The goal of keeping warming to 1.5C is still alive, but it’s on life support. And going forwards requires hope. So where is hope to be found? It has to be in the rising tide of concern about climate change around the world, and people’s desire to show up and be part of the solution, writes Robin Webster.
The media loves drama, and over the years many of the 26 COPs have delivered. The Glasgow talks fulfilled the brief, encompassing last minute negotiations, deadlines, tears and arguments over the exact textual meaning of ‘requests’ vs ‘urges’.
But Glasgow was different to many previous COPs in one key way: we are now in the era of delivery and not promises. Arguments over targets and negotiation texts can only get us so far. You can hear it in the restlessness of protestors outside the conference fence, you can hear it in the determination of young climate justice campaigners to make their voices heard, you can hear it in the words of delegates from the global south where rising temperatures are already hitting livelihoods and lives. There is an increasing impatience pressing at the gates. The question they are asking: ‘but what are we actually doing?’
Research released during the conference shows that the plans countries have laid out so far for reducing emissions (known as Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs) still add up to a terrifying 2.4C of temperature rise by the end of the century.
We are now at 1.1 degrees of warming. Crossing the 2 degrees threshold is enough to put over 1 billion people under extreme heat stress; bleach over 99% of coral reefs; double the extinction of plant species and intensify the melting of sea ice in summer by 10 times, fueling up to 6 metres of sea level rise in vulnerable parts of the world. The Maldives Environment Minister, Aminath Shauna stated it baldly in the final plenary, “The difference between 1.5 degrees and 2 degrees, for us, really is a death sentence”.
Theoretically at least, ‘1.5 is still alive’ after the negotiations. An agreement made in Glasgow – known as the Glasgow Climate Pact – requests that countries “revisit and strengthen” their climate pledges by the end of 2022. This may seem like a thin victory, but it wasn’t a given before the conference started, and it puts diplomatic pressure on governments to strengthen their plans over the next year.
As the Secretary-General of the United Nations put it during the negotiations, if 1.5 is still alive, it’s on life support. Changing the political, social and economic priorities of governments around the world to refocus on new, ambitious plans for COP27 to reduce emissions as fast as possible would be – will be – a momentous task.
But going forwards requires hope. So where is hope to be found? It has to be in the rising tide of concern about climate change around the world, and people’s desire to show up and take part. At this point in history, people who are willing to be central to societal transformation are needed around the world, to build a mandate for unstoppable change and hold governments to account.
This doesn’t just mean taking action on the streets – though that really matters, in countries where it is possible. The evidence shows that people are deeply influenced by those around us – what we see them doing, and the conversations we have in our lives. Public consent and public pressure go together in driving politicians to make change. The change we make, the change we ask for in our communities – even down to the conversations over the dinner table – all have to be part of that story.
In short: whole-society, meaningful ongoing engagement is needed to deliver the social change that will stir politicians to deliver better and stronger pledges. And in 2022, it matters as never before.
In November 2022, COP will take place in Egypt, which is situated in one of the most vulnerable regions in the world, particularly impacted by water and food insecurity which is already being exacerbated by climate change. 2 degrees of temperature rise could have devastating consequences for people’s lives and livelihoods, in a country where nearly 30% of people rely on agriculture and desertification is rapidly spreading.
So governments will return to the table in a country whose citizens face an existential threat to their survival, and answer the question: have you done enough? Are you willing to do enough? COPs aren’t just about the drama of the negotiators inside the halls any more. The answer to that question will only be yes if people around the world participate in making it so.
Robin Webster is Climate Outreach’s Senior Programme Lead in Advocacy Communications. You can follow Robin on Twitter @RobinWebs.
A version of this blog first appeared on the Climate Outreach website.
John Orme, senior counsel, Porter Novelli email@example.com
Sean Ryan, Director of Media and Corporate Comms, Save the Children firstname.lastname@example.org
All crises are complex and difficult and they come when you least expect them, but John emphasised the importance of preparation, having systems in place, so that they could be dealt with quickly and effectively. A crisis is a badly managed issue – if it’s well managed it does not become a crisis. John said it was essential to anticipate what might happen and to ensure that you can respond speedily. He has a ‘one hour ready’ rule. You should be ready to respond within one hour of an issue arising. This may mean that you have to respond without having the full facts and without having sign off from everyone.
You can anticipate a variety of crises that may occur and prepare for them. These could involve safeguarding, behaviour of senior staff, concerns of people who have left the organisation or internal whistleblowers. You need to do a risk assessment but also look at your own vulnerabilities as an organisation. What are the roadblocks to an effective response? Is power devolved? Do you have a transparent culture? Do you respond well to criticism?
Stick to your values and respond according to them even if others are advising you to do differently. Be as open as possible, putting as much information out as possible, anticipate what is likely to happen next and prepare your response, be proactive rather than reactive. Try and encourage authentic voices to speak up on your behalf.
Sean spoke about three occasions when he had been in the media spotlight.
When he was Foreign Editor at the Sunday Times one of his reporters, Marie Colvin, was killed in Syria. Soon after he was informed, Al Jazeera told him they were running the story, so he had to inform the family, colleagues, manage the media response and think ahead to tackle logistical issues such as bring Marie’s body home and rescuing her injured colleague. He had no plan in place and was overwhelmed. He said that he learnt several lessons – above all, be prepared, have a system in place for dealing with a crisis, protect people who are dealing with the crisis as the pressure is intense, don’t neglect internal comms, it’s important to keep your colleagues fully informed. Sean also briefed a journalist when Vanity Fair started to investigate and he made the mistake of trusted the journalist who then used his words against him. It took them several weeks to gain control and feel that they were no longer on the defensive.
The next crisis that Sean had to manage was when ISIS bombed the Save the Children compound in Afghanistan. This time they got ahead of the story, briefing the BBC on the facts as far as they knew them. But then the Wall Street Journal wanted to publish a story in which ISIS accused Save the Children of evangelising in Afghanistan. Sean managed to persuade the Foreign Editor not to run the story as it would put all Save’s in country staff at risk.
The third crisis was when two senior managers at Save were accused of sexual misconduct. When the story broke, the two had already left the organisation but Save was accused of failing to hold them to account for their misbehaviour. The Chair of the Trustees set up a small group to handle the crisis which included Sean and an outside lawyer, but not the CEO who had to recuse himself as he had been a Trustee at the time of the allegations. The lawyer persuaded the group to take an aggressive stance against journalists and threaten legal action. This was a huge mistake and damaged Save’s relationship with journalists and proved counter-productive. Sean was told not to speak to journalists which also proved to be a big mistake. The lesson Sean learnt was that NGOs should engage with their critics and provide as much information as possible. Be very careful about how you come across in these situations. Stay true to your values.
Guest booking email@example.com
Freedom Project lead firstname.lastname@example.org
Senior news editor Lindsay.email@example.com
International climate editor firstname.lastname@example.org
Richard Greene, Head of Content, CNN London Richard.email@example.com
CNN International is a division of CNN. It has a similar relationship as BBC News with BBC World News. CNNI broadcasts globally outside the US to several hundred million homes although there are no precise viewing figures. Some of its shows are broadcast by the US network and vice versa and content is shared between the two, but CNNI is principally aimed at a global audience so each story is judged on its merits. The US network has much more of a US focus. CNNI recently led for example on the kidnapping of US missionaries in Haiti and on the murder of the British MP David Amess.
CNNI is known as a breaking news channel and this is what it does best. When there’s a breaking story it throws lots of resources at it. Part of Richard’s role is to encourage his colleagues to place these stories in a wider context, which is what audiences are looking for. The nature of breaking news is changing. But if there is a big story and you have a guest who can contribute get straight on to the guest bookers, who are part of the planning team. Guests are judged on their merits. Players are of more interest than commentators.
CNNI comes from London several times a day and in normal times they would want guests in the studio but currently they have no studio guests so anyone can contribute regardless of where they are.
Television is no longer the most important outlet. In the US live TV dominates but outside of the US, CNN’s online presence is equally important and they have a digital team in London. London is the largest CNN bureau outside the US and the hub for stories from Europe, the Middle East and Africa. It employs around 30 people – producers, reporters, presenters, sports desk, photo desk, business team, climate team.
Pitches can go to Richard or one of the specialist teams.
What are they looking for?
Any story you pitch needs to have a topical angle or peg so that it feels like a story that is relevant now. This doesn’t mean that they don’t do features, but it does mean that any off-agenda story should have a strong peg.
Each year CNN decides on the top issues that it wants to focus on in order to differentiate itself from the competition – this year there are prioritising the climate crisis, China, inequality, the new post-Covid world and global politics/identity.
Climate crisis – they will go big on COP and they will be devoting a lot of resources to it. The international climate editor, Angela Dewan, is based in London. Angela has said that she welcomes pitches from us, although she may be slow to answer. They are keen as part of their coverage of climate change to look at solutions so that the coverage is not all negative and bleak. At COP, they will seek to hold world leaders to account. Climate change pitches need to have a different angle or something new to say.
Inequality is another key topic for them – and they interpret this widely. For example whether billionaires should spend their money go into space or give to more deserving causes, can be seen as an inequality issue.
Whilst CNN is not a campaigning organisation it does sometimes do issue-related campaigns. One such campaign is the freedom project which looks at human trafficking. The campaign is ongoing.
Clubhouse is one of the latest social media platforms to launch, but with a very different format from its competitors. Some charities have started to see the benefits of joining, writes Kirsty Marrins.
Clubhouse is a relatively new, audio-only social media platform which was launched in April 2020. It is essentially a social media platform where people can have live conversations grouped around topics. It’s been described as a mix of panel discussions, live podcasts and networking opportunities.
When it launched, people could only join Clubhouse if they had been invited by an existing user – as it was still in beta. It came out of beta in July 2021 and is now available to everyone on both Android and iOS.
It’s really quick to sign up. Once you’ve joined, you are able to see who in your phone contacts list is on Clubhouse so you can follow them if you wish to. You’ll also be asked which topics you’re interested in, but I’d advise not picking too many as what happens is you’ll see lots of Rooms in those genres, but many won’t actually be of interest.
When you open the App, you’ll see what’s called ‘the Hallway’ and then different ‘Rooms’ that are taking place right then, based on who you follow and which interests you chose. You’ll be able to see the topic and how many people are in the Room. You can also use the search function to look for Rooms, people or Clubs on certain topics.
When you enter a Room, you will be on mute but will be able to hear the speakers who are on the ‘Stage’. There is the ability to raise your hand if you want to ask a question or contribute to the discussion but it’s up to the speaker whether they invite you up to the Stage. If they do, you will then be unmuted and able to speak. Once you’ve asked your question, or contributed, you can move back to the audience if you wish to.
The way the Room is organised is:
When in the Room, you can click on anyone’s profile picture, read more about them and follow them if you wish. If you’re finding a Room interesting, you can ‘ping’ in any of your followers who you think may enjoy the discussion. They will then be notified that you’ve invited them to join the Room.
The more people you follow, the more Rooms you’ll see in your Hallway when you open the App as you’ll see Rooms that people you follow are currently in.
Decided that you’re not really interested in the discussion taking place? You can leave the room by clicking on the ‘leave quietly’ button.
When it was in beta, only individuals could be on the App and not brands. So a workaround was that once you had hosted a Room three times, you could apply for a Club. And that’s where the branding could come in.
Now you can join as a brand, so your charity can not only have a presence on Clubhouse but can host Rooms and events too. The IFRC (International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies) is one charity that has a branded account on the App.
I think Clubhouse offers individuals in charities the opportunity to network and to create Rooms based on topics around their expertise. For example there is the Social for Good Club which meets on Fridays at 5pm.
Not specifically charity related, but every weekday morning at 8am there is a Breakfast with brand, marketing and comms specialists, that is really interesting and often has great guests who have worked on brilliant campaigns.
I see Clubhouse as an opportunity to learn and to share expertise. And I think this is something charities have an abundance of in their areas of specialism and where a Q&A format would work really well. For example, take Cancer Research UK and all the staff and researchers involved in their work. There are so many discussions (or Rooms based around certain topics) they could have – from the latest research into breast cancer to how to support a friend who is going through chemotherapy.
