We often hear today of the need to develop a communication strategy. The decision makers, planners, and the persons responsible for development projects and programmes consider this a concern, as they are fully aware of the importance of planning and implementing communication policies. How can this be done? With whom can it be done? and What methodologies should used?
The general opinion with regards to the planning of development projects and programmes is that media plans are normally used in lieu of real communication strategies. Journalists and well-intentioned men and women, are among the persons who believe in the importance of communication and who wish to contribute to placing rural development media and communication tools at the service of communities. The methodological phases which often appear to be somewhat rigid in developing a communication strategy, such as the identification of target groups before other support, media and tools are chosen, are not always respected. In addition, audiovisual equipment and material is often purchased as soon as a project is launched, without having analyzed the actors (target groups) and communication activities that should determine the choice of equipment to be selected. We might wish to purchase a camera to take pictures of visits to certain villages, but should not purchase it before knowing how it can be used.
A communication strategy, should not mean creating media agitation, such as for example, a banner advertizing the inauguration of a project workshop, media coverage an event of this sort on radio and television, or interviewing the person responsible for the project or the field programme. Doing so ignores the fact that communication planning and implementation requires a considerable amount of time, financial and human resources, as well as continual and varied multimedia activities
In spite of the frequent utilization in a number of countries of the term communication to designate the press and public relations activities of a company or establishment, the concept of communication within the context of development can be summarized with the following definition: Communication for development implies the use of a communication process, techniques and media to raise peoples awareness of their own situation and of the options they have at their disposal for activities involving change, as well as helping to resolve social conflicts and working together to reach a consensus. In addition, it should assist people in planning activities involving change and sustainable development, so that they are aware of the knowledge and qualifications needed to improve their living conditions, and those of their community, and the effectiveness of local and national government.
Communication activities should be programmed within the framework of a global strategy that takes into account research and the definition of objectives in identifying the persons to be affected, the conception of the adapted messages, the choice of distribution channels and as follow-up and information feedback.
The multimedia approaches that make a combined use of a variety of communication channels to mutually reinforce one another generally produce the best results.
Multimedia communication strategies provide considerable support to the implementation of the objectives and activities of development projects and programmes. It is a question of transposing the activities and actions that might be able to remove all or a part of the constraints identified during the analysis of the implementation of a development programme or projects activities into communication terms.
A communication strategy is limited to a specific sector and is needed in all development projects or programmes. It should be developed during the project or programme formulation phase and encourage and accompany consultation and dialogue between all the partners and actors involved in the programme or project. It must be based upon a participatory approach methodology with regards to the different phases and should also indicate the most appropriate communication tools needed for carrying out the project.
There are so many different approaches that can be used in implementing communication strategies we sometimes wonder whether the task of organizing and streamlining the existing proposals to result in structural homology and a holistic approach to the entire question is feasible.
Professor Hugues Kone, Doctor of Information and Communication Sciences, former Director of the Communication Research Centre (CERCOM) of the Ivory Coast National University, a renowned communicator and a pioneer within the African Council for Communication Training has never abandoned the scientific rigour that helped establish his reputation.
In the consultation he carried out for FAO within the framework of this methodological guide for the development of a multimedia communication strategy, Professor Kone stated: The concept of an effective communication strategy is based today upon an approach that combines rigour, professional skills, teamwork, participation and creativity.
Professor Kone presents the following basic concepts: development, communication and communication for development. He mentions the experience acquired in Africa, Latin America, Asia and elsewhere, including developed countries and in the different development areas such as health, reproductive health, nutrition, the environment, agriculture and animal breeding. In this guide, he discusses:
the multimedia communication strategy development process,
the manner in which this process should be carried out,
the multimedia communication strategy document structure, and
the practical considerations that are linked to communication planning and implementation.
This guide underlined a high degree of judgement and insight in its presentation of the best practices that presently exists in the area of multimedia communication strategy elaboration methodologies.
Technical Supervisor for designing
Communication Policies Projects in French- and Portuguese-Speaking Africa