Today the design of effective communication strategies can only be done with a blend of rigour, professionalism, team work, participation and creativity. This approach follows the basic precepts of sound planning:
Link between activities and resources to anticipated results
Determine the performance indicators and the means of verification
Sharing responsibilities, and communicate clearly, concisely and unambiguously
Adapt to changing situations, and assess risk.
Furthermore, the drawing up of such strategies should draw on acquired experience in Communication for Development.
Development programmes should include a section for communication, from the outset; the communication objectives should be realistic, precise, measurable and be expressed in a timetable.
The study and segmentation of the intended audience or the target community are crucial, since the goal is to achieve change at the level of people or groups in terms of their opinions, attitudes and behaviour, and life-styles and responses to different messages vary from one group to another. From this point of view, socio-cultural research can be used here for the development of communication activities which are culturally appropriate to the situation involved.
Research has an essential role to play at each critical step of the process of planning, implementation and evaluation of a communication programme. During planning, research can provide necessary strategic information. During implementation, it can be used for developing messages and materials appropriate to the target audience (knowledge of the audience, pre-testing) and eventually for resolving unexpected problems (operational research). Research is also essential in monitoring and evaluating the activity.
The most effective approaches are multimedia. Communication is not simply a question of using the organised (mass-) media, however powerful they may be. Communication makes use of other formal and informal channels of communication including interpersonal channels.
Messages must be clear, simple, specific, easy to understand and repeated often. They should also be coherent and coordinated in nature, even if they have a variety of origins such as the ministries of agriculture, health, promotion of women, environment, youth, NGOs ... They must also come from a source which is credible for the target group.
The participatory approach (involvement of stakeholders including the beneficiaries) should be given priority as much as possible because it is a question of talking with and not, top-down, at the community.
It is important to integrate the gender approach at all levels of design and implementation of a communication activity: the concerns and effective participation of both sexes should be always considered, along with respect for the balance or equity of the sexes, and a rejection of any sexist stereotypes, etc.
Finally, it is important to note that communication for development aims at a change in (or adoption of) by a target group and, on a longer-term basis, at social change. From this point of view, sustainable behavioural change is a long-term proposition and involves, in addition to issues of communication, other factors such as the availability, accessibility and quality of services, the socio-cultural and political context, the level of education and the socio-economic circumstances. In the African context, it also supposes a certain amount of social change, given the influences of relations and social structures on the individual. The following steps are taken.
The Process of Behavioural Change: Audiences and Possible Communication Strategies
Source: WB, 1999: 16
As the following two figures show, there is a clear relationship between communication and behavioural change.
Fig. 1: Percentage of men and women using modern contraceptives, per channel of communication which have reached them
Fig. 2: Percentage of men and women using modern contraceptives, per step of behavioural change followed (idem, 1994)
Before proceeding to the methodology for drawing up communication for development strategies, it would be useful to specify the notion of strategy in the area of communication and to recall briefly some planning models used in Communication for Development strategies.
Box Number 5: The Notion of Communication Strategy
In communication for development, the strategy provides a framework encompassing the combination of communication activities which can induce the changes in terms of knowledge, opinions, attitudes, beliefs or behaviour in the target community that are necessary for solving a development problem, within a given (and often medium-term) time-table and taking available resources into account. The strategy can be seen as a commitment and a pointer for mobilising and orienting the activities and energies of the various partners.
There is thus a distinction to be made between:
A communication policy, which takes the form of a written document that finalises the goals, major directions and standards for guiding how the communication is to be used and organised for achieving the development goals of a State or an institution. Several African countries today have adopted a national communication for development policy;
A communication campaign which brings together a coordinated set of mediatised or non-mediatised activities, in an intensive way, for a relatively short period and in a given space, for achieving specific goals (for example, a campaign against bush fires at the start of the dry season). This requires its own strategy, which can be a sub-set of an overall communication strategy.
Among the dozens of models in the available literature are:
3- Draft, pre-test and produce
5- Monitor and evaluate.
2- Strategic design
3- Develop, pre-test, review and produce
4- Manage, implement and monitor
5- Evaluate impact.
1- Evaluate/Plan: Research; Strategise; Pre-test; Final Plan
2- Intervene: Produce; Distribute
3- Monitor: Audit Process; Evaluate Products; Evaluate Impact.
1- Identify the communication and programme objectives
2- Select audience groups and order by priority
3- Identify the desired changes in each audience
4- Identify the environmental factors favourable or unfavourable to desired changes
5- Determine the types of IEC activities necessary to provoke changes
6- Present the major thrusts of key messages and their strategies
7- Determine the range of channels of communication
8- Identify organisational and management strategies (including monitoring and evaluation)
9- Calculate the amount of resources necessary for these activities
10- Make a realistic schedule and chronology for all steps
11- Re-examine the strategy, adapt it and let it be adopted.
A comparative analysis of these different models shows a number of commonalities, to the extent that there are always two major phases: An analysis of the current situation (the preliminary phase), and the development of a communication Plan or Strategy (the design phase and preparation of implementation).
The process of planning a communication for development strategy has a number of steps for drawing up and implementing the strategies, as summarised in the following table.
Figure 1: The process of planning and implementation of communication
A more detailed representation of the process is shown below.
Box Number 6: plan and implement a communication for development strategy
Figure 4 gives a clear picture of the actual phase of planning, which is the major focus of this document.
Figure 4: The process of planning a communication for development strategy
With the analysis of the situation it is possible to study the essential contours and nature of the development problem at hand and to pull together the elements necessary for analysing the communication problems which have to be resolved. Similarly the strengths and weakness, and assets and opportunities, can be identified as well as the obstacles and constraints. These all need to be taken into account during the planning process and in the implementation period, along with the risks and assumptions on which the strategy is based.
The communication strategy brings together the combined approaches which have been selected for triggering, by delivering appropriately carried messages to the target, the changes necessary for solving the communication problems encountered, and thus contributing to solving the development problem at hand.
The operational part of the strategy involves drawing up an implementation plan. This should envisage the elements which are required for a successful implementation: Institutional framework, production of communication material, training of human resources, strengthening of institutional capacities (if necessary), monitoring and evaluation, budget and timetable.
At this stage, it is useful to explain how to carry out each of these stages, namely:
- How to analyse the situation
- How to draw up the multimedia communication strategy
- How to plan its implementation, monitoring and evaluation.