Building Staff Capacities to Communicate
(Because everyone, no matter their
role, should be able to talk about their work)
In these communications roles, my job isn't only to produce outreach
materials and to undertake outreach activities myself; in fact, I place
a much greater emphasis in my work on building the local staff's
capacities for undertaking outreach activities themselves.
Marketing and public relations is never just one person's responsibility at an organization, regardless of everyone's job titles; everyone at an organization will interact with other staff, partner organizations, potential supporters and the general public at some point, and therefore, everyone needs to be able to talk or to write clearly about his or her own work and that of the organization overall.
But communications in the field, and building the capacities of local staff regarding communications, is easier said than done.
In Afghanistan, for instance, I saw that female government workers were profoundly reluctant to speak up in a working group, let alone present to an audience of co-workers - yet they were regularly asked to do these things as a part of their job. For women to succeed in the workplace anywhere, they must feel confident speaking in meetings or to groups. I created a workshop for women to help them improve their public speaking skills, and to create this workshop, I researched women teachers and public figures in various Islamic countries and cultures, including in Afghan history, and contacted several Muslim women's groups with a large Internet presence for advice, to get information to include in the workshop. The Afghan government has made a commitment to equality for women in Afghanistan: in the Afghanistan Constitution, women are protected equally before the law, and as stated in the Afghanistan Compact, The National Action Plan for Women in Afghanistan is to increase women's chances of working in government and public service. Therefore, I felt I had an Afghan-government-mandate, and I made sure to refer to the Constitution and the Compact at the start of the presentation (and did so at the start of any report if I thought there might be any doubt that what I was writing or saying was appropriate, from a cultural perspective). I also relied on my assistant, a local Afghan woman, to help me phrase things properly, and I put her in charge of creating the design around my words, and editing those words as necessary, in the slide show presentation and including culturally-appropriate photos. You can download the slide presentation (200 KB).
In Ukraine, promoting messages regarding peace could have been interpreted by many Ukrainians as a call to not respond to Russian-supported military actions in various parts of Ukraine and to not respond to the annexation of Crimea by Russia, something most Ukrainians are not willing to consider. That meant being very careful in how, say, the UN's International Day of Peace was observed / talked about. A negative reaction by a colleague to the word reconciliation lead me to blog about how I needed a different word, because, as I say on my blog, it's "become a loaded term, a political term, an undesirable term. To many, it means appeasement to an oppressor or abuser. It means to relinquish any demands for justice for atrocities committed." And a Ukrainian colleague balked at the idea of monitoring a media outlet that is notorious for its biased reporting; he could not understand that reading this media outlets tweets each day did not constitute endorsing their viewpoint but, rather, would help him in creating strategies to counter misinformation.
With those challenges in mind, here are some of the communications-related resources I've developed to help various organizations in or serving developing countries specifically to help build the capacities of local staff regarding communications.
You are welcomed to adapt my materials as you like, but please credit me somewhere in your presentation, web page or document if you use material from these. Also, note that most of these are NOT official documents or strategies of any of the organizations named; these are my recommendations to those organizations, my opinions based on my expertise, but it was up to those organizations as to whether or not they used these in their official strategies - if at all:
for staying in contact with remote staff in developing countries /
Many factors stand in the way of trying to stay in contact with field staff at projects in rural or conflicted areas in developing countries. I review all of the various challenges faced by people in a main office in getting data from field staff working in humanitarian / development / aid initiatives, and how to address those challenges.
Recommendations for UN & UNDP in Ukraine to use Twitter, Facebook, Blogs and Other Social Media to Promote Reconciliation, Social Inclusion, & Peace-Building in Ukraine (PDF). This is a draft document I submitted to UNDP Ukraine just before I left Kyiv in October 2014, having completed my term there as a "Surge" Communications Advisor. This draft document offers considerations and recommendations for social media messaging that promotes reconciliation, social inclusion, and peace-building in Ukraine. It provides ideas for messaging related to promoting tolerance, respect and reconciliation in the country, and messaging to counter bigotry, prejudice, inequality, misperceptions and misconceptions about a particular group of people or different people among Ukrainians as a whole.
Convention Environmental Project in Ukraine Outreach / Marketing
Plan (PDF). This initiative, a part of UNDP, is
staffed by just one full-time person who is not a communications
professional. She wanted to know what she could do within UNDP's
communications activities to help reach her initiative's goals,
which included changing behaviors and understanding of citizens
regarding climate change. This was a "no cost" approach that I
authored for her, relying primarily on social media and the UNDP web
site to get messaging out.
Owning your communications. In Afghanistan, the reporting officer (a German) and myself (from the USA) were responsible for all reporting by our program, and we felt that staff, foreign and Afghan alike, didn't see the point in quality reporting. For them, reporting was something the communications office needed, but not something that benefited them. Most people aren't expert report writers, and many staff members, regardless of their nationalities, struggle to provide meaningful, timely information in a coherent written form. Afghan staff members often felt bogged down in jargon, felt overwhelmed at meeting reporting requirements, and were reluctant to report information they feel reflects negatively on their performance. My colleague and I undertook a number of ongoing activities to encourage better reporting among staff which, in turn, would make our jobs easier. One of them was this resource, which emphasizes that staff should think selfishly about the reports they write; namely, they should see reporting as a way to say how fantastic they and the work they do are. We tried to show that quality reporting can mean a boost in the reputation of a person and his or her work, and can support a person in pursuing various career goals. This presentation works best for a small group, certainly no more than 15 people (even less is better), and with lots of discussion about what staff needs to build their skills for better reporting. Read the notes for each slide, as these offer much more information.
Comprehensive list of questions to answer in reports. As part of our campaign to improve reporting among staff in Afghanistan, my colleagues and I created a comprehensive list of questions to answer in reports. These questions were provided in writing for staff to use when they wrote reports, but we also sometimes used them in interviewing staff verbally, as we found that many staff felt more comfortable talking than writing. We based these questions on:
Guide to CARD-F to use Twitter. Comprehensive Agriculture and Rural Development – Facility (CARD-F) in an initiative within MRRD to increase employment, income and business opportunities in Afghanistan through the implementation of commercially viable value chains supplemented with rural infrastructure projects in the target provinces of Afghanistan. This strategy that I drafted was to get CARD-F using Twitter as quickly as possible.
Non-artistic elements necessary for success in "Theater as a Tool for Development" initiatives. These are highlights and resources from the research for my final paper for my Master's Degree. My research project was an investigation of what elements need to be in place before an organization produces a live, in-person performance, or series of performances, as a development tool, excluding performer training and theater techniques. Research focused on the experiences of people and organizations who have used live, in-person performance as a development tool (theater for development, or TfD). The goal was to identify the systems and atmosphere that need to be cultivated in order to ensure the success of a TfD initiative and to tie these to the concepts taught in OU Development Management courses. If the online information I've provided isn't enough to help you in your work, I'm happy to share the full paper with you.
Facebook for Businesses: Building Relationships with Customers, Not Just Selling to Customers. This is a draft of materials I created and submitted to Bpeace.org for a training they were doing for people starting or running small businesses in Afghanistan. This is NOT the final presentation; Bpeace took this draft and further refined it for their workshop in Afghanistan. I don't get to create a lot of strategies for clients of an organization to use; this was an interesting experience.
Why Every Staff Person Should Regularly Read At Least One Online Discussion Group
Each and every employee of your mission-based organization should be a part of at least one online discussion group, and subscribe to at least one email newsletter, relating to their job. Why? It offers a simple, easy way to get employees connected to important news and resources they need in their jobs. It's professional development! It also will help them to become better communicators online.
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