Clubhouse recently announced a monetization feature (in beta) where people can send payments to creators. This is where I think it could get interesting for charities as you could host an exclusive and intimate ‘In conversation with’ Room with one of your celebrity patrons or frontline staff, for example, and ask people to pay a donation to be part of the conversation.
One of the most interesting things about Clubhouse, for now at least, is their openness with their community. Every Sunday there is a Town Hall meeting with the founders where you can submit a question beforehand and they’ll answer it. They’ll also update you on new features and what they’re working on.
At the moment, a major problem with Clubhouse is its lack of accessibility to those who are deaf or have hearing impairments. There is no live captioning and it doesn’t even support Apple’s VoiceOver screen reader. From a visually impaired perspective, it doesn’t support text-resizing. So, in terms of accessibility, Clubhouse has a long way to go.
For more information on Clubhouse and how charities could use it, read Helen Olszowska’s article on Charity Digital.
Kirsty Marrins is a Digital Communications Consultant and Charity Comms Trustee. You can follow Kirsty on Twitter @LondonKirsty.
A version of this blog first appeared on the Charity Comms website.
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Last year ONE persuaded an impressive array of celebrities to hand over their social media accounts to experts to campaign for a global response to the pandemic. Kate Critchley takes us behind the scenes of the campaign.
In the early days of Covid-19, governments understandably focussed on protecting their own populations. But as the virus spread around the world it soon became clear that a coordinated global response was urgently needed to ensure that no country was left behind.
The problem was that very few people were talking about a global response, and no one was taking a lead. So we launched the ‘ONE World’ campaign in April 2020 to push this up the agenda.
Often the most effective way to get the word out is through the power of celebrity, but the environment was challenging at that point in time. As we went into lockdown, it quickly become apparent that although everyone was confined to their homes, some people’s lockdowns were, well, more comfortable than others… and celebrities were criticised for their ‘solidarity’ social media posts. Our artist and talent friends asked how they could support our campaign, but we knew that they couldn’t be the face of it – we had to be smarter about how to leverage their profiles and audience reach.
Another challenge at the beginning of the pandemic was the amount of misinformation and speculation circulating. People didn’t know who to listen to or trust. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, we were on calls with some of the world’s foremost experts discussing what needed to happen to end the pandemic globally. That was our lightbulb moment. Our talent partners could help make sure the rest of the world heard directly from these same experts.
And so, with our creative partners at Hive we created Pass the Mic – a social media campaign in which celebrities, with their combined followership of 400 million people, handed over their platforms to global health experts for them to share the facts. Our original goal was for 19 talent–expert pairings, but that number soon doubled as more and more volunteered to take part, enabling us to curate a diverse range of international and locally known pairings for audiences in Europe, Africa and North America.
By matching household names with experts, celebrities could lend their public profiles without being the focus, allowing experts to share insights and information that might not have landed on people’s timelines otherwise. Working with high-profile individuals, such as Penelope Cruz, Hugh Jackman and Michael Sheen got positive media traction, which helped boost public awareness of #PasstheMic, creating a virtuous loop.
In addition to handing over their social media platforms, some celebrities interviewed their expert on Zoom. Before we knew it, we were a fly on the wall as Julia Roberts chatted to Dr Anthony Fauci, David Oyelowo listened to Gayle Smith recounting her time as head of USAID when Ebola swept through West Africa, and Sarah Jessica Parker had tears in her eyes as Dr Craig Spencer told her stories from the emergency room in her beloved New York. By the end, each expert drew the same conclusion: if the world didn’t come together to end this pandemic everywhere, it wasn’t going to end anywhere.
As with all campaigns, we had unexpected challenges along the way. We had planned for one takeover every day for the length of the campaign. However, just over a week after launching, tragedy struck with the death of George Floyd and we knew we needed to change the course of the campaign to make room for the important Black Lives Matter conversations happening across social media. So, we halted the remaining takeovers, and instead opted for a two-day grand finale on 1 July – the six-month anniversary of the first reporting of Covid-19. Over the course of two days, all the remaining takeovers took place, which gave us another great media moment.
Pass the Mic was very successful for ONE, helping us reach a huge audience that we don’t usually speak to. The campaign achieved 87 million views of the video interviews and almost 4 million engagements on social media, with Instagram outperforming other channels. Millie Bobby Brown’s partnership with Aya Chebbi accounted for the most engagement, reach and views among takeover pairings.
Over a year later, it is common knowledge that the pandemic won’t end anywhere until it has been beaten everywhere, but despite positive noises from leaders, there has not been enough movement on ensuring global vaccine access, or that the economic impact of Covid-19 doesn’t undo years of development progress. Ensuring experts have the same reach as celebrities is no doubt something that will be needed again before we finally beat this virus for good.
Kate Critchley is ONE’s Executive Director of Communications and Content.
The digital divide is in danger of stifling the voices of those representing some of the communities likely to be worst affected by the impacts of climate change, argues Matt Wright.
In the run-up to this year’s vitally important UN climate summit (COP26), the creation of a Twitter account that provides mocking commentary of the technological issues being experienced by negotiators might not immediately seem significant.
After all, during the COVID-19 pandemic we’ve all become more reliant on digital technology to communicate and collaborate, as well as more accustomed to the various issues that arise. “I can’t hear you, you’re on mute” or someone cutting off mid-sentence when their internet drops out have become every bit as commonplace during meetings as a mobile phone going off or struggling to get a presentation working.
In the circumstances, a bit of light relief can go a long way. “Apologies for my dog snoring in the background” was one memorable contribution to the discussions at the pre-COP26 sessions of the subsidiary bodies, which took place completely online in early June.
But the snarky comments and humorous gifs also shine a light on a bigger issue. If a key purpose of COP26 is for all nations to come to a fair and equitable agreement on increasing the ambition to tackle climate change, how is that possible when negotiators from the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) have less opportunity to get their points across whether in person or online?
There was already huge inequality in the UNFCCC process when climate diplomacy was carried out at in-person meetings, with the world’s poorest countries struggling to make their voices heard in the power games of international relations. From the number of the negotiators available to the facilities with which they are provided, blocs such as the LDC Group are constantly battling against the odds.
In parallel, there is a huge digital divide between countries whose populations largely benefit from internet that is widely accessible, cheap and reliable, and those where that’s far from the case. Having to conduct negotiations remotely has therefore provided a new and unfair set of challenges that have greater consequences for LDCs.
It’s these climate-vulnerable nations that are already experiencing the greatest impacts of climate change despite having done the least to cause it. And as the British Red Cross’ Mary Friel pointed out in last month’s IBT blog, they are also the countries that have the most experience and knowledge in how to respond.
Some efforts have been made to ease the problems. Technical support and training has been provided by the UNFCCC, and time zones rotated to ensure no particular region was disadvantaged. But technical problems, connectivity issues and power failures have persisted, causing many interruptions and delays.
These issues are not just limited to the availability, reliability or speed of connection to the internet, either. For example, there are huge disparities in the cost of data from country to country, even within the global South (the average cost of 1GB of mobile data in Malawi is $US27.41 compared to $8 in the US and $1.05 in Kenya), and the same is true of equipment: someone earning the average salary in Sierra Leone would have to save for six months before being able to afford a smartphone.
“The problem is that in some countries, internet is still an expensive luxury”, said Alpha Kaloga, a climate negotiator from Guinea.
Climate negotiators without the internet at home have reported that they can only join online meetings from other facilities, from offices to internet cafes. When meetings take place at night or run late, they are forced to leave the meeting to travel home safely before dusk.
And these problems assume the internet is even available. Governments, particularly in Africa and Asia, have increasingly shut down the internet to citizens, citing reasons ranging from a need to ensure national security and safety to trying to prevent students from cheating during exams. This is often done without warning: “Internet is not water, internet is not air,” said Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed in 2019.
So while negotiators from all countries have experienced issues at some point, it’s clear that delegates from the least resourced and most climate-vulnerable countries have been disproportionately affected.
The additional inequalities posed by technological access to the negotiations is one of the reasons COP president Alok Sharma committed in May to an ‘in-person’ COP26. But with little let-up in the pandemic, plus unfulfilled vaccine promises and expensive and lengthy quarantines for delegates from some countries, pressure is mounting for delegates to be able to join negotiations virtually.
These issues affect anyone attending COP26, including journalists. For example, border closures in Tuvalu and Kiribati mean no one is able to travel, while anyone from Bangladesh, Laos or Cambodia faces 14 days of quarantine at their own expense on their return.
Alongside the digital divide, this means those communities on the frontline of the worst climate impacts are in danger of not having equal representation at the negotiations, fewer media to report back on what is decided on issues that matter to them, plus difficulty following the summit remotely themselves.
So despite the humorous coverage of negotiators struggling to prepare and take their place at the most important climate conference of the year, it really is no laughing matter.
Matt Wright is IIED’s web planning and content manager
Matt McGrath, BBC Environment Correspondent
Climate and Science team
Matt is part of the 20-25 strong Climate and Science team (it was previously Science and Environment). The new name signals the importance that the BBC attaches to climate change. The team is being relocated to Cardiff so there will be some departures. The main correspondents are David Shukman, Victoria Gill, Rebecca Morelle, Justin Rowlatt, Claire Marshall, Pallab Ghosh and Roger Harrabin. Each has their own area of interest which you can see from their previous reporting but there is some overlap. Roger covers UK and Matt global. Matt mainly produces digital content but also some radio and TV. He covers climate change, IPPC, COP, UN, global policy and impacts.
Climate change coverage
Matt said there is a big audience appetite for climate change related stories and interest is growing. When he wrote a story about the latest IPPC report it had 4m page views on the day. He says that their audience research shows that the audience likes mainstream coverage of the big climate stories. They like the fact that the BBC is objective and is a reliable source of information.
Changes to BBC News
A new commissioning system is currently being put in place to avoid duplication and to focus on fewer stories. It was felt that there were too many stories being produced and too much duplication. Commissioning groups will decide which stories to prioritise and the approach will be digital first. Each story will run on radio, TV and online, so for the stories that are commissioned will reach bigger audiences than in the past. There will be greater depth and analysis. The downside is that there will be a narrowing of the range of stories. Matt agreed that the big news story of the day will dominate, as it does now, but said there would be a greater effort to put in place explainers and increase the range of voices that are heard on a story.
Matt was sympathetic about the challenges of pitching to BBC News. He said a lot is about building relationships. The first story you pitch will not necessarily get commissioned but a later one may. Target a correspondent that you think may be interested and start trying out ideas on them. He said most of the commissioning for the coverage of COP has been done but advised everyone to watch events and post comments or pictures that are relevant on a given day. He said there will be live coverage online throughout COP and this is a good opportunity to place topical stories especially on the first few days of COP when not much is newsworthy. The BBC is going to give COP a huge amount of coverage. Also think about pitching spokespeople, but be clear that they have something to say and are willing to be outspoken. This is a chance to talk about issues rather than a PR opportunity for an NGO. There is strong interest in data – if you are pitching data then the BBC will need access to the raw data and their in house team will make the charts.
Impact of climate change on developing countries
This is an aspect of the climate change story that the BBC wants to cover but Matt said that they had covered it already and needed to keep finding new angles. They are also keen to ensure that voices from these worst affected communities are heard during COP and Matt accepts that NGOs are closer to the communities and can help to give the BBC access.
Changing tone of coverage
The BBC’s approach to covering this issue had changed a lot since the previous COP when coverage had to be ‘balanced’ with sceptical voices included. BBC News now accepts that climate change is the result of human actions. Given the audience interest, the BBC is aware of its responsibility in covering the issue and wants to ensure that its coverage reaches mainstream audiences. They are often more interested in the practical aspects – such as replacing gas boilers – and Matt feels that future coverage will look more at these practical realities. He also says that want to give more time to food and the food system. There is great interest in positive stories and people want to see solutions and how they work on the ground. In future, correspondents like Matt will be travelling much less and stories will be covered by in country reporters. This has been happening already under Covid and will continue. Reporters will still go on trips – for example to undertake investigations – but they won’t go simply to be seen in a place or to record a piece to camera.
