2015 Communication Action Plan to improve UNESCO’s visibility

UNESCO has completed a process of reflection and reform on Communication and Organizational Visibility. The result is a 2015 Communication Action Plan that will make UNESCO’s work more visible to both key stakeholder groups and the general public. The Action Plan responds to an audit of Communication undertaken by the Internal Oversight Service in the second half of 2014, and creates a roadmap for implementing ideas proposed at a retreat conducted by the Division of Public Information.

The Action Plan’s vision for improved communication and visibility is to: 

  • Present “one UNESCO” to the outside world, rather than the activities of individual Sectors;
  • Communicate UNESCO’s work from Field Offices equally to its activities at Headquarters;
  • Focus on UNESCO’s contribution to the international development agenda, including the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and proposed Convention on Climate Change (COP21); and
  • Create visibility for UNESCO’s new responsibilities within the UN system, such as establishing the Secretariat for the Global Education First Initiative (GEFI) and the Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) on behalf of the Secretary-General.  

In order to deliver this vision, the Action Plan recommends the creation of an inter-sectoral team of communicators drawn from existing posts within the Sectors.  This team could then deliver an integrated approach to communication and create holistic communication plans for cross-cutting issues such as UNESCO’s 70th anniversary.  The plan also recommends the development and delivery of regional communication strategies to ensure that field activities are communicated effectively.  One option for moving ahead would be to “re-purpose” an existing post in each region to form a team of Regional Public Information Officers. 

In addition, the Action Plan recommends the development of a new approach to funding communication within extra-budgetary projects in order to put UNESCO on an equal communication footing with its partners.  Currently, partners support most communication activities, making it sometimes difficult for UNESCO’s priorities to be visible.  The plan calls for the creation of more media partnerships such as those already established with Xinhua and Prisa news agencies and notes the success of “three way” partnerships in which a funding organization works with a media outlet to promote a key UNESCO issue.   A good example of this kind of partnership is “Journeys to School”, in which Veolia Transdev provided financial support for SIPA Press to create a travelling exhibition and coffee table book about Access to Education, an essential component of the Education for All initiative. 

The Action Plan supports a Social Media Policy for UNESCO that strikes a balance between empowering staff  and providing oversight and quality assurance over social media content.  It includes a protocol for the use of personal social media accounts by staff that is based on the UN Code of Conduct and UNESCO’s staff rules.  Finally, the plan addresses UNESCO’s visual identity and calls for both new graphic standards and a review of the Organization’s use of secondary logos within its many partnerships. 

In order to put the Action Plan into practice, several new governance initiatives have been started, including regular meetings of Executive Officers on communication issues and a standing item on communication at Senior Management Team (SMT) meetings.