What is meant by strategic communication for sustainable development? This GTZ publication outlines how strategic communication can be integrated into development policies and projects. Strategic communication ensures the active solicitation of stakeholders’ perspectives. Despite its impact, communication is rarely integrated in development cooperation programmes as a strategic tool. However, cooperation and collaboration among stakeholders depend on it.
Strategic communication is not just disseminating information; it is the active gathering of stakeholders’ views. It is a pre-requisite and an instrument of effective policymaking and public participation, facilitating information exchange and establishing consensus among divergent opinions and interests. It facilitates the building of know-how, decision making and action capacities at the heart of the delicate cooperation between government, civil society groups and the private sector.
Both internal and external factors influencing human communication require consideration. Internal factors include norms and values, attitudes and behaviour. External factors include the ‘vehicles’ that bring the material to the target audience. Five branches of strategic communication are particularly applicable to sustainable development:
- Development and environmental communication: Breaking down complex information into understandable elements in a socio-culturally relevant way for different audiences is a prerequisite for consensus building and change. A particularly successful model is the problem-oriented, participatory and focused Strategic Extension Campaign (SEC) developed by FAO.
- Social marketing: This involves gathering input from intended beneficiaries to design communication campaigns promoting socially beneficial practices or products in a target group. Audience segmentation is a crucial element.
- Non-formal and environmental education: These involve promoting awareness, values and attitudes, skills and behaviour for sustainable development and effective participation in decision-making.
- Civil society mobilisation: This involves listening as well as ‘talking’, and combines vertical and horizontal social interaction through community-controlled media.
- Conflict management and negotiation: Mediation, conciliation or arbitration can help to address communication deadlocks and power imbalances, and increase trust.
A project should define up-front what information is meant for whom and how beneficiaries are supposed to translate it into communication and action. This is best achieved in a 10-step communication strategy that follows a cycle of analysis, planning, production and reflection.
- Assessment: 1) situation analysis and problem identification; 2) audience and knowledge, attitude and practices (KAP) analyses; and 3) definition of communication objectives
- Planning: 4) the development of a communication strategy; 5) ensuring the participation of strategic groups; and 6) selecting the mix of different media (a combination of mass, group and interpersonal communication is most cost-effective).
- Production: 7) the design of the message (as easy to understand and offering a clear benefit); and 8) the pre-testing of media, and production
- Action and Reflection: 9) implementation (ensuring timely delivery and availability of inputs required for the adoption of the recommended actions); and 10) process documentation and monitoring and evaluation (of efficiency, relevance and impact).