[contributor] Communicators Anonymous: Helping professionals to survive their traumas

ONE OF THE joys of our work is that we get to meet really interesting and intelligent people.

 

It happens that interesting people are often hard to keep up with, because after all, they are out doing interesting things. In fact, the intuitive blog is really just an excuse to keep up with the interesting and insightful people we come across in our work.

 

Enter Jose Moriano, a communications professional who knows what he’s talking about and happy to share his expertise with the world. Jose’s writing is accessible and he breaks down complex ideas into very digestible pieces.

 

Jose has his own blog here. With his permission, we’ve included a portion of his latest entry as a contributor to the intuitive blog.

 

Enjoy, and PLEASE, PLEASE, visit his site and read the entire piece (click here). There’s a lot of really good concepts and practical direction in his pieces. We’ve learned a lot from his work and look forward to future contributions from Jose.

 


 

Taken from: Communicators Anonymous: Helping professionals to survive their traumas

 

A dark basement room. A line of reheated coffee cups watching from a shabby table under the blinking florescent lights on the ceiling. A moldy piece of pineapple cake observes a group of people seated in a circle.

 

Establishing objectives

 

– Hi, my name is Mathew. I’ve been working in social behavior change communication for a while.

 

– Hi Mathewwww. No sign of enthusiasm from that sad, depressed salutation choir.

 

– I thought I had gotten over this long time ago, but some nights, I wake up in sweat after having very vivid nightmares. Let me tell you…

 

After weeks of meetings with my communications counterpart designing the communication strategy for a government program in an Asian country, I discovered that her boss had a very different idea of what the program was about. He rejected the whole strategy. We were working in two different directions because he didn’t tell his team he had changed his mind about the program’s objectives. We had to start from scratch after 2 months of work. It was so frustrating and demotivating.

 

The voice of the therapist sounds calmed and firm:


– Remember what we’ve been learning. It’s not really about you. You don’t have to own that.

 

Establishing objectives in the analysis and research phase is crucial. Before developing the design phase of your communication strategy, share the communication goal and objectives with all stakeholders, and together, reach a consensus. Sometimes, these meetings might show some differences among stakeholders on what and how they want to communicate. You must be firm and not move along with the strategy until everybody is in agreement with these fundamentals.

 

Designing messages

 

– Hi, my name is Emma. I’ve been working as a communication for change consultant for ten years.

 

– Hi Emmaaaaaa – the whole group salutes like a sad choir.

 

– Let me tell you a very embarrassing experience.

 

Last year I was hired to design a Public Communication Campaign in a South American country. The government officials insisted in creating, by themselves, some messages for outreach communications disregarding the communication team’s advice. These messages were spread in several community meetings by social mobilizers who shouted out loud to the audience the same motto over and over again for weeks.

 

Emma looks at her feet. Her arms fall down like dead leaves. She keeps on talking with a nearly inaudible voice:

 

We collected audience’s feedback after those meetings and, even if everybody was able to repeat the messages, qualitative data shown that they didn’t understand the meaning at all. The program was a mess in terms of community engagement. I felt so guilty for letting these officials conduct the communication outreach engagement campaign without the proper skills.

 

– Depression is anger turned inward- the firm voice of the therapist cuts Emma’s sobbing – Stop weeping, is not your fault. We understand you. It’s not your fault.

 

-It’s not your fault Emmaaaaaa! – The group sings with one voice.

 

The firm voice rumbles in the, now silent, room.

 

When designing messages, these must be agreed upon by all stakeholders and linked with clear qualitative monitoring mechanisms. Giving information is not enough when engaging people in public campaigns. Messages must be tested before the implementation phase. Communication is about understanding the message and acting according to that message.

 

Click here to read the complete entry

 

Photo credit: Jose Moriano