We need COP26 and the media to deliver for people and communities who are already feeling the harsh impacts of climate change writes Mary Friel, COP26 policy and advocacy manager at British Red Cross.
This summer we’ve seen extreme weather events dominate the news, from unprecedented heatwaves in North America, to flash floods in London and Belgium to wildfires in Southern Europe. As world leaders prepare to meet at COP26 in November, to negotiate global action on climate change, the urgency for action is growing day by day.
We have worked extensively with national media outlets, particularly broadcasters, across these particular high-profile events, to provide first-hand insight into the humanitarian response and the needs of the most affected. The flooding in parts of Germany, Belgium and The Netherlands especially, saw a demand for speakers and commentary, with the explicit impacts of climate change clear to see, relatively close to home. [Watch Sky News interview with Red Cross spokesperson, Naomi Nolte, who provides an update from the ground in Velmo, The Netherlands.]
From families skipping meals and going hungry as droughts cause crops to fail, to families made homeless by floods because their houses have been destroyed, to people displaced by cyclones and hurricanes.
We need COP26 and the media to deliver for people and communities who are already feeling the harsh impacts of climate change.
There are certain media outlets who are leading the way by producing holistic climate storytelling. Sky are both telling and delivering information on climate in many different and innovative ways. Our media team worked with the Daily Climate Show team earlier this year with Red Cross Disaster Risk Reduction specialist, Yasif Hasan, taking part in a 30-minute Instagram live, from Bangladesh. A platform that allowed for an in-depth conversation on climate that couldn’t have been achieved in another broadcast format. The piece provided live commentary from one of the countries most vulnerable to the impacts of a changing climate, delivered straight to thousands of viewers on their smartphones.
We know that the last decade has been the warmest on record, with climate change driving more extreme weather events. This is increasing global humanitarian need. In July, British Red Cross launched its Feeling the Heat report which looked at how prepared the UK public is for rising temperatures and how aware people are of the risks of heatwaves. What was encouraging was that we achieved in-depth coverage across a range of right and left-leaning media outlets including print, online, radio and TV, reaching our influencer and general public audience, with a focus on at risk groups. The climate conversation in the UK continues to build – it has to.
The Red Cross World Disasters Report shows that 1.7 billion people have already been affected by climate and weather-related disasters in the past decade. As the scientific community and UN call the latest evidence from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report a “code red for humanity” there’s no time for delay.
The Red Cross is calling for the most climate-vulnerable people and communities to be at the heart of COP26 discussions and decisions. We are well positioned, as the Red Cross and Red Crescent is as local as it gets, with 165,000 local branches and with the support of 14 million volunteers.
The Red Cross Red Crescent Movement, through the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Climate Centre, is engaged all year round in UN processes which support the annual UN Climate Conference (COP). Through this work the Red Cross raises the needs of the most vulnerable communities already facing humanitarian impacts from climate change, and offers solutions and ways of good practice working with communities.
The Red Cross Movement also supports the Risk Informed Early Action Partnership (REAP), a global network convened by IFRC, which aims to make one billion people safer from disasters by 2025. (REAP) REAP is part of the COP26 Presidency Race to Resilience campaign and is helping to build momentum for COP26.
The Red Cross is calling for global leaders to take action – and for the UK Government to continue to use its diplomatic influence – to put communities already dealing with climate change at the heart of COP26. We want to see the scaling up of global climate finance for adaptation, increased access to climate finance for locally-led work and a commitment to invest in more adaptation, preparedness, early warning and early action to prevent future extreme weather events from becoming disasters.
Red Cross teams are on the ground right now, working side by side with communities, listening and responding to people’s needs. From communities to governments, media to the private sector, we all have an important role in tackling the impacts of climate change. We will continue to share our calls for action, our spokespeople and our local knowledge with the media and government in the lead-up to, and during, COP26 to better support communities to be able to prepare for, respond to and recover from climate related emergencies.
Mary Friel is British Red Cross’ COP26 policy and advocacy manager.
IBT hosted an informal peer learning session on podcasting. Members were invited to share their experiences of working on a podcast.
Audiences are increasingly turning to Instagram as a source of news and information, offering INGOs an excellent opportunity to use the platform as a space to share their expertise.
The International Rescue Committee has found an effective strategy to make the most out of Instagram. As a result, their number of followers increased by 92% in one year (June 2020 – June 2021). During the Euros, their post celebrating the diversity of the England team went viral and last year their posts explaining the Yemen humanitarian crisis were shared thousands of times.
Poppy Bullen, Senior Digital Communications Officer at IRC, shares her top tips for INGOs hoping to up their game on Instagram.
There was a really pivotal shift in Instagram last year. It has become a platform where people go to share and get their information. But I don’t think INGOs are necessarily making as much use of it as they could. In our world of information overload, I think people will be looking to organisations like ours to get reliable information, so it’s important that we’re putting it out there.
Swipable infographics are a great example. Last year, there was a lot of social conversation about the crisis in Yemen, so when we saw that trending we thought this is definitely something we should be sharing as well! It was around the time of our World Refugee Week campaign, but even though we had so much else going on we made the decision to be reactive and create a Yemen infographic. So many people shared it and added it to their stories. Since then we’ve been using that style of information graphic for subjects that we feel we’ve got the expertise on which has continued to work well.
View this post on Instagram
With Instagram, for the majority of your content the tone still needs to be positive. It’s important for the audience and supporters to see stories and content they enjoy reading and sharing, whilst also seeing the IRC’s impact. So sometimes it’s about finding the creative flare for things.
Our Fish n Chips campaign did really well. We had a film with Gary Lineker talking to an animated fish voiced by Jo Brand, and she’s telling him about the history of fish and chips, and how it was brought to the UK by a refugee. That was a really fun piece of work, and allowed us to do other interactive things on Instagram like quizzes about refugee inventions. Being able to find that kind of quirky content is great. That campaign did really well – obviously partly because of Lineker’s huge following on Instagram!
View this post on Instagram
One of the main things we focus on is keeping on top of trends. Keep an eye on relevant accounts and hashtags, and look at what’s happening in the news. It’s so important to be able to react to what’s happening in the world on Instagram. Previously, we might have just reacted on Twitter, but it’s actually really beneficial if we can get our teams to quickly put a graphic together, or have strong images on hand to be able to talk on a relevant subject. That sort of content does really well.
For example, we saw great success with our ‘it’s coming home’ graphic which celebrated the England football team’s diversity. We shared it just before England played in the semi-final and the post went viral. In the same week visits to our landing page through direct or Google search increased by 130% compared to the previous week.
View this post on Instagram
Another key part of our strategy is using a mixture of content, from engaging case studies to shareable infographics and reactive posts. And it’s important not to underestimate the importance of Instagram Stories. They are quite time consuming, so can be easily overlooked, but even just sharing the most recent post onto your Stories can really increase engagement. We find takeovers perform really well on Stories too. For example, we’ll have staff members talking about a situation from the field which allows people to feel a bit closer to the situation.
We’ve also experimented with Instagram Lives, and they seem to work particularly well with celebrities. We had the actress Siobhan McSweeny from Derry Girls talk to a women’s protection staff member in South Sudan and that was really successful.
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Poppy Bullen is IRC’s Senior Digital Communications Officer.
Rachel’s parting words to us were ‘keep things simple’ and I do see what she means. There are so many podcasts that throw lots of information at you and they are just not that enjoyable to listen to. The Guardian’s Today in Focus has a winning formula so it was a real pleasure to hear from Rachel about the key elements behind its success. Many of our members produce their own podcasts and I’m sure there are lessons that we can all learn from Rachel.
One the key strengths of Today in Focus is its storytelling. It feels more like a documentary than current affairs. The podcast opens with a question that the presenter seeks to answer. She leads us on a journey. Her questions are simple and straightforward. She does not ask ‘clever’ questions to impress the audience. The presenter brings something personal and, even if she has prepared the questions in advance, it should not feel scripted. If she is shocked by an answer she shows it. The producers cleverly break up the narrative into several parts. They hook you at the beginning and then start to peel back the layers of a story.
Rachel told us how it has taken the team some time to develop the right tone of voice. She tells her journalistic colleagues that the style should be conversational – very different from writing a story for the newspaper. And there is more time and space. A newspaper story might be 1,000 words. A 30 minute podcast would equate to 5,000 words. There is time for context, background, history and character development – even for humour. The tone is informal and easy to listen to. The presenter is like a friend guiding the audience through a story.
Strong characters are key to the best journalism and Today in Focus is no exception. Some episodes feature Guardian journalists who are eyewitnesses to a story. They are great storytellers. Others feature experts. But the most memorable ones feature first person testimony from someone who has direct experience of the issue being investigated. One of the most memorable recent episodes featured the story of Karim Ennarah, a human rights activist who was arrested and imprisoned by the Egyptian authorities. His British wife, Jess Kelly, told her side of the story.
One of the strengths of Today in Focus is its international coverage. International news nowadays is usually told in the form of short reports and there is rarely time for depth or context. The Guardian has an excellent team of international reporters who don’t get space in the newspaper but do get space on Today in Focus. There have been many memorable international reports from the team. One of the most stark was from Tom Phillips, the Guardian’s Latin America correspondent, who reported from one of Rio’s biggest favelas, the day after police carried out a deadly raid in which 27 favela residents were shot dead. One police officer was killed too. Many of the international stories featured on the podcast have not broken through to the mainstream news agenda. It was encouraging to hear from Rachel that there will be more international stories going forward.
Rachel and her colleagues always keep an open mind. They have no preconceived idea of what a story looks like and therefore they are open to being pitched ideas from NGOs and others. One of their recent episodes looked at families who were searching for missing relatives, a trend that has increased as a result of Covid. They came across this story when it was pitched to them by a charity working in this area.
Choosing the right presenter is key. A presenter should be calm under pressure, show empathy, be able to listen and have a conversation rather than just run through a list of predetermined questions, remember to ask the obvious questions and maintain a sense of humour. The presenter should be in the background, allowing the story and the protagonists to take centre stage. She should follow her instincts – the audience tends to be interested in what you are interested in.
Today in Focus has a new presenting team. Anushka Asthana, who launched the podcast, has just left and Mike Safi and Nosheen Iqbal have been hired to join Rachel. We wish them well!
Mark Galloway is IBT’s Director.
Rachel Humphreys, co-presenter and producer Rachel.firstname.lastname@example.org
The Guardian set up its Today in Focus podcast in the summer of 2018 and it launched in November of that year. There’s quite a big team – around 10 full time staff plus freelancers – made up of presenters, producers, exec producers and sound designers. Rachel presents and produces (which involves planning the episode, briefing the presenter and editing).
The aim of the podcast was to tell the stories behind the headlines, develop the Guardian’s journalists as characters and find a new audience beyond those who read the newspaper or follow the Guardian online. Rachel came from daily news so she is able to turn stories around quickly when necessary, but she enjoys spending more time getting the story right. The lead presenter at the start was Anushka who recently left. There will now be a trio of presenters – Rachel, Mike Safi and Nosheen Iqbal.
They were named best current affairs podcast in last year’s British Podcast Awards. They are different from most current affairs podcast as they only do one story per episode and they do not slavishly follow the news agenda.
Today in Focus runs daily from Monday to Friday – each episode is roughly 30 minutes long and follows one story. The interviewees are mostly Guardian journalists but other experts sometimes feature and when it’s a human interest story there will be first person testimony from someone who has first-hand experience of the issue.
They try and vary the mix each week, a mixture of lighter and more serious, a running daily news story, a human interest story, a big global story, something lighter.
They have run quite a few international stories. In the last couple of months, they have reported from Brazil, Syria, Gaza, Hong Kong, Egypt, Israel, Japan, Canada, China and the US. They have covered Covid, British politics, climate change, missing people, human rights, UFOs. The range is broad. They are quite open minded about the stories they cover. One of the new presenters, Mike, is based in Beirut so there will be more foreign stories going forward.
