Freddy the Fly: A lesson in effective development communications

The organization I work for, the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), recently released the short animated video, ‘Freddy the Fly’, which I helped produce. ‘Freddy the Fly’ tells the story of a community that is mobilized to clean up its act and become open defecation free. But what makes the video so unique is that it is told from the perspective of a fly, who grows increasingly grumpy as the community steadily improves its sanitation and hygiene.

The main audiences for the video are those who need to hear the messages to improve their sanitation and hygiene (communities, school children, and the like) and those who can use the video as a tool to promote sanitation and hygiene behaviour change (development practitioners, especially those involved in sanitation programmes).

Check out the video below:

Ensuring that sustainable development issues, such as behaviour change and sanitation, resonate with your key audiences can sometimes be challenging. This can be due to the dynamic, multi-layered nature of these issues, as well as the complex and technical concepts linked to them. For example, how should one communicate faecal sludge management to non-sanitation practitioners?

This is where effective communications comes in. After identifying your audiences through communications and content strategies, communications professionals must ensure that they convey messages in the most clear, concise and engaging ways possible, adapted to those audiences. This includes identifying the appropriate tools and channels through which the messages are conveyed.

Though I’m being subjective here, I think ‘Freddy the Fly’ is a strong example of how to effectively communicate international development topics that may seem overly technical or not immediately marketable or exciting. Like pooping in the open! Here’s why:

  • It conveys key messages via a powerful channel: video.
  • It uses effective storytelling to engage audiences.
  • It repackages multi-layered, low-profile (but extremely important) topics – such as behaviour change through Community-Led Total Sanitation, sustainable sanitation and hygiene and open defecation – in an easy to understand, entertaining way.
  • It uses simple but creative visuals and narration (rhyming couplets) to engage audiences of all ages.
  • It tells the story from the perspective of a fly, using the element of novelty to engage audiences.
  • Finally, it’s an effective organizational promotion tool, as it effectively positions the organization addressing the issues presented in the video: WSSCC. The end of the video explains how WSSCC, through its Global Sanitation Fund, is helping end open defecation, with numbers to boot. It also directs audiences to WSSCC’s website, where they can learn more or support the cause.

Voila, the anatomy of an effective communications product. If you’re interested in learning more about WSSCC’s work, or sanitation and hygiene improvement in the context of international development, check out wsscc.org.

10 ways to improve your communications strategy

Are you currently developing, reviewing or delivering your nonprofit communications strategy? If you’re thinking about the type of strategy you need, why not start here. If your looking to take your communications strategy to the next level of effectiveness, consider the 10 tips below. They are all sourced from a Gaurdian article on the importance of communication in aid work and how to get it right.

1. People engage best with people, not abstract issues

Use case studies, testimonials and human interest stories to illustrate your issue in a real, accessible and relevant way.

2. Communicate the difference people can make

Rather than only focusing on the negative aspects of the problem, show that it is possible to address the problem and communicate what each audience member can do to help address it.

3. Find a private sector partner

Find an influential company that can act as your champion, so it can push your cause among peers.

4. Strategic communications can change policy

Aim for policy change by advocating for your cause in the media and amongst politicians. Policy change is one of the most tangible ways to achieve your social development goals. For example, the UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report team engaged with Pakistani press and politicians to advocate for education in the country. This contributed to the Government finding more funds for education and passing the free education bill.

5. Monitor everything

Speaking of monitoring, continually monitoring your progress and impact can help you generate a clear picture of what’s working and what’s not. You will then be able to make informed and effective adjustments to your strategy and use the positive monitoring data for stakeholder engagement and advocacy.

6. Know your audience

By clearly identifying your audience and understanding their behaviours, you can tailor your strategy and messages to best suit their needs.

7. Shift from compassion to solidarity campaigning

Move from convincing your audience to feel sorry for those you are helping, to working together with those in need to improve our shared world. Move your audience from focusing on pity to championing empowerment; from “it’s sad, but I have my own problems” to “we’re all in this together.”

8. Select the relevant data

Data is essential for transparency and evidence-based advocacy. With that said, ensure that you use the right data that is consistent with your strategy and messages, to ensure maximum impact.

9. Do more with less by being inventive

If you’re a small NGO lacking in resources, you’ll want to remember this tip. Work with freelancers and pro bono communications specialists, and organize competitions among students to generate content. Leverage free social media platforms and strategic partnerships that are cost-effective.

10. Listen to people on the ground

Talk with the people you are working with and serving in your project sites. Listen to them to understand what the real problems/needs are. Then together with them, incorporate this feedback into your communications strategy. This will ensure that your strategy can be as effective and relevant as possible for your these top-priority stakeholders.

Featured photo: Marc Wathieu, Flickr Creative Commons

Five digital content marketing trends to consider in 2017

Happy new year! With the new year comes new communications strategies. With that said, here are some digital content marketing trends to consider when developing your 2017 strategies, courtesy of Jessica Gow writing for the Huffington Post.

1. Dark social

These days, the majority of content is shared through dark social – platforms such as messaging apps (e.g. Whatsapp), email and text. These platforms can’t be measured by traditional analytics programmes. Leverage these platforms to amplify your message.

2. Real-time video

Audiences are increasingly looking to video – particularly, live video – to engage with brands. By providing a raw, spontaneous and unedited look at brands, live video can help establish a real and strong connection with audiences.

3. Micro influencers

Brand advocates, or micro influencers, can help build brand awareness and a community of followers. With anywhere from 500 to 10,000 followers on social networks, Gow points out that micro influencers “have significant influence, and an authenticity that can be tricky to harness with more well-known personalities. Encouraging and leveraging content from micro influencers shows the community that they’re valued, as well as increasing brand reach and, in turn, increasingly the likelihood of conversions”.

4. Augmented reality

This increasingly utilized field of communications includes 360-degree video and virtual activities that blend with the real world. Think Pokémon Go. As Gow points out, these activities “support brand storytelling, and offer consumers new reasons to interact with brands”.

5. Programmatic advertising and promotion

Paid promotion is essential to effective content marketing. Using this approach, more and more brands are focusing on programmatic targeting, that is showing specific content to different people based on their past behaviour. This takes content personalization to the next level, helping to increase brand engagement. Facebook and other social platforms are supporting this approach through a range of functionalities.

Featured image: DaPuglet, Flickr Creative Commons