In times of changes in our environment it is important to analyze and evaluate our role in the face of the media and the rise of new information technologies."

She also informed that Colombia Cooperativa magazine in its current edition dedicated its special report to examine this issue of the relationship of cooperatives with the media, the impact that this crisis has on the coverage of news related to cooperatives and alternatives and risks offered by the exercise of communication and digital marketing.

The State and cooperatives

The National Government was represented in the forum by the development director of the Special Administrative Unit of Solidarity Organizations, Ehyder Mario Barbosa Pérez, who referred to the public policy for the cooperativism of the current Government.

Barbosa pointed out that the “Pact for Equity” development plan, in its objective 6, aims to promote entrepreneurship in the solidarity sector as a mechanism of social policy and that in article 164 it commits to strengthening the business of economic solidarity organizations, for which a comprehensive public policy will be implemented, a commitment that was reiterated by President of Colombia Iván Duque during the opening ceremony of the National Cooperative Congress.

The official stressed that the Ministries of Industry and Commerce and Labor are already working in an articulated way at the round tables where this public policy will be discussed and formulated. He also highlighted as one of the most important advances of the Unit the creation and strengthening of cooperative entities with the reincorportated of the peace process with the FARC.

Cooperatives, platforms and social networks

Andrea Ballesteros Ascani, master in marketing and specialist in digital marketing and social media, draw a map of digital reality, highlighting as a business need the presence in social media and web platforms, and emphasized that it is necessary to always be generating content that has value for our audiences.
Ballesteros said that cooperatives must be present in social networks in a strategic way, understand where the brand or cooperative is going and how we want to be perceived by our customers and our users, which should lead us to generate a digital ecosystem formed by own media, paid media and earned media. "If the client does not find us in the digital world, he will look for others," he said.

She also invited the audience not to be afraid of false news and attacks on digital platforms and said that the best way to deal with them is to have a crisis protocol and authorized spokespersons. "Not answering a publication that attacks my company can make the crisis worse," she said, giving tips to combat these attacks.

The expert mentioned key aspects for the management of digital communication by companies like a digital strategy, the possibility of having spokespersons, promoters and influencers. “In digital times, the value proposition is what replaces the mission and vision of the company. When we are small, what we should seek is to identify what is the value we offer. ”

She also warned that while it is cheaper to make digital communication than advertising in large media, both are important and necessary and you can not think of maintaining a communication strategy of a company without investing in different channels.

Cooperatives and SMEs

The Vice President of the Colombian Association of Small Industrialists - Acopi, Antonio Osorio Melo, spoke about the challenges that cooperatives must face and the possibilities that they can act in alliance with SMEs. "The cooperatives have a very big advantage over the State and for profit companies and they are all over the country," he said.

Citing figures Osorio recognized the potential of the Colombian cooperative movement and said that a reform of the cooperative law is required to adapt certain types of cooperatives to the modern world.

He also mentioned the possibility that cooperatives have of working in Alliance with SMEs on issues such as digitalization and credit financing to small microentrepreneurs by cooperatives. "Cooperatives and SMEs can work together to grow in the business sector" he said.

Questioned in this regard, Osorio said that there is a possibility that the cooperative sector will be linked to the National Council of Association (Consejo Gremial Nacional), which would give it greater possibilities of interaction and dialogue with the other economic associations, the State and other agents of the economy.

Osorio invited cooperatives to be more attractive for SMEs in their financial support processes for the development of their projects and activities, especially through the articulation of new platforms and the strengthening of preferential interest rates for small and medium-sized entrepreneurs.

Finally he surprised with a bold proposal, a legislative reform that allows MSMEs to have an investment capital in financial cooperatives as a way to invest with a controlled risk.

Cooperatives and sustainable development

The communications officer of Cooperatives of the Americas Natalia González invited Colombian cooperatives to strengthen their adherence to nature and cooperative principles. She said cooperatives and cooperativism have failed to communicate their benefits to society as a whole and explained widely the agreement signed between the European Union and the International Cooperative Alliance and its regional offices for the development of the #coops4dev project, which includes the development of different projects and programs for the dissemination and strengthening of cooperativism around the globe. "The cooperative sector has gold in their hands and has failed to tell the story," she said.

González highlighted the commitment and positioning of cooperatives to achieve the sustainable development goals, as well as the challenges facing the world at the moment. “Cooperatives and their members offer a ready means to reach a larger scale through the implementation of new business lines, for example financial inclusion, greater access to insurance products and social protection packages, as well as new and cleaner production techniques. In addition, cooperatives can partner with other cooperatives, companies and governments that purchase goods and services that meet higher standards and support better social and economic results, key differentiators for those who seek to expand their value creation. ”

Gonzalez stressed that a challenge of cooperatives is to capture their impact on the SDGs in clear metrics and communicate it effectively to the world public opinion. "We are the ideal ally to work together on the #SDG, it is our responsibility as a cooperative sector to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals," she said.

Cooperatives, reputation and crisis

The Chairman of the Board of Directors of Financiera Progressa, Miguel Sáenz Herrera, referred to the management of crises and fake news in the field of the cooperative companies, highlighting that the brand is the most valuable asset of a company and that it can be affected due to credibility and trust issues, for which it is important to make the necessary communication efforts to avoid or properly manage problems that may affect the reputation of the company, prioritizing reputation and trust over short-term economic results. "6 out of 10 companies don’t know how to handle a crisis or their reputation," he said.

He agreed to highlight the importance of having a manual and a crisis committee and authorized, competent and prepared spokespersons to make public declarations in key situations and stressed that in the face of a crisis the first step to resolve it is to recognize it and prepare to face it. He added that success depends on good management of effective communication. "The organization must be prepared to face a crisis, in this sense communication is important to avoid it and know how to handle it."

Finally, he assured that the main instruments to overcome a crisis are the principles and values of the organization. “What speeds up a crisis? To hide information, blame others when it is our fault, give premature statements, convey contradictory messages, do not keep employees informed and ignore audiences. ”

Discussion

The forum concluded with a lively discussion between the panelists, which was completed by the publisher of the newspaper Portafolio, Édmer Tovar Martínez and in which the speakers expanded on some aspects, answered questions from the audience and took positions on some controversial issues.

Tovar stressed that the traditional media continue to play a decisive role in generating qualified information and public opinion and said they are the best instrument against fake news because audiences have already learned that you can’t believe everything that comes out on the social networks and that it is the reliable traditional media that can verify whether something is true or not. "The social networks began to lose credibility, because in their platforms the false news is mixed with the true ones, that benefited the media, because every time a news comes out, people refer to the traditional media to corroborate it."

He also said that "there is no tendency in the press not to publicize the cooperative sector" and that the problem is in what is communicated, because the media need to publish good stories and not just figures and data.

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