Audience is everything. Only by listening to and understanding your target audience, and then carefully tailoring language and format can you effectively train them for proper response to weather and climate information, convey information that is appropriate and leads to the proper responses in actual events, and provide other weather and climate services to them.
In the end, weather and climate affects everyone, and really, everybody benefits from the effective utilization of reliable, timely weather and climate services. Understanding end-users (e.g., community leaders; farmers and herdsmen; fishermen; the roles of women in these and other occupations, etc.) is not an easy process, especially as regional linguistic, cultural, media and economic variations create nuances for both the services providers and the end-users.
This quick-and-easy guide adapted from UNDP’s Climate Information and Early Warning Systems Toolkit helps identify methods to understand end-user needs, how to reach these groups based on their media habits, lifestyles and interests, and defines messages to easily reach those users with actionable information.
Agriculturalists. This large, diverse target group consists of (to name just a few members) crop farmers, smallholder farmers, industrialized farmers, pastoralists (livestock herders), fishermen and those involved in the agricultural value chain, ranging from seed salesmen to livestock buyers. This target group has multiple needs for weather and climate information. Such information can save lives, contain losses, increase productivity, and reduce risk.
Reaching rural small holders, pastoralists, and fishermen is a challenge, as at best Internet communication is limited, literacy is low, and there are many regional and village-level cultural and linguistic differences. Primary methodologies for reaching this group may include rural radio, SMS, training workshops and informational meetings hosted at the community level, billboards, outreach from rural schools and health organizations, NGOs specifically targeting one or more of these groups, illustrated pamphlets, and other advocacy methods. They can also be reached through value-added service providers, such as agricultural extension services, cooperatives and innovative last mile approaches, such as Human Network International’s 3-2-1 Service.
Local Communities. This group is comprised of community leaders, farm cooperative leaders, village leadership, regional politicians, children, teachers, elders and other community members that don’t work in farming but occupy positions of respect, local NGOs, extension services and medium-scale local enterprisers. Reaching this group is a little easier. Villages will often have access to television, radio, and may even have access to the Internet. Primary vehicles to reach them include Public Service Announcements (PSAs), TV, training, radio, policy dialogue (learning routes), print media, social media (growing but still limited), community meetings, school and hospital outreach, SMS and engagement with extension services. Some communities have enabled communications trees within the leadership to ensure messages are disseminated rapidly once generated.
Policy Makers. This group is comprised of regional and national leaders in the NHMS and agricultural, emergency services, and similar ministries; locally elected members of the government, regional and national media, large private-sector enterprise (telecommunications, banking, mining, etc.), universities, think tanks, and regional cooperation entities (i.e. African Union). Reaching them should be the easiest of all. They can be reached by email, social media, print, radio, broadcast, telephone, and advocacy. However, impacting their opinions and policies is a whole other ballgame. In order to reach them and sway opinion and policy, you first need to reach their constituencies (farmers and communities), create a narrative of value and trust, empower product champions, and foster learning opportunities.
Private Sector. Not only do private sector enterprises benefit from tailored weather information – to protect human and physical resources and make climate-smart business decisions – they can also play a role in disseminating messages. Telecommunications firms can site AWS and serve as go-betweens to send early alerts, mining companies can be tapped to leverage corporate social responsibility dollars, or pay for tailored weather information, media can be used to share early alerts and PSAs. In order to engage the private sector, you need to create a narrative that underscores your specific value to them and to their consumers.
Reaching all these groups means enlisting the support of a wide group of actors. Actors can serve as education providers regarding proper response to different threats and then as messengers in an actual emergency. Actors may include telecoms and electronic media, National Hydro-Meteorological Services, community leaders, first responders, NGOs, the education and health sectors, disaster management units, brand ambassadors, country projects, partner agencies, the community of practice, rural radio… the list goes on.
Understanding your stakeholders
There are various methods to understand your stakeholders. These include surveys, community forums, policy dialogue, media monitoring, and outreach to leaders. Constant contact between stakeholders is key. Often you will need to work through other parties, such as rural extension agents.
Questions to Ask
Not only do you need to understand your stakeholders, you also need to understand what type of information they need, how they get and use information, their media habits and how information is shared. Approaches will vary, but important questions to ask yourself and stakeholders include the following:
- What did our baseline study tell us about our target market?
- What are end-user requirements for/reliance on reliable weather and climate information?
- What current assets do we have?
- Who are the trusted sources of your audiences?
Defining The Message
Defining a common narrative can build cohesion, strengthen outreach and fortify the impact of your work. While this narrative will need to be tailored to meet individual country and target-audience needs, it’s a starting point to begin the hard work of creating those tailored messages and a framework on which to base all communications.
Remember when building these communications pipelines and platforms, you don’t just have to share actionable weather information, you also have to create the supporting advocacy materials to tell people what to do when bad weather hits, and build a value proposition that will push end-users to trust the reports coming from the weather service, tune-in to reports (rather than switching on to soccer), and know how to apply weather information in their day-to-day lives. This value proposition cuts across numerous spaces, including engagement with the private sector and enabling actors, and is an essential ingredient in building a long-term messaging platform and overall project sustainability.
Creating a Trustworthy Brand
Marketers often talk about creating emotional messages to build trust. Emotional messages focus on needs, wants and desires. They service the heart and not the mind. These messages answer why and not what. This is often broken down into a brand pyramid, with emotional messages on top, benefits in the middle and attributes on the bottom. You need to talk about attributes in order to get to the benefits, but an overarching narrative that creates an emotional appeal needs to be woven into the conversation.
Security. Safety. Trust. Credibility. You can rest easy knowing what weather is coming your way. If you are a farmer, you know there won’t be a flood tonight and that your family is safe. If you are a farm leader, you know what strategy to adopt so that productivity will increase and your community will prosper. If you are a policy maker, you feel secure that your constituent’s needs are being met and you have the information you need to make climate-smart decisions.
Benefits. You will be saving lives and improving livelihoods. Lives can be saved. Productivity can be increased. You will make more money. Vulnerable rural communities can become more resilient. Improved forecasts can lower risks from mosquito-borne illnesses, and avoid the loss of life and property from flood, hail, lightning and other severe weather. But only if individuals and communities are prepared and if the action message – alerts, warnings, etc… – lead to the correct response.
Attributes. What is your product offering? Improved climate information that can be used by all, accurate weather forecasts, accurate long-term forecasts, nowcasts, alerts.
Communications Toolkit Messages and Stakeholders Presentation
UNDP’s Climate Information and Early Warning Systems Toolkit