Rachel and her colleagues keep an open mind and they are happy to receive pitches. Pitch to Rachel by email, either a story you think they should report on or a human interest issue with a named character they can interview at length. The stories need to have several elements to sustain 30 minutes. One of their recent episodes about families tracing missing relatives was the result of a pitch by a charity to Anushka. Rachel will read all the pitches she receives. It is also helpful if you can send her some audio that you have recorded yourself (it can be recorded on a smartphone).
Human interest stories
Rachel spoke about a podcast on human rights in Egypt which told the story of an Egyptian who was detained by the authorities and later released. The podcast also featured his British wife. Casting is key and they work hard to make sure that the human interest stories have strong characters at their heart. They also have a duty of care and will play clips to the contributors to let them know what to expect. It’s good to interview people who have never been interviewed before – they did one episode on gay conversion therapy and featured a woman talking for the first time about her experience of it.
There is no set approach. Sometimes they will send questions in advance or do a research interview. On other occasions, it is more effective to be spontaneous. It depends on the guest and what works best for that person. Answers should not feel rehearsed or scripted.
Tone of voice
One of the key reasons for their success is getting the right tone of voice and this has evolved over time. The tone is conversational and informal. The presenter is a like a friend guiding the audience through a story. They bring something personal to it and even if they have prepared the questions in advance it should not feel scripted. They want to explain complex stories but not to patronise their audience and tell them things they already know. Working out how much to give as background to a story is one of the most challenging aspects.
Rachel showed us how she edits with different contributors on different tracks. She will do the first edit then show it to the presenter and exec producer and make more changes. Everyone will listen to it several times before it is signed off and goes to the sound designer to complete. A lot of time and effort goes into editing although on the big running news stories the time is condensed. They will do an interview in the morning, edit it and hand it to the sound designer in the afternoon and s/he may work on it all evening. It goes live around 2 or 3am.
Choosing the right presenter is key. Rachel feels that the skills needed are to be calm under pressure, to have the ability to empathise, to be able to listen and have a conversation rather than just run through a list of predetermined questions, to remember to ask the obvious questions, a sense of humour, and a voice that is easy to listen to. Presenters should be in the background allowing the story and the protagonists to take centre stage, they should not ask ‘clever’ questions to show off. Follow your instincts – the audience tends to be interested in what you are interested in.
A podcast is like a documentary, there is a narrative journey, a beginning, a middle and an end. Today in Focus breaks a story up into chapters to provide punctuation. They also start with a question which provides the focus for the narrative. The intro at the top is important – put your strongest sound first to get the audience hooked but don’t tell the whole story in the intro. Remember the thing that got you interested in the story in the first place.
Rachel gave us some concluding thoughts. Teamwork is crucial. Tell stories that you’re interested in. Keep an open mind. Keep things simple. Audio is so clever that there is always a way of telling a story.
This month we are taking a closer look at podcasts. Many of our members have launched their own. They talk about the lessons they have learnt to Katie Tiffin, IBT’s communications and membership officer #welovepodcasts
Podcasts are special – they have a real impact on their audience compared with every other type of media. More than half of listeners say they talk to friends and family about what they have heard or research more about the podcast’s topic. Not surprisingly, many NGOs have launched their own podcasts, but there’s a real challenge – to make your podcast stand out from a very crowded market.
Guests are the essence of your podcast so choosing the right contributors is crucial. Podcasts thrive on storytelling so look for someone who has a gift for explaining, not someone who has lots of facts at their fingertips.
Think about diversity. Kate Green, who produces IIED’s Make Change Happen podcast, says they had initially planned to showcase the organisation’s researchers but realised that it was important to hear from marginalised voices and to have a panel that was balanced in terms of race and gender.
Be flexible with your guests. María Faciolince who presents Oxfam’s Power in the Pandemic podcast says that you need to be able to change your approach to meet the needs of guests from different backgrounds. One of her guests, a Rohingya refugee, did not have enough internet bandwidth to record the podcast so they had to use WhatsApp voice notes instead.
Finding guests who connect with your target audience is important. Greg Armfield from WWF wanted to use the Call of the Wild podcast to connect with a younger audience so they decided to include guests not typically associated with environmental issues.
Some producers meet their guests first whilst others opt for a more spontaneous conversation.
Kate prefers to have a meeting to check everyone’s tech is working, chat about the podcast’s format and the topics it will cover and ensure that guests feel comfortable and confident.
Katerina Bezgachina, from Habitat for Humanity, says that when they did the first series of their Home Sapiens podcast they sent guests a list of questions in advance. This sometimes led to jargon-heavy answers so now they plan to take a more relaxed approach, just letting guests know the topic but no list of questions.
Understanding who you’re trying to reach with your podcast and researching your target audience is of course essential. Greg from WWF found out that the fastest growing podcast audience in the UK is people aged 16 – 24. WWF tends to engage with a slightly older demographic so they decided to use their Call of the Wild podcast to connect with this younger audience.
Similarly, Oxfam’s Power in the Pandemic team thought their podcast would resonate with a younger audience. María Faciolince recognised that a lot of this potential audience would be on Instagram so she created an account linked to the podcast to draw in listeners from outside their network.
With many podcasts being made by organisations with professional recording equipment podcast listeners now expect high quality sound.
Abigail Watson, who co-presents Saferworld’s Warpod, says their podcast initially lost a lot of listeners due to poor sound quality, so they invested in new headphones, a microphone and switched to recording in a room with less echo. These changes have made a big difference to the listening experience.
Unlike other forms of media, audience size alone isn’t always the best indicator of success as podcasts tend to attract smaller but more dedicated audiences.
Abigail says they try to ‘keep tabs on who is listening and how much they are enjoying or learning from it’. Anchor, the platform used to upload their podcast, is helpful for statistics such as audience age and where they are based.
Analysing audience data is not the only way to measure your podcast’s success. Abigail says the Warpod team reach out to people via email to find out if they are listening and what they think of the podcast. Katerina from Habitat for Humanity says that when new episodes were released they noticed that they gained new social media followers which indicated that the podcast was achieving their aim of connecting with an audience outside their usual network.
There are more than 2 million podcasts available on the Apple Index so effective marketing is important so that listeners can find your podcast.
Kate says they created a Twitter account for IIED’s Make Change Happen podcast so their listeners had a separate space to access information on the podcast without it getting lost in IIED’s organisational accounts.
María from Oxfam says the Instagram account they created for the podcast is useful for sharing multimedia content related to it, but it’s not essential and can lead to a lot of extra work.
Promoting your podcast doesn’t have to revolve around social media. IIED’s podcast was promoted in the organisation’s newsletters and specially-created email footers, which they noticed did generate extra traffic.
Podcasts present obvious accessibility issues which can limit their reach particularly for deaf audiences. Providing a transcript of each episode is an important first step. Kate from IIED says they upload each podcast episode to YouTube with a full transcript in the description. To improve accessibility each episode of Oxfam’s Power in the Pandemic podcast is also turned into a blog which covers the highlights.
Looking for more advice on starting a podcast? IBT members can access our report Podcasts: Where next? which covers insights into the podcast landscape and creating a podcast from podcasting experts and our members.
Sarah Whitehead, deputy head of newsgathering email@example.com
Climate change unit
Michael Blair news editor
Rhiannon Williams producer
Hannah Thomas-Peter reporter
Victoria Seabrook digital reporter
Emails all first name dot surname at sky.uk
Sky News has had a longstanding interest in climate change and environmental stories. Sarah mentioned ocean rescue campaign and the new climate series of monthly films. They are now increasing their commitment to climate change in the run up to COP. They are aware that the audience is often depressed by the news about climate change and scared so they have a big emphasis on charting the changes that are taking place and showing the solutions. They want to empower audiences and hold governments and business to account. It is not just up to people to change their behaviour, government and industry have a big role to play too. They want their coverage to reach a mainstream audience, both those who are already interested in climate change and those who may become more interested.
The Daily Climate Show – Now they do the Daily Climate Show, a 12-15 daily show which features the day’s news stories and climate change diaries of people who are making a difference. The aim of the show is to be very topical and newsy, they don’t run long features, there are a lot of stories covered (8 or 9 stories in each show). Its regular presenter is Anna Jones. They are also looking for studio guests for the show. The show features lots of data as Sarah says there is big audience interest in data. There is a daily tally of UK fuel consumption showing the proportion that comes from renewables. Ed Conway the business correspondent has now taken on a role as business/data correspondent.
ClimateCast – they also do a weekly podcast. This is very accessible. Recent editions have included an interview with a leading climate change expert and with social influencers who are championing the issue. The podcast includes a run down of the week’s stories. It is presented by Anna too.
Bangladesh – they currently have a team in Bangladesh and will continue to report from the country in the run up to COP, subject to visas. They wanted to be somewhere where you can see the impacts of climate change at first hand. Michael Blair is there. The correspondent is Katerina Vittozi.
Pitching – they are looking for news so give them a new report, new research, new data, something that they can push and will make their headlines. Send photos, video, sound clip. Pitch stories and interviewees and email one of the team not all of them. They are also interested in UK stories. For more information on pitching to Sky News, see notes from the briefing with Tim Singleton, Head of International News, which took place in October 2020.
Instagram – they do an Instagram live every Wednesday at 5 which Katerina hosts. It’s a different guest each week.
Tearfund has long campaigned on the issue of climate change. Earlier this year, it launched a toolkit to spell out to churches three simple steps that they can take to help tackle the climate emergency. Jack Wakefield explains how the toolkit came about.
In 2019 two church-goers in Leeds, Mark and Howard, met for a coffee at a Christian event and discussed how little mention there was of the climate emergency. ‘There is such a deafening silence on climate change’ remarked Howard, ‘you would think there was no emergency at all’.
That initial reflection sparked a conversation that eventually formed into a proposal: a toolkit to help churches and Christian organisations respond to the climate crisis like the emergency it is. We’ve now seen churches declaring a climate emergency, making plans to divest or take other actions, and supporting their congregations to respond – including many who haven’t engaged with the topic before.
When they make their declarations, we’re encouraging churches to create a public moment so that they can successfully engage local media. Our hope is that if hundreds of churches declare a climate emergency in the run up to COP, this will become a story in itself.
One pastor told us he hadn’t ever preached about climate change before 2020. But after a few sermons and making their official ‘recognition’, they ended up with a team of 23 people volunteering to help coordinate the response and run initiatives in the wider community.
Six months after that first conversation between Mark and Howard, they presented the idea to my team at the Tearfund offices, as well as people from several other organisations, in the hope that we’d support the project. As they pitched to us, one brilliant idea stood out: what if we stopped thinking about the church only as a building to be improved, but also as a community of people from all walks of life, attending schools, workplaces, community groups and with huge potential to influence those spaces.
So often in the church, climate change can be a specialist interest for a select few who faithfully chip away at change, getting burned out and feeling that no one else cares. Yet responding to the climate emergency should be central to the Christian faith: it is about loving our global neighbours who are threatened by droughts and storms, as well as an opportunity to reach out and serve our local communities.
The question their presentation posed to us was this: what if we could move climate change to a front-and-centre issue that concerned every single member of the congregation? In the coming months, a small team of us from Tearfund and the Church of England, accompanied by Mark and Howard, got to work.
With so many brilliant Christian organisations already working in this space, we were conscious of not reinventing the wheel. Through consultation with more than ten other organisations we eventually formed a Toolkit: a hub full of resources and tools, many of which already existed, re-organised around three simple steps that would provide a clear and simple journey for a church or Christian organisation (or perhaps any community organisation) to respond with both the scale and urgency required.
First, ‘Prepare’: begin the conversation with the whole congregation. Preach about climate change, host listening circles for those with climate anxiety, run workshops about sustainable living and help everyone see this is an important part of being a Christian today.
Next, ‘Declare’: make an official and public statement that says you recognise the scale of the crisis and commit to making a plan for the church’s emissions in a certain timeframe. Decisions in churches can take many years, but making the declaration gives a deadline, while also providing a reason for churches to contact their local council, MP, as well as other churches to inform them that they have declared an emergency and to push for change politically too.
