Michael Croft, Head of Office , UNESCO Office in Hanoi
Feedback from the recent Partners’ Forum (September 2018) confirms the effective communication of results remains a crucial imperative and challenge for UNESCO. While the Working Group on Communication will recommend a number of remedial actions of the Strategic Transformation, what can field offices do now to best communicate results and position themselves to take advantage of coming changes?
First of all, it’s good to be honest about the challenge. At present, UNESCO does not deploy Communication Officers, so only offices having significant project portfolios are likely to create this position. Most make do with dedicated focal points who already have other responsibilities. So to communicate results, offices like Hanoi must leverage what is at hand, and use it efficiently.
Everyone needs to understand the big picture.
An office has to communicate around its country strategy. Its objectives are the primary focus for communications, providing the narrative and key messaging about UNESCO’s programme. Without this link, even good results can appear disjointed, giving the impression of an organization that works in a random manner, especially when we consider the diversity of what we do. This is why it is important that the elaboration of the country strategy is a collective action involving all colleagues, so that everyone understands the big picture of what is being done and why. This enables the delivery of a consistent message to other UN agencies, government, civil society and donors, and with consistency comes the credibility needed to mobilize resources.
The power of social media
However, to communicate past the capital requires online platforms. While websites are good repositories of information, they are passive and do not attract an audience. For this social media is needed, which to apply depends on the context. In the case of Viet Nam, this is Facebook (Vietnamese are in the top 10 users globally). Easy to use, it provides handy built-in analytics on who your viewers are. It doesn’t demand complex content, photos with a sentence or two suffice, and it allows the sharing of material from other offices and Headquarters to ensure a high level of activity.
Animated videos as a tool
What works best? Hanoi Office has found short, animated videos to be most effective. Cheap and easy to produce, they have multiple uses, working equally well to provide interesting content online or during the opening of functions or events. We are trying to have one for each area of significant focus, and have even come up with one for our country strategy.
Taking part on UN Communications Teams
Finally, participation in the UN Communications Team in-country provides another useful platform for communicating results. As well, the Communications Team is the locus of agency expertise in the country and often the best place to pick up tips and best practice; most of my own relevant knowledge comes from previous experience chairing UN Communications Teams in Somalia and Libya, and the contacts from the other agencies still come in handy.
Ultimately, these actions require similar replication at the organizational level. But in leveraging what is at hand and working as a team, field offices can demonstrate the essence of the approach required.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of UNESCO