Posts tagged Communicating as one


Getting out of our silos to tell the sustainable development story

More than 150 world leaders gathered at UN Headquarters in New York last week to formally adopt 17 global goals, and an ambitious sustainable development agenda. As an important step, many like those at Project Everyone, are already at working to help people know and understand the global goals. Everybody should get excited about the historic opportunity the goals provide to make the world a better place by 2030, especially for those currently left behind. Seeing the goals projected onto the UN building last week was a truly amazing experience!

Helping people understand and value the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)

Those of us engaged in UN communications will now have to work to promote a new set of goals that promise to end poverty, to leave no one behind, to protect the environment and to address climate change – we have a unique opportunity ahead of us:

  • People will need to know about the SDGs so they can hold governments to account for implementing the agenda, and deliver results.
  • Governments need to be supported in communicating the global agenda in a way that is relevant to all local stakeholders.
  • We as a UN system need to come together to communicate as one, and convey the message about a complex but exciting agenda in a way that people understand.

Learning to listen  

But we will also need to listen and engage in dialogue. Gone are the days when we could simply share information with our audiences in a one-way type of communication. Today, people respond. More than 8 million people have made their views known as part of the global goals discussions, through the MY World Survey and lots of other creative means in almost 100 countries. This type of two-way engagement will have to continue all the way to 2030, with United Nations Country Teams working with partners to listen and learn, to feel the pulse, and to understand what matters to the women, men, girls and boys that we as the UN serve.

Silo busting communications?

So, we need to do things differently. We have to stop speaking only from the perspective of our own ‘silos’. And we have to get better at developing a common narrative. Yes, it is a challenge to do justice to complex development issues, looking at them from different angles, and still come out making sense! But it can be done. And it has to be done. Because, the 17 goals together make up a new sustainable development agenda where the WHOLE is greater than the sum of its parts!

For that, we have started work to improve the coordination of communication in support of shared objectives among UN agencies at country level. And we are eager to learn what success looks like. We therefore invite you to share your story about how to Communicate as One in support of the new sustainable development agenda. Examples, innovations and good practices can be shared on this blog, Silo Fighters. So we can all learn from each other, and move the new agenda ahead collectively.

How are your promoting the SDG agenda? Learn about country examples of Communicating as One. Share your stories, tales and tribulations on silo-busting communications.

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How we are ‘communicating as one’ in Iran

Public communications can be challenging in Iran, the country where I work. But we must be visible. Why? If we can show people that we are doing good work – and demonstrate that the United Nations is here to support Iran’s development and humanitarian agenda – Iranians will come to better appreciate the UN’s contribution inside Iran. So will those outside Iran. Partnerships will expand. And the political environment will become more conducive to funding more good work.

Here are 10 ways we are communicating as one, using a communications plan approved by the UN Country Team in Iran:

1. Engage key audiences proactively

Public communications efforts deliver messages designed to reach specific external audiences: the general public, the media, government, potential funding partners (including Iranian diaspora and local private sector), civil society and the general public.

2. Use UN agency Speakers’ Notes as a common script

Opportunities for public speaking are actively pursued. (Check out a recent TEDx event where I discuss the linkages between the environment and human security.) Each of the 18 UN agencies in Iran prepare a set of talking points, outlining the key messages they want me to get across in any interview I have with the media on their issues. Furthermore, we have agreed scripts on cross-cutting issues like human rights, gender empowerment and youth.

3. Celebrate UN Days ― last year we celebrated around 30.

We select those ‘International Days’ which connect with our ongoing development and humanitarian work. And we celebrate them. This allows us to hook onto a globally-celebrated day and then point to what the UN is doing on the ground in Iran. At the beginning of the year, the agencies plan to take the lead in organizing an activity for a specific day.

4. Give media interviews – frequently

As the Resident Coordinator, I am often joined by agency heads who feel comfortable speaking with the press. We give frequent interviews with local and international media. Press releases and press briefing are structured media interactions that are used less frequently, e.g. when high-profile UN visitors come to Iran or when we have a report to launch.

5. Make the most of websites

Almost every one of our 18 UN agencies runs their own website. Material from each of these sites is cross-linked to the UN Iran site. We average 70 stories each month on the UN Iran site.

6. Broadcast a regular E-Burst to friends worldwide

At the end of each month we send out an e-mail with photos and links to stories to 1,500 recipients, including government officials, development partners, the private sector, media and civil society. Each issue begins with a brief overview of the preceding month’s events: one column in English; one column in Farsi. Readers can skim down the list of stories and open the links to the stories that interest them.

7. Use social media to greatly magnify messages

If the UN is not visible through social media channels, no one will know about the great work we are doing. This will hurt our ability to share good practices, and it will hurt our ability to raise funds to expand the great work. The material that goes onto the website is also broadcast our other social media channels, including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

8. Pay attention to quality control and speed

Originally, I used to review all stories going up on the website before posting. But as time passed, others have assumed the quality control role with excellent results. As a rule we try to get up a story on any event within 24 hours. Speed is of the essence in conveying freshness and relevance. We have an enthusiastic and energetic UN communications team drawn from the UN agencies, which drives the process.

9. Try to use multiple languages

In Iran, we try to run as many stories as possible in both English and Farsi. We are getting better at writing and Tweeting in both languages.

10. Monitor the results of public communications activities

We are planning a Client Satisfaction Survey for our key audiences, using our 1,500 member E-Burst mailing list database. Proxy indicators can speak to scope and impact. The number of website hits is one example, along with data on the hit’s country of origin, length of time the visitor stayed, number of pages visited. We also track the number of stories we manage to place in the media.

What do you think? How is Communicating as One being applied in your country?

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