Digital evolution powered development communications this year. What should we consider for 2016?
1. Digital first, but don’t forget the personal touch
We’ve finally reached a stage in development communications where digital comes first. No longer sidelined as a separate channel, it sits across all communications activities and means we are now creating everything from HTML publications to easily-shareable content.
This is a fantastic place to be, but in a tide of digital enthusiasm communications strategies mustn’t forget the value of analogue – sitting in the room with audiences, raising awareness of a campaign offline, or developing content that has more of a personal touch. For example, Well-Told Story, based in Kenya and Tanzania, works with comic books to reach audiences offline, while also using social media for support. We also cannot forget to address audiences who don’t have digital access. It goes back to the age-old mantra of making sure your communications are tailored to your audiences and local contexts. It’s not always about who shouts the loudest online.
2. The rise of virtual reality
We want real-life experiences from our communications so it’s no surprise that 2015 saw the steady rise of virtual reality, a trend that looks likely to skyrocket in 2016. The non-profit sector is leading the way, linking the emotional with “cold” facts in a drive to encourage fundraising and a connection with audiences. Take Amnesty International’s immersive experience of life on the ground in Aleppo, Save the Children’s East African Appeal or Oxfam’s Traces App. Rather than telling audiences or asking them to read about the issue, these examples help them relate to what they are seeing in a unique and immersive way. Could 2016 be the year we start to see development research teams sharing their experiences with policymakers like this?
3. Images, data visualisations and infographics are a website’s best friend
As websites launch or re-launch across the sector, one thing is crystal clear: they are no longer driven by text, but images. Under the Weather and Dadaab Stories are both good examples of this trend, which is also coupled with the recent boom in infographics and data visualisations. These are getting easier to create by the day thanks to a host of new tools such as Canva, Datawrapper and Tableau Public.
4. We have to improve our photography
Our Twitter chat on the do’s and don’ts of development photography (#DevPix) highlighted how much organisations still fall into the trap of using dated stereotypes in their photography, and why we cannot underestimate the value and role it plays in shaping perceptions. Some of the recommendations included paying more attention to editorial briefs, creating robust guidelines, and considering participatory photography whereby project participants are helped to produce their own photographic work in order to share their experiences and present the world as they see it.
5. The website is no longer the centre of the universe
Just when we’ve become comfortable with our websites being the key hub for all our content, social media, apps and publishing platforms mean that people are accessing content in multiple places – not just going straight to the website. This doesn’t mean you should ignore your website, but at least make sure your content is available on as many platforms as possible. Medium is one platform on the rise, with organisations such as the World Bank publishing stories and articles in their own section.
Most of all, don’t be worried if a key piece of content begins life elsewhere. It could have more impact with a target audience group than simply sitting on your website waiting for people to find it. Some 44% of users only ever use their mobiles to access Facebook. Practitioners can no longer neglect to ensure that their websites are responsive for different devices, particularly mobile.
6. Evidence-led digital communications is here to stay
There’s no avoiding it. Monitoring, evaluating and learning from communications is not going anywhere soon. The great news is that measuring the impact of our digital communications is becoming easier thanks, in part, to a growing number of readily-available digital tools. For instance, HTML publications (rather than traditional pdfs) now mean we can see which specific sections of a publication are most read by users. This could help us to better tailor publications for different audience groups or show just how much the executive summary gets read. Tools have their limitations, but they can help us to adapt our strategies, something we need to be doing regularly to ensure that our communications have an impact.
Do you agree? Which communications trends will your NGO be pursuing in 2016? Let us know in the comments below.
Source: Guardian UK