From two days to two weeks depending on content
Don’t embark on a communications initiative before doing a thorough situational and stakeholder analysis. Don’t count on your perceptions either. I was taken aback when I learnt that a well-known government training unit got delegates to live with a community for a long weekend before writing a communications strategy. Now while an ethnographic experience is all well and good for getting the feel of a group of stakeholders, it is just a first superficial step. From there you need to take your observations away and do a case study. The case study itself needs some thought if it’s going to serve any purpose.
The rule here is: don’t write a case study before identifying a case problem you want the study to address. That’s why it’s called a case study.
Here too I’ve seen research units in some agencies miss the point. The purpose of the agency is to support initiatives and fund projects. This they do with not a lot of success, which is unsurprising given the hit-and-miss approach with little thought given to evaluation. And that’s an issue we’ll get to later.
Salient here is that the research unit’s task should be to analyse the situation requesting agency funding.
They should be asking questions like:
- what’s the problem?
- Who are the stakeholders?
- What research methods are we going to use to investigate the problem?
Instead the case study they come up with resembles more a feature for a corporate publication. They fail to problematize the situation. So the storyline they manufacture is that of a needy community given agency funding to develop an initiative. Finally the feature is framed with pics of happy people carrying out tasks using the funding given to them. What happens afterwards remains uncaptured. Guilty thoughts of sustainability hover in agency minds but are pushed aside. Rumour has it that the project ground to a halt when funds dried up and pushy individuals in the community got their claws into contracts.
The funding that was supposed to benefit all enriched a greedy few. Flip back to the idea of inviting delegates to partake in an ethnographic sleep-over with a community to understand their needs. It’s not enough. Before embarking on any kind of communications plan it is imperative to pin-point the stakeholders in the process so their buy-in can be obtained and perceptions managed. These include interest groups which can have a powerful bearing on outcomes. It is expedient to build their needs and concerns into the communication strategy. A useful method is to group players in matrices according to their interests and power. It’s like a game of chess. For this reason stakeholder analysis and management is a significant aspect of DeutMedia training. Indeed stakeholder understanding determines the framing and presentation of messages. If communicators do not consider audience perception, communications initiatives and their accompanying message will be rejected. Furthermore if perceptions are negative the omnipresent media will magnify and disseminate them entrenching the bad vibes.
- To ensure training outcomes the following areas will be covered:
- Defining objectives
- Doing a situational analysis and analysing stakeholder perception
- Identifying and compensating for weak areas
- Formulating stakeholder specific messages
- Identifying relevant media and planning relations
- Effective use of media interviews
- Effective use of media releases
- Delivering message-based speeches
- Collaborating with external public and private agencies
- Monitoring and evaluating results