The third and final step is ‘Impact’: support everyone in the congregation to reflect on where they already have influence – their workplaces, community groups, families, schools and more – and take action. Whether it’s asking their employer where their pensions are invested or asking their school to switch to renewable energy.
I recently met with someone whose church has been looking at the Climate Emergency Toolkit and teaching about climate change on Sundays. She’s a vet and has begun plans to open her own – sustainable – practice, finding ways to source sterile medical equipment without single-use plastic, using renewable energy and so on. She was excited as she shared because this wasn’t about using the correct compostable cups at church, it was about her passion as a vet.
The Impact step also encourages churches to connect with their local climate groups, whether it’s a conservation society, Transition Towns or XR group. These can be passionate and informed people keen to make change, but without huge numbers locally. We wanted to encourage churches to stand alongside them for some of their campaigns and amplify their voices by speaking together as, perhaps unlikely, coalitions. If we’re going to see change at the speed we need, we’ll need to come together.
In the first few months since launching, more than two thousand people have downloaded the Climate Emergency Toolkit. At a ‘national training webinar’ we hosted a few weeks ago, more than 400 people attended, keen to learn how to apply it to their own context. We’ve seen twenty declarations made, and we’re hopeful that there are many more to come – but more importantly, we’re hopeful that churches in the UK will be communities full of people excited to love their global neighbours by influencing their politicians, workplaces and communities to respond to the climate crisis like the emergency it really is.
Jack Wakefield is a campaigner at Tearfund.
Dan Stewart, International Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
Justin Worland, climate change policy Justin.email@example.com
Aryn Baker, climate change human impacts Aryn.firstname.lastname@example.org
Ciara Nugent, will lead on COP Ciara.email@example.com
Alejandro de la Garza, covers innovation firstname.lastname@example.org
Elijah Wolfson, covers science and health (based in New York) email@example.com
Alice Park, covers health and medicine firstname.lastname@example.org
Dan is the international editor, based and London, and leads on all international coverage, although he is regularly in touch with New York and takes decisions jointly with them.
He spoke about some of the many changes that have been taking place at Time. It was best known as a weekly news magazine but now it is reinventing itself as a global media organisation. The magazine is now fortnightly and distributed in 45 countries although its biggest audience is in the US. But the magazine represents only a small part of the content that is produced. Time have a big online presence with articles, photos, videos and a podcast coming. 90% of their journalism is online only with 10% going in the magazine.
The current owners are Mark and Lynne Benioff from Salesforce and they are investing in the brand, not looking to make money. There is a big push on experimenting and innovation to reach new audiences. They currently have 2m subscribers and the goal is to reach 10m by 2030. One on five subscribers are outside the US.
The online audience is also mainly in the US and they are read by policy makers in Washington and New York. But there is a growing global audience in Europe, Africa and Asia. They employ 120 journalists worldwide with correspondents and stringers.
They are not trying to be a breaking news site. If they report on a breaking news story then they will try and find their own angle so that they have something new to say. They are interested in finding stories that have a wider impact and shed light on global trends. They are quite choosy about the stories they cover.
Their international coverage is crucial and Dan says that they ‘cover the world with an American accent.’ He explained that they are trying to make connections, explain events and the impact they have. He cited their coverage of Myanmar and Covid in India as being successful and popular with their audience.
They have had a big push on coverage of climate change with a special issue of the magazine last month and another one coming in the run up to COP26. They are currently planning their COP coverage but one of the issues they are focusing on is the role of the global south. Will leaders from the global south be able to attend COP? Will their perspective be heard? The theme of their coverage is ‘climate is everything.’ They want to show audiences that it affects every aspect of our lives – for example food and diet, educations, archtecture. They want to find stories that make these connections and are surprising or unexpected. One recent climate change story focused on the Rift Valley in Kenya and the way in which lakes are merging, displacing communities and creating climate refugees.
In addition to their online coverage they have a weekly climate change newsletter which reaches an influential audience. The aim of their climate change coverage is principally to reach a mainstream audience. They will be watching COP26 closely. Dan gave us the names and contact details of the climate change team (see key contacts above):
Justin Worland, based in Washington DC covers policy
Aryn Baker, based in Rome, covers the human impacts
Ciara Nugent , based in London, will lead on COP
Alejandro de la Garza, based in New York, covers innovation
With their climate change coverage they have also tried to give young people a platform. They chose Greta as their person of the year and have a strong relationship with her.
In January, they launched their 2030 Project with the aim of looking at solutions to some of the world’s key issues such as sustainability, innovation, etc and examining the ways in which the world is changing or needs to change. They have a partnership with the World Economic Forum which has called for a ‘great reset.’ Dan referenced the challenge of meeting the SDGs by 2030. They have created a microsite for this https://time.com/time2030/
Pitches should be targeted at Time, you should show some knowledge and understanding of what works for them. They should be short and to the point. Think about why this would work for Time and offer exclusivity if at all possible. Pitch as long in advance as you can, especially if you are publishing a report. Pitches can go direct to Dan or to one of his colleagues. He receives hundreds of emails so cannot promise to answer every single one. It’s very unlikely that they will take photos or slideshows or video as they have a big team doing with this. However, if you have a photo that captures something important taking place that may work for them – Dan will pass it on to the photo team.
When the campaign for a People’s Vaccine was launched, it was with the support of more than 140 past and present world leaders, economists and experts. It came about because of concerns from organisations working on HIV/AIDS that what happened with HIV/AIDS medicines – when countless lives were lost because antiretroviral medicines were unaffordable for people in poor countries – would happen again with COVID vaccines.
Inevitably, the media remained primarily focused on the domestic vaccine rollout. Instead of fighting this, we attempted to use it as a springboard. In December, on the day the first COVID vaccine was given to a British grandmother, we put out a People’s Vaccine story highlighting the fact that 9 out of 10 people in developing countries were likely to miss out on vaccines, whilst a handful of wealthy nations had enough to vaccinate their citizens several times over. This was a breakthrough for our campaign and got hundreds of media hits across the globe. More importantly, people started to talk more about the growing inequality of which countries were getting vaccine doses and which weren’t.
But building momentum for changes to what to many people are technical trade rules remained a challenge. When the Pfizer vaccine became the first to get approval for use, the media were broadcasting stories that focused on the problems posed by the need for cold-chain refrigeration. Yet we knew that the biggest barrier to people in developing nations getting vaccines wasn’t the fact they didn’t have enough fridges.
There was no mention of the fact that Pfizer had already sold the majority of doses to a handful of rich countries or the fact that at $40 a dose it was pretty much out of reach for most developing nations. This really compelled us to try to change the narrative, to raise awareness of the real barrier – the lack of available and affordable vaccines, the root cause of which was intellectual property rights held by the pharmaceutical companies and rich countries’ insistence on protecting them.
Perhaps understandably, much of the public discussion of how to plug the gap in the supply of vaccines to developing countries focused on the COVAX scheme, backed by the Gates Foundation among others, through which governments, including the UK and some of the vaccine producers – notably AstraZeneca – donate doses. While supportive of COVAX, we don’t believe it will be enough, by itself, to solve the problem and that rather than fighting for a larger share of a pie that is too small to go around, we should be increasing its size.
We continued to warn that vaccines were being artificially rationed and did polling, which found that three quarters of the British public thought the Government should prevent pharmaceutical companies from having monopolies on COVID vaccines. We reached out to epidemiologists from some of the world’s leading academic institutions to get a stronger scientific argument for a People’s Vaccine. Two-thirds of those we spoke to thought we had a year or less before COVID-19 mutates to the extent that the majority of first-generation vaccines are rendered ineffective or that we’d need new or modified vaccines to deal with them. It gave our message that ‘we aren’t safe until we are all safe’ real clout.
It was when we saw an increase in media coverage from the pharmaceutical industry and its supporters against the sharing of Intellectual Property that we knew we were having a real impact. Proposals tabled by India and South Africa at the WTO, to waive intellectual property rights had garnered the support of more than 100 nations, although they continued to be blocked by rich countries, including the UK and US as well as the EU.
But, while we were making progress, it had not been fast enough. Our worst fears were realised as a new COVID wave started to devastate India. A situation made even more cruel by the fact that India, a country known as the pharmacy of the world, has been blocked from making more COVID-19 vaccines that could have prevented the horrific and spiralling loss of life.
The People’s Vaccine Alliance again called on its notable supporters, resulting in more than 170 former world leaders and Nobel laureates making a call for US President Joe Biden to make COVID-19 vaccines more readily available by waiving intellectual property rules. The pharmaceutical industry also ramped up their lobbing on the President in the media.
Finally, we had the amazing news that the US would support the waiver, which was a pivotal moment in the campaign. However, with the UK and others continuing to block the proposal, we still have a fight on our hands. We will continue to use the media to call for a People’s Vaccine, so that people in developing countries are able to get the same protection from the virus that we are lucky to be starting to see here in the UK.
Sarah Dransfield is a Senior Press Officer at Oxfam and media lead for the Alliance.
We brought together a range of voices to look more closely at international coverage in the time of Covid. How well has mainstream media served us? Could it have done better? If so, how? There was an acknowledgement by the panel that the media had faced a unique challenge – the biggest story in living memory and yet the normal means of covering the story were simply not available.
Liliane Landor, Head of Foreign News at Channel 4 News, spoke candidly about the challenge, which was especially acute when the UK went into lockdown. The priority for the Channel 4 team was simply to ‘keep the show on the road’ she told us. For Liliane herself, it was ‘how to cover the world when it had become completely inaccessible.’ Channel 4 News has a small team of reporters who are mostly based in the UK. They couldn’t travel at all, so new ways had to be found to tell stories from around the world.
Liliane acknowledged that the necessity of having to rely on reporters, producers and camera crews who were in country was ultimately a huge benefit. It has changed Channel 4 News forever. She now has teams in Italy, France, India, Brazil, China and elsewhere, that she will use again in the future. They will become ‘part of the Channel 4 News family.’
For Liliane, the global story was so important that lines between domestic and foreign news ceased to exist. The pandemic was one story which affected us all. This was not a view shared by others on the panel, who felt that it was almost as if there were two pandemics being reported – the one happening in the UK and the one happening abroad.
Romilly Greenhill, UK Director of ONE, felt that in this regard the media had not served us well and, as a result, there was a lack of understanding amongst the UK public that how the pandemic was tackled in other countries would impact on us too. No one is safe until everyone is safe.
Romilly also felt that the media had failed to catch the mood of the public in its reporting of the vaccine rollout. Polling conducted by ONE and other organisations had found public support for the UK moving more quickly to share vaccine doses, especially with health workers in poorer countries. There was huge anger about the inequity of the vaccine rollout amongst leaders from the global south. This had not been reflected in UK media coverage.
There was a consensus amongst the panel that politicians in the UK had failed to learn from how other parts of the world had tackled previous epidemics such as Ebola and SARS. The media was partly to blame according to Indi Samarajiva, a Sri Lankan based journalist. Indi described this as a ‘colonial’ mentality that Britain knows best. He argued that the media was complicit in this view, a claim strongly contested by Liliane.
Camilla Knox-Peebles, CEO of Amref Health Africa UK and others on the panel wanted to hear a wider range of voices from the global south. She felt that the media had conflated the experience of African nations into one story as if Africa were just one country. The experience of living with Covid in Tanzania, where the President resisted a lockdown at all costs, was very different from the experience of living with it in a country like Botswana, which took swift action to close its borders and impose a lockdown. Camilla also felt that the media focus was on the medical story, the number of cases and how well health systems were coping. This neglected other equally important aspects of the crisis – the real impact on people’s lives and livelihoods. It was striking, Camilla said, how few positive stories there were from Africa in general.
There was a general feeling amongst the panel that if media coverage of international stories had more follow through and follow up, there would be a better understanding of what was happening in those countries. There would also be a better understanding of the pandemic and how its impact magnified underlying inequalities. This better understanding could help us to address other global challenges – such as climate change – more effectively in the future.
