I attended an inspiring session this morning at the 2006 IABC Heritage Region Conference. William Ryerson, President of the Population Media Center, and Esta de Fossard, Senior Advisor of Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Communication Programs, spoke about using entertainment as a vehicle to communicate health and social messages to people in developing nations.
William gave examples of how serial dramas are able to significantly raise awareness about family planning options, HIV prevention, arranged marriages (in reality abductions and violations of young girls) and exploitative child labor and child slavery. He also showed where this awareness resulted in changed behavior. For example, he told one moving story where the family of a 14-year old abducted girl was reluctant to let their other daughter attend school for fear that she too would be attacked on the way to class. However, after hearing a serial radio drama discussing “arranged marriages,” they and the other villagers decided that they would band together to prevent further abductions.
Esta explained that the success of serial dramas, one of several types of entertainment-education vehicles (others include telenovelas, series, sit coms and docu dramas), lies in the identification of the audience with the characters, and in helping audience members believe that if a character can improve his or her life, perhaps they can too. Esta also provided an overview of the steps involved in using serial dramas to bring about change: Audience, analysis, access, articulation, artistry, auxiliaries, advocacy, advertising, assessment, and adjustment.
Katie Paine, who writes KDPaine’s PR Measurement Blog and will be presenting at the conference this afternoon, also enjoyed the session.
The May issue of Harvard Business Review has a special report containing thirteen articles about Preparing for a Pandemic that focus on different areas such as the science behind H5N1, the role of leaders, the importance of communication, and modeling, among others.
However, the article on organizations, Survival of the Adaptive by Nitin Nohria, the Richard P. Chapman Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, is particularly enlightening for PR and and other related professionals counseling clients on crisis management. Nohria writes:
“In the complex and uncertain environment of a sustained, evolving crisis, the most robust organizations will not be those that simply have plans in place but those that have continuous sensing and response capabilities…
We know from complexity theory that following a few basic crisis-response principles is more effective than having a detailed a priori plan in place….
The goal is not to create specific rules for responding to specific threats but to practice new ways of problem solving in an unpredictable and fast-changing environment.”
Nohria recommends that organizations have a global network of people in place that can help out as needed if internal communications systems break down, or as either human or physical resources are compromised.
He also compares the characteristics of organizations that will be less, and those that will be more, successful in surviving an outbreak:
Hierarchical vs. networked
Centralized leadership vs. distributed leadership
Tightly coupled (greater interdependence among parts) vs. loosely coupled (less interdependence)
Concentrated workforce vs. dispersed workforce
Specialists vs. cross-trained generalists
Policy and procedure driven vs. guided by simple yet flexible rules