COVID 19: Tips for improving project communications
Updated: Jun 17, 2020
As the COVID-19 effects continue to chip away at the international development sector, projects are finding themselves in a pickle to justify continued funding without operations. While some have experienced budget cuts, or been closed, others like Oxfam have scaled-down operations significantly.
While COVID-19 has negatively impacted international development, it presents an opportunity for a long sidelined project function -- communications, as a potential solution for adapting projects to thrive during these chaotic times.
However, if the world’s largest communications firm Edelman’s employee lay off this month is anything to go by, organisations are cutting communications budgets rather than investing more to ensure continued client engagement.
Here are a few tips on how your organisation or project can boost communications to inform donors and stakeholders on COVID project initiatives and technical adaptation:
1. Streamline your platforms
More than ever before, projects need to determine which media platform will maximize their reach and place their message at the top of the national/community discourse. Research by the QG Group in Uganda shows social media and TV as the most utilized information consumption platforms among internet users. Other research will point to the radio being the preferred media especially for rural hard to reach areas. So it’s important to select the right blend of platforms
2. Focus on learning
Most projects operate in fast-paced environments focused on targeted technical deliverables, and with limited time to pause for reflection on lessons critical to project adaptation for increased effectiveness. The project communications unit can structure these lessons into evidence-based case studies that can be shared internally or externally and can form the basis for team meetings, webinars and other discussions. The USAID Collaboration Learning and Adaptation (CLA) framework provides principles to consider when gathering these lessons.
3. Visualize, visualize, visualize
Given that people’s attention spans are being crowded out by the countless COVID messages and real-life stresses, it's only natural that their attention spans have been shortened. Research indicates that the average person, whose attention span was once 12 seconds, has dropped to 8 seconds in the last 15 years and could be lower with the current COVID-19 information overload. This gives project communications less than 7 seconds to drive the point home. Infographics and motion graphics (animations) are some of the options to explore especially when presenting aspects of data or explaining processes.
4. Carry the brand online
Projects and organisations have invested a lot in indoor and outdoor physical branding including banners, posters, teardrops e.t.c. That may not count for much with the current COVID restrictions which will see decreased office visits and public movement. This is now the time to carry brands online to social media, websites and brands. Focus on meaningful content to drive increased engagement that can be tracked through analytics software.
5. Increase documentation intensity
Project communications units that once ran one success story a quarter now need to multiply that by 10. Projects due to their unique focus on human development are uniquely positioned to tell a beneficiary story from different vantage points. Increase in documentation requires increased creativity and an ‘in-your-face’ mentality. All this should be scheduled. Newsletters can be adopted to firm this process due to their routine nature.
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