Vanessa Baird co-editor at New Internationalist praised some of the mainstream media coverage but felt that there were important stories that the media had not given enough attention to. One was the way in which many governments have used what she called ‘the cover of Covid’ to suppress human rights and limit free speech.
Vanessa was also critical of media praise for drug companies as modern day heroes, rescuing the world from the clutches of Covid. This was far from the truth she said, as many pharmaceutical companies stood to make huge profits from their Covid vaccines.
Ramadan is the most important time of the year for us at Muslim Hands. As a faith-based charity, this special month is where we receive the bulk of our donations from donors across the world. Though we know what projects and campaigns we will be pushing, donations from this month sets the tone of other projects that could also be implemented, to help as many people as possible, in the year ahead.
In the past year due to the generosity of our donors we have raised over £175,000 for our Blessed Bakeries campaign, which has allowed us to open three bakeries in Yemen. This will provide thousands of loaves of bread to women, children, and those with disabilities in Yemen and later Syria who have been internally displaced because of civil war.
We were able to raise a significant amount in a short space of time using a variety of strategies and platforms to increase awareness for this campaign. It was vital to work closely with our partners and colleagues on the ground in Yemen to provide us with the information we needed on the projects, beneficiary stories, images, and videos, which were all used to push this campaign to our donors.
We used Facebook and Instagram to share photos and videos of people who were benefitting from the bread factory. We created social media posts from a religious perspective on why Yemen is important in the Islamic faith and shared content around this that many of our donors may not have been aware of. We also created targeted online adverts on Facebook and Google which encouraged our donors to donate towards the campaign. Media coverage was also obtained through radio stations and newspapers where colleagues who had been on the ground were able to share their experiences.
This Ramadan we will be implementing all the above but also utilising fundraising platforms such as Just Giving – YallaGive and Launch Good that allows us to increase and build our donor reach worldwide. Translating our material to languages that are identified by our main donors has proven to be helpful, which has been achieved by having multilingual adverts on Ramadan radio stations throughout the UK and adverts in multilingual newspapers. We have also established relationships with TV channels that have a large Muslim audience base worldwide such as Islam Channel English and Urdu for fundraising and awareness purposes. We have already started distributing our Ramadan mailer to a large portion of our donors, which includes the Blessed Bakeries campaign. We are always looking at innovative ways to share our work with new audiences especially the younger generation. TikTok has been a great way to do this.
I first decided I wanted to launch my own podcast in the summer of 2018. It took me a full two and a half years to take action. I lost count of the times that I’d tell myself I didn’t have time to dedicate to it on top of a busy full-time job or that I was foolish to think that people would want to listen to what I had to say. Sometimes I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do it on. On other occasions it just felt too much like hard work. I finally managed to overcome these thoughts and launched Storytelling for Impact early this year. It’s an amazing feeling to have made it happen at long last! Here’s what I’ve learnt since then.
Taking action on a goal like starting a podcast can feel really difficult – that’s why it took me so long! Doing a multi-day course promising to teach me “how to start a podcast” changed all that. The course I signed up to took place in January on Zoom. Every morning we’d learn about podcasting, but the best part was the afternoons, when we’d put our ideas into action, knowing that there was a group of people waiting to hold us accountable the next day. By the time the week was over, I had a podcast title, a fully-developed concept, my recording and editing software downloaded, my equipment bought, my own theme tune, my trailer published, and a list of guests I wanted to approach for interview. There was no going back. A month later, I launched my first two episodes.
Some people invest thousands in getting the highest spec equipment imaginable for their podcast. But if you’re launching your own show, there’s really no need for costly bells and whistles. I paid about £30 for this microphone, spend $9.99 a month on my hosting platform and a few pounds a month to have a simple WordPress website with my own .net domain name. You don’t strictly speaking need to pay for your hosting platform either – you could use a free one like Soundcloud. All you really need is a mic – you can assess whether it’s worth investing in more kit once you’re up and running.
As someone who works in media relations, I tend to be a bit of a snob about the reach that a piece of content gets. I’m used to producing or pitching work that captures several thousand pairs of eyeballs at least – millions when working with broadcast media or global outlets. Podcasts are very different. The number of listeners pales in comparison to those on other media formats, but the people who do listen are highly engaged – around 70% of podcast listeners will listen to all or most of an episode. Wonderfully, they’re also often much keener to hear about complex ideas – as The Times’s Catherine Nixey once wrote, “While the rest of the internet silts up with cats and fake news, the podcast is unashamedly intelligent”.
Currently I’m getting around 75 downloads in the first 7 days after my episodes are released, putting my show in the top 25% of podcasts, according to Buzzsprout. I’m thrilled at this – and sincerely grateful for every download received so far.
I’m a journalist by background and have interviewed hundreds of people. But, asides from my early teenage years when I used to tell people I was a “freelance journalist” in order to score interviews with my favourite bands, I’ve mostly only done interviews when backed by a big media brand. So having joined the INGO sector four years ago, I was a bit nervous no-one would want to talk to me if I wasn’t representing an outlet everyone had heard of. I needn’t have worried. Asides from a bit of false start – the first two people I approached to interview didn’t seem especially keen – every one of the people I’ve approached to come on the show has been really enthusiastic. It’s worth remembering that most people are flattered to be asked to talk about themselves, particularly when they’re in lockdown. The guest I’ve booked in for one of my upcoming episodes is a huge deal in the journalism world and someone whose work I’ve admired for years. He said yes within hours of being asked.
As the excellent podcaster Oprah Winfrey once said, “You get in life what you have the courage to ask for.”
Storytelling for Impact is available for download on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you enjoy your podcasts. The latest episode is an interview with Rachel Erskine from IBT member Amref Health Africa about ethical storytelling.
The media landscape in 2021 is set to be dominated by the big ‘c’s of climate change, COP26 and Covid-19. But, for those working in communications there is another one – competition. How to secure engagement and attention of time pressed journalists, politicians and social media activists against a backdrop of an unrelenting news cycle with ever increasing numbers of organisations offering comment.
Our aim at the Institute of Development Studies is to shift the focus of climate change to recognise one of the most easily overlooked elements of the issue – climate inequality.
Typically, world leader events and government initiatives on climate change have been dominated by technological solutions but when it comes to the impacts of climate change, research shows the issue is fundamentally one of (in)justice. The worst impacts of climate change and our ability to adapt to them are felt unequally globally and within countries because of the structural injustices that cause underlying poverty and inequalities.
This poses an immediate challenge that our communications activity in the year ahead is aiming to address. Here are five principles we are following in order to gain cut through and engagement with our climate justice research:
We are leveraging IDS partnerships and our reputation for participatory action research to meaningfully involve marginalised people. This includes creating participatory videos and photo stories that bring to life the issues relating to inequality. In this way, we should all walk the talk on inclusivity, sharing stories and ensuring those worst affected are represented, in our content, events and podcasts
There is clearly a need to highlight the urgency of the problem of climate injustice and to communicate the ‘so what?’, ‘why now?’. But, this must go hand in hand with providing constructive solutions and suggestions for those with political power to do things differently. For us, this means working with researchers to identify then communicate actionable recommendations which can then be illustrated with real life stories from inspirational people globally. With so much negativity in the news media, not least due to Covid-19 and lockdown life, this aims to meet the demand from journalist and influencers for positive stories.
Develop communications that are ‘social first’ and designed to engage with audiences that are active on social platforms. To do this, we’re applying insights from our social media monitoring platform to understand Twitter conversations, hashtags, topic virality and the top influencers by climate theme, in the UK and beyond. By understanding the dominant conversation topics, and the most engaging posts, we’ll develop creative social media content that in tone, theme and style is as engaging and effective as possible.
When reaching out to journalists, bloggers or podcasters at this intensely busy time and with high competition for stories, it will be even more vital to remember best practice for story pitches. Presenting a clear, compelling story in one line, and remembering who, why, what, where, when, so what? This is alongside being clear on what is being offered – interviewee, case study, report, images, all tailored to be relevant to the contact. Through a combination of media trained spokespeople and a steady drumbeat of commentary with creative stories, we will cut through to key media for policy audiences and aim to build awareness of our messaging.
Building relationships with influencers and working in wide-ranging partnerships as we do at IDS, including academics, community groups, businesses or activists can also bring risks. Ranging from reputation management, including being viewed as too political, to social media abuse towards your organisation, spokespeople or case studies, it makes it critical to have a robust approach to potential risks. At the outset of our climate justice campaign, we’ve completed a risk review and ongoing will evaluate how our messaging and content is being received. This includes considering how content could be interpreted from different external viewpoints with this insight being fed into future messaging.
Applying these principles, our ambition over the year ahead is to move the debate on climate change to achieve greater recognition that the issue is fundamentally about justice. We hope to influence the dominant narrative on climate change among policymakers and the media, widening it beyond the technology-based solutions to focus on those in the world most at risk. We hope it serves as an important reminder that in our ‘race to zero’ carbon emissions we mustn’t further harm the lives and livelihoods of those already suffering its worst effects, or exclude them from finding the solutions.
For decades, MSF has seen the impact of inequity in access to health products, including treatments and vaccines, on vulnerable people. The inequities the world is now seeing in access to COVID-19 vaccines is unfortunately another striking example of the broader failures within the current system of medical innovation, which continues to prioritise profit over people with devastating impacts.
There was an estimated 10-year delay between when people living with HIV in the US started to receive lifesaving treatments in the mid-1990s, compared with those living in Africa in the mid-2000s. This lag led to 12 million unnecessary deaths because of lack of access to new antiretroviral drugs. The experiences of frontline MSF healthcare workers responding to the HIV crisis in part led to the launch of the MSF Access Campaign.
We hoped at the beginning of the pandemic that we would not see the same happen with diagnostics, treatments and vaccines for COVID-19 but we are tragically seeing this inequity in access play out again in real time.
There were early international efforts to try and prevent this from happening. The WHO and a number of partners, including Gavi, the Global Vaccine Alliance, launched the COVAX Facility, in an attempt to ensure equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. However, it is clear that the COVAX Facility is so far failing in it aims. Furthermore, COVAX has estimated that it will only be able to provide three per cent of the supply promised to low and middle-income countries during the first half of 2021.
The media has to some extent highlighted the dangers of vaccine nationalism being seen in many high-income countries, and the progress and challenges being faced by COVAX in trying to ensure equitable access. However, too few have asked the more fundamental question of why we keep seeing these issues in the first place, and why the same reasons are also leading to the failure of COVAX.
What is going wrong in the pharmaceutical system that means this vast inequity of access is happening? Why are there not enough supplies for everyone? Why can pharmaceutical companies charge eye-watering prices for their products even during a pandemic?
The answer is that the medical innovation system is currently structured to maximise profits for pharmaceutical companies. The monopolies that pharmaceutical companies hold on medical products, including intellectual property rights such as patents, guarantee them an exclusive market and enables them to charge high prices. One thing that this global pandemic has shown us is that monopolising and limiting available supplies of medical products is very dangerous, particularly when the whole world needs access to them at the same time.
Unfortunately, there were many lost opportunities to achieve equitable access in the design of COVAX itself. COVAX was created and crafted under the influence of high-income countries, who are heavily influenced by the Big Pharma lobby, as well as Bill Gates, a staunch advocate for business-as-usual and intellectual property rights.
This is an approach that is unsustainable amid a global pandemic. Instead of the artificial supply limitations and high prices that we are seeing now, COVAX and its donor governments could have required pharmaceutical companies to openly license their COVID-19 vaccines, breaking monopolies, maximising available supplies and ensuring access for all. But they didn’t. And the reason why is a question that not enough people are asking.
Reshaped by shifting priorities, tightened budgets and a conveyor belt of changing lockdown restrictions, newsrooms and media organisations all over the world have had to adapt to survive. All of these changes have major implications for INGOs wishing to use the media to tell their stories. In our new report, The Media: Where Next? we have tracked the changes that have taken place and identified some key ways that INGOs can take advantage of them to engage more effectively with audiences. Here are our top five recommendations:
The pandemic has accelerated key trends that were already taking place across the media. This includes the faster adoption of digital, a move to remote storytelling techniques and a drive towards formats that build stronger connections with audiences online, like digital subscriptions, podcasts and newsletters. Keeping on top of these trends and adapting new storytelling techniques will allow INGOs to tap into the increased potential for engaging more deeply with audiences.
Worldwide travel restrictions have forced the media and INGOs to move away from relying on UK-based staff to gather international stories. Communication and media teams have successfully adapted, working with a wider range of freelancers, in-country talent, and user-generated content. When the UK’s travel restrictions are finally lifted, it is important that we don’t return to the old methods of gathering stories and instead use this as an opportunity to continue to collaborate and create space for a greater variety of voices.
Think carefully about how you represent people in your stories. Comic Relief has responded to the ‘white saviour’ row and revised its approach, challenging others in the sector to rethink long established fundraising techniques. To do this effectively, it’s crucial to consider both how stories are told and how they are gathered. Establishing robust, informed consent gathering processes will ensure best ethical practice as well as promote more nuanced storytelling. In an increasingly distrusting media landscape, NGOs must work harder to signal their credibility and transparency to audiences.
Social media moves fast. To improve digital engagement organisations must be willing to adopt more flexible, trial-and-error approaches to storytelling. This is especially true of quick turnaround video platforms like TikTok and Instagram Reels where establishing processes that allow social media teams to react quickly to trends are vital for reaching audiences. Meanwhile, formats like podcasts and newsletters provide an opportunity for INGOs to demonstrate their expertise, credibility and deepen audience engagement.
INGOs should encourage more collaborative relationships with the media, rather than the transactional approach that has developed over recent years. In the changing media landscape, where broadcasters are increasingly limited on resources, INGOs have a lot to offer. Whether that means leaning into the sector’s wealth of experience in interpreting scientific data, or working together to provide a platform for more diverse voices as broadcasters come under pressure to achieve wider representation.
The Media: Where Next? outlines in more detail how events over the past year have impacted the media landscape, what this means for the INGO sector, and how charities can take advantage of the accelerated shift towards digital and embrace new storytelling formats.
Although the impact of COVID-19 has varied both within and between countries, no nation, regardless of its wealth, has been spared. Indeed, disease epicentres have consistently been urban settlements, meaning that high-income, widely urbanised countries have been hardest hit. A different pattern is likely to be seen in low- and middle-income countries, many of them in Africa: a protracted epidemic with a slow but consistent rise in cases and deaths.
We have learnt the painful lesson that because we are a globalised world, if one person is infected in New York it poses a risk to citizens of London as well as to those of Nairobi, Abuja, Delhi, and Mexico City. By ignoring humanity’s inter-connectedness, governments are ultimately doing a disservice to their own citizens; to those they seek to protect.
But then we encounter a problem: should a government give the same concern to the rest of the world as it does to its own citizens? Should Britain accept that vaccines manufactured on its territory be exported to other countries when its own citizens are not fully vaccinated and dying daily? Should the EU allow vaccine manufacturers to breach vaccine delivery contracts because they have to supply priority groups in other continents?
Since mid-January, health workers in public hospitals in Kenya have downed their tools demanding protection of their health and that of their families. A number of health workers, young and old, have succumbed to the virus: the last widely reported one was a young doctor in his twenties. We are all scared because we are not sure who is next.
In December 2020, The Economist Intelligence Unit was predicting that low- and middle-income countries would not have “wide access to a vaccine” until the spring of 2022 at the earliest. A UK-based colleague told me that her 87-year-old father-in-law has already received his two vaccine doses. I was reminded that my grandfather in Siaya County, Kenya is of a similar age and unlikely to get the vaccine this year. I hope he will be alive by the time the vaccine reaches him.
High-income countries, most of which are facing a severe form of the pandemic, are fighting for a big share of the vaccines to save their citizens. In the process, they are succumbing to vaccine hoarding and vaccine nationalism, giving little thought to what is happening elsewhere in the world.
As of 1st February, 101 million doses of the vaccine had been administered in 64 countries. Fewer than 200,000 of those doses had been administered on the African continent, and this in just three countries . If this pattern continues, the world risks a situation where sizeable numbers of citizens of some countries will have been vaccinated while the pandemic continues to ravage other communities.
Fragmented and preferential access to the COVID vaccine gives the impression that the value of human life is not the same across the world. What if we just stood in solidarity and took humanity to be one and faced our common enemy – COVID – as one world army of humans?
We would then vaccinate all health workers first because they are in the frontline of the battle. We would follow that by vaccinating older people, those with pre-existing health conditions, and essential service providers. Finally, we would vaccinate the rest of the world’s population. Geographical boundaries would not divide us; neither would our economic power.
We would win the battle by working together and at the end we would be proud of ourselves that we stood in solidarity and that we never allowed COVID to divide us.
As we enter a new year, the climate ought to be at the forefront of many people’s minds. There have been news reports that 2020 was the joint hottest year on record and in only eleven short months, Glasgow will host COP26 – the meeting of world leaders to discuss the climate crisis.
Although this annual meeting has been a fixture for over a quarter of a century, this year will be different. As we deal with the latest COVID restrictions, the common thread that binds us all, locked down in our homes, is a sense of the deep interconnectedness to each other and the planet. Recognising that we need each other, and we each have a part to play does wonders for our mental health. For many of us, the muted noise of daily business opened us up to the wonder and beauty of nature.
To bring about a more equitable sharing of the earth’s resources, then politics and policies must change. Pope Francis’s letter on the environment in 2015, Laudato Si’, has helped to signpost the way. It was an eloquent and influential call for everyone to revise their relationship with our planet and with one another. Published when we were working towards the Paris climate negotiations, Laudato Si’ was seen as a critical intervention, with heads of state and diplomats alike acknowledging its significant effect.
Rather than simply being the Catholic Church’s statement on the environment from a ‘green pope’, Francis was calling for a radical conversion to a new society – where our politics, economy and social organisation benefit our planet and everyone on it. In giving the letter the subtitle ‘Our Common Home’, Francis asked us to see ourselves as a family in a home: a message that seems even more relevant in light of the pandemic.
Francis emphasises the dignity of all people, especially those who are poorest and least recognised in society. Whether it is investing in health and social care, green jobs or renewable energy sources, strengthening the social safety net or introducing a basic income, that respect for our common humanity must be at the forefront.
The changes we have lived through, and are still living through with the pandemic, shows what can be achieved with political will. In his call for a radical reset not just a return to an old normal, Pope Francis articulates what so many people are feeling. CAFOD supporters are now adding their voices to his most recent call.
In our plans for rebuilding from the pandemic, we reclaim the common home the Pope calls us to care for. This means plans for recovering from the coronavirus pandemic must also tackle the other injustices and inequalities that plague our common home. We have gone through too much in this crisis to simply return to the ‘old normal’ when the pandemic is over. Instead, the Holy Father implores us to build a ‘better normal’ – including by making sure the money governments are pumping into the economy is used to create green and decent jobs rather than bailing out polluters. It also means turning our climate ambitions from vague future targets to immediate cuts in emissions.
As we approach COP26 and emerge from the pandemic, we need the media to portray the realities of the climate emergency – reporting on how people and communities are affected and ensuring that those stories are rooted in their voices and lived experience. Hearing their voices reminds us that this issue isn’t a white middle-class concern – it’s life and death for so many who are vulnerable to climate shocks and who pay the price for our consumption.
The media’s approach to the climate crisis has been improving hugely over the past few years, most notably with the Guardian’s push to change the terms used by all their journalists to accurately describe the environmental crisis.
There is also improved reporting on the climate crisis with clearer links connecting local and the global; raising awareness with audiences who in turn we hope will campaign to persuade governments to prioritise urgent change.
Now is our unique opportunity to reset our economy, our politics, and our society. To build a thriving post-pandemic world, fulfilling the principles at the heart of Pope Francis’ call for conversion to a greener, more dignified and just planet.
The pandemic has seen a big increase in consumption of TV news and has given public service broadcasters like the BBC and Channel 4 a much needed boost. Television news has long been the main source of information about the wider world for most people in the UK and has the unique ability to reach large, mainstream audiences. It plays a crucial role for NGOs wishing to reach beyond their core constituencies.
However, the future of the UK’s distinctive public service broadcasting (PSB) system is in doubt. The media regulator Ofcom is conducting a review, Small Screen: Big Debate, with the aim of strengthening and maintaining public service broadcasting in the face of threats from Netflix, Amazon, Disney and Apple. Both the BBC and Channel 4 face financial uncertainty and the Ofcom review is critical to the future of PSB.
In December, Ofcom announced its initial findings. Its verdict was devastating for the PSBs. It said that the traditional system of broadcasting in the UK is ‘unlikely to survive’ as a result of changes to technology, financing and viewer habits. Ofcom says that the remits of the PSBs will have to be ‘radically overhauled.’
It’s likely that Ofcom will redefine PSB so that it has a much stronger digital presence. Channel 4 has already anticipated this change with its recent announcement of a digital first policy. It’s also possible that funding for public service content may be diversified to suppliers other than the traditional public service broadcasters, and platforms like Netflix may be required to produce public service content.
Ofcom has announced a public consultation on its proposals, before they are finalised and put forward to government. IBT will be submitting evidence to the Ofcom consultation in order to strengthen the role of international content. We will be working with our members to encourage them to submit evidence too, as Ofcom will be influenced by the number of submissions it receives.
Some of the changes proposed by Ofcom are to be welcomed such as the suggestion that the streaming services like Netflix should be required to produce the equivalent of public service content. The details of this have yet to be fleshed out.
The size of the BBC, whether licence fee money should go to other broadcasters like Sky Arts, privatisation of Channel 4, a redefinition of PSB to include online content and much more.
The PSBs face major funding challenges. Channel 4 has lost advertising revenue and the BBC is making cuts to its programme budget to pay for the age related licence fee concession. The new BBC Director General Tim Davie has made it clear that in the future the BBC will do less. ‘The BBC has spread itself too thinly‘ he recently told the Culture and Media Select Committee. ‘We need to make choices about the best use of limited resources.’
Two genres are guaranteed a major role in any future PSB system – entertainment and news. Big entertainment shows like Strictly Come Dancing and The Great British Bake Off will continue as they bring in mass audiences and PSB makes no sense if it doesn’t reach large numbers of people. News will stay as it is the television genre most valued by audiences.
My fear is that international content is the genre that is most vulnerable. It’s expensive to make and it has always had to fight for its place in the schedule. I’m thinking of programmes like BBC2’s Once Upon a Time in Iraq, BBC1’s Sue Perkins: Along the US-Mexico Border, and Channel 4’s Grayson Perry’s Big American Road Trip. These programmes are made for UK audiences, they take us on a journey and show us stories and issues that matter. Some have a much gentler tone like BBC4’s wonderful Handmade in Africa. Because they are made with a UK perspective, for a UK audience, these programmes don’t sell to other territories and they don’t generate commercial revenue like the latest David Attenborough show. And you will not find them on Netflix or Amazon.
Isn’t it enough to have good quality international news? No, it isn’t. Television news does a good job of covering global stories but its range is narrow and due to financial pressures, is narrowing even further. The big international stories of the day are covered but these inevitably present a limited picture of what life is like for people living in other countries. And not all TV viewers watch the news. Documentaries and drama fill in the gaps and they appeal to different audiences. They give us context and provide a much more realistic idea of what normal life is like in other places. They allow us to get to know real people and to connect with them emotionally.
We need television to do more than just focus on war, famine and natural disasters, because a nuanced understanding of the world is essential for our future place in the world. Now that Britain has left the European Union, there is a real danger that our horizons will narrow, that we will become more insular and inward looking. Global Britain needs citizens who are well informed and can engage with the world, economically, socially, culturally and politically.
Television has a unique role to play in engaging us with the world because it has the ability to reach mass audiences. Those who already have an interest in global stories and issues know where they can find the information they need. But the danger is that this small proportion of the population will be super served and the rest will be neglected. As Ofcom launches its consultation on the future of public service broadcasting, we hope that IBT members will join us in making the case for a wide range of international content.
Global Britain – that is the future promised for the UK in the post-Brexit world that comes into being at midnight on New Year’s Eve, but has it yet progressed beyond rhetoric?
When Boris Johnson’s government announced its Integrated Review of security, defence, development and foreign affairs in February this year, it looked like a strategic approach examining all aspects of the UK’s role in the world was to be conducted.
That review is still not complete and is not expected to be published before the spring, yet several key announcements have already been made seemingly with short-term politics, rather than long-term strategy, in mind.
The merger of the Foreign Office and the Department for International Development – which so far looks more like a takeover of the latter by the former – has been accompanied by cuts in the aid budget and the (ostensibly temporary) abandonment of the pledge to spend 0.7% of GNI on aid.
At the same time, Prime Minister Johnson has announced a big increase in spending on the military and we’ve heard grandiose rhetoric from the Foreign and Defence Secretaries about returning British naval power east of Suez, including deploying one of the UK’s new aircraft carriers to the South China Sea to support American efforts to challenge Beijing’s territorial claims there.
Britain is a medium-sized military and economic power which has accrued a great deal of soft power in recent decades, not least through the work of DFID and being one of very few UN states to honour the 0.7% commitment.
This appears to be lost on the current cabinet who seem intent on appeasing critics of aid on the right of the party and the media, while trying to deflect attention from the diminution of UK economic and diplomatic power predicted to result from leaving the EU.
Civil society also plays its part and has real influence.
What British aid and development NGO staff do day in day out, in their work to eliminate global poverty and to improve global health, is Britain playing a positive role in the world.
The same goes for what journalists at BBC World Service or British scientists or academics at British universities do day in day out.
So as Britain prepares to slip anchor from the EU, its harbour of the past five decades, there is an opening for civil society, particularly international NGOs, to show that ‘Global Britain’ is more than rhetoric.
Even if there is reduced funding available from the government and the public as a result of the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, international aid organisations can continue their work to help people in the world’s poorest communities to improve their lives.
And despite the Johnson government’s failure to listen to calls to preserve an independent DFID and to maintain its commitment to spend 0.7% of GNI on aid, NGOs need to continue to advocate for the new Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office to retain both DFID’s erstwhile priorities and its staff who have built up significant expertise in reducing global poverty.
It is also essential for NGOs to continue talking to the public through their own channels and to continue working with the media to tell the stories of the difference their work – and UK aid – is making to the lives of the world’s poorest people.
Brexit doesn’t mean turning our backs on the world and Global Britain provides an opportunity for humanitarian and development organisations and their supporters to show the UK remains positively engaged in building a better world for all where no one is left behind.
Alistair Burnett is a Trustee of IBT and former Director of News at Sightsavers and Editor of Radio 4’s The World Tonight.
When your objective is trying to change something, it’s tricky to know where to start. Do you first try and change what you do, or should you start by changing what you say?
The risk of doing the latter first is that it could lead to a false sense of “mission accomplished” without really digging deep and addressing why the change needs to be made. As we know, walking the talk is the hard bit. The inevitable answer is that you must do a bit of both.
This is exactly what Bond has been working on. How can we live our values through our work, policies, and how we communicate and treat others? It has been a turbulent year for our sector, and I am not even going to begin to mention a certain pandemic.
We have seen incredible social shifts that speak to the issues we hold dear – the death of George Floyd and the rise of Black Lives Matter, the #MeToo movement putting sexual harassment, violence, and gender inequality to the fore, #CharitySoWhite, #ShowTheSalary, #ShiftThePower – all of these critical issues have gathered momentum and have made it clear that no sector, including ours, is immune from the changes so desperately needed if we are to create a fair, just and equal society.
As a membership-based organisation, this obviously includes Bond. We are in the process of getting our “house in order” on a range of issues, from salary transparency, equity and safeguarding, to positive action on diversity and inclusion.
The area of work that I have been driving internally, with support from colleagues at Bond, from the UK NGO sector and from international civil society groups, is around our language.
It has been a thought-provoking process, and we still have some way to go, but we have made good progress.
Here are a few things we have learnt so far:
These are the top three words we no longer want to use. Are these also in your top three? If yes, then I am glad we agree, if not, send me an email and I will keep the tally going.
The problem is, despite being great at saying what we want to get rid of, it is much harder to find acceptable universal alternatives, so here is an attempt (suggestions welcome).
“Aid” is an outdated concept that does not reflect the breadth of the work we deliver, nor the complexity. It suggests countries are helpless and in need of handouts rather than fairness, livelihoods, infrastructure, health systems and support, amongst many other things. At Bond, we are going to make a concerted effort to use “development” and/or “humanitarian assistance” instead.
Thankfully, most of us at Bond wince when we hear the word “beneficiaries” and have been avoiding any language that dehumanises or removes people’s agency. We instead use terms such as “the communities we work with,” “people who have been marginalised” or “project participants.”
“Developing countries” was ditched long ago by the World Bank, and is widely disliked for being outdated, subjective and patronising. As the Sustainable Development Goals make clear, living in a healthy, just, safe, and sustainable planet should be everyone’s goal, and inequality and poverty can exist anywhere.
The conclusion we have reached is to be as specific and accurate as possible when taking about other countries and use “lower income countries” or “world’s most fragile states”.
As a sector, we use too much jargon. This excessive use of buzzwords and acronyms, with zero context makes our work inaccessible, creates barriers and excludes people, especially the public or policymakers. We need to stop using terms like “localisation,” “innovation,” “capacity building”.
As a sector we have also been guilty of giving the UK credit for showing leadership/continued leadership on a range of issues that we would in fact “like” the UK to show leadership on. There are exceptions, such as the level of investment the UK makes into tackling infectious disease, and we should be proud of this. But is the UK showing leadership right now on gender-based violence or on girls’ education or climate change? Claims of “UK leadership” must be backed by evidence before we make them, otherwise we are simply flattering egos and perpetuating myths.
Political parties will come and go, but inequalities will remain if our language begins to mirror that of the people in power, especially if the intentions behind the rhetoric are disingenuous.
A good example of this is “Global Britain” or “aid in the national interest” or even “Build Back Better”. Nobody would disagree that the UK being an outward-looking nation, working in partnership with others for the global good, would be a noble cause, or that Covid-19 has pushed millions of people into poverty and the UK should work with others to tackle this global pandemic.
However, how these political phrases translate into action is out of our hands and can’t be controlled. Can we really be confident that by using similar language, mirroring the language of power, we can change the rhetoric?
It’s also impossible to ignore that some of these phrases, intentionally or unintentionally, hark back to colonialism and tied aid. They do not reflect the present or future, where the British public and NGOs want to see development assistance going to the people who need it the most rather than towards the UK’s short term political or economic endeavours.
Even the above three reflections will spark lots of debate, and every organisation will have its own journey and perspective. In no way does Bond expect this approach to work for everyone. But for Bond – we need to practise what we preach, if we are to have legitimacy and influence, and it is important that we aim to set the bar high for ourselves and encourage others to do the same.
After seeing that the users on TikTok were predominantly quite young, we decided to use it for our campaign on introducing first aid into the school curriculum. We knew this would be a strong message for the younger TikTok audience, and would be something they might already be familiar with from conversations in their schools and colleges. That was a great starting point for us, and allowed us to test out different types of content.
I would always recommend that if you are going to start a brand TikTok channel, you need to have a lot of flexibility to be able to do whatever you want and be really creative. Otherwise you’re just recreating another Instagram channel on TikTok, and that’s not the point. The nature of the content on TikTok means that you need a different sign off process for content – basically, not have one! It doesn’t make sense to do a comedy sketch video and then send it to a director for sign off, because they wouldn’t get it and you would lose the momentum of posting the video.
It can be really hit and miss with what content does well on TikTok, so we’re still experimenting with different things. Sometimes we’ll post a video thinking it will do really well, and then it doesn’t. Then we’ll post something random we’ve been sent in by a volunteer, and it gets loads of engagement! A lot of it is to do with trying things and learning what your audience likes. Then it’s all about the timing and taking advantage of the hashtag challenges.
On TikTok it’s really hard to have a specific campaign goal in a sense of conversions, because it’s difficult to track on the app. Instead, you need to approach it from a brand awareness perspective. For us it was a great opportunity to show just how relevant we are, and that we can produce content that appeals to a young audience in their style. But everyone needs to find their niche and find what works for them. There’s no point trying to replicate what someone else has done, because that’s not the point of TikTok. The point of TikTok is to showcase your personality, or your brand’s personality.
It’s not always our team that comes up with the ideas. It’s been a great opportunity to engage with our younger volunteers. They’ll often send us ideas or TikToks they’ve done, which is great because it’s a channel that they’re familiar with. For example, if a volunteer sends us a dance they want us to share, it also gives us a chance to profile some of the amazing volunteers we work with, which is really nice.
In the year I was born, Bob Geldof and Midge Ure got their pop star friends together, including U2’s Bono, Sting, Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet, to create a song to help raise money for those affected by the famine in Ethiopia. Their efforts are of course to be applauded, but the problem is that no song in popular culture in my lifetime has done more to propagate a problematic picture of Africa than Band Aid’s ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’
I’ll admit it, the song used to be one of my Christmas favourites. Its catchiness masks its deeply warped view of what Africa is actually like. I remember when the penny dropped, and I stopped singing it. I realised that the ‘Africa’ sung about by these 1980s pop stars bore little resemblance to the continent I knew.
“And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas time
The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life (Ooh)
Where nothing ever grows, no rain or rivers flow
Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?”
They had got one thing right: snow was unlikely, but my family back home in Nigeria were full of life. When I think about nothing growing, nor rain falling, my mind harks back to the images of lush greenness I have seen as the plane makes its descent into Port Harcourt. I remember the times of being caught in the heavy downpours during the rainy season. None of these are the first things that come to mind when most British people think of Africa. The narrative is of the desolate place described in the Band Aid single.
As Mark Curtis, director of the World Development Movement, said when the song was re-released for a new generation in 2004: “It conjures up an image of a continent inhabited entirely by starving children with flies on their faces sitting in the sun-baked bed of a dried up stream.” This is not to deny that many countries in Africa do experience drought and famine and are facing the full effects of climate change as a present reality. What is missing, however, is room for both the luscious greens and the parched landscapes to exist.
The irony of the question ‘Do they know it’s Christmas?’being posed in a charity single to help during the Ethiopian famine is that Christianity, the reason for Christmas, existed in Ethiopia centuries before Europeans arrived, Bibles in hand. Two thirds of modern-day Ethiopians are Christian, with the majority of those belonging to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church – one of the oldest organised Christian groups in the world. They know it’s Christmas.
Being an African and a British charity fundraiser is sometimes a strange place to be. My day job is to help find ways to tell stories that help members of the public see the desperate need that exists for people in some of the poorest and most marginalised communities around the world. But all my life I have struggled with what author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie calls this “single story” perpetuated about Africa.
The international development sector has some part to play in having, for decades, presented a single story of people from African nations. That’s why I’m so glad that Comic Relief has announced it will no longer send celebrities to Africa and are choosing to reimagine their use of imagery and video, using work from African film-makers to tell their own stories of the need that they see through their own eyes.
We who work within development have been having conversations for years, challenging ourselves to do better when it comes to our depictions of the communities we work with, thinking differently about the language we use in our fundraising appeals.
At Christian Aid, our imagery aims to present people with dignity, and we are extremely thankful for the generosity of our churches and supporters who give to our work – especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.
As a charity fundraiser, I want us to tell stories that draw on our shared humanity, not our difference, that elicit not just pity in the prospective donor, but an empathy that comes from knowing that these are people made in the image of God just like us. We are not superior. We are not the saviour. We join in solidarity with our brothers and sisters around the world and rage at the injustice that sees them caught up by broken economic systems, conflict and humanitarian disaster.
I think we need to give the British public far more credit; they are able to understand stories with more texture, complexity and nuance and still be compelled to give. We don’t have to choose lazy tropes and stereotypes that put forward simple and binary stories.
As Adichie said in her TED talk The Danger of a Single Story: “The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”
This article originally appeared on Premier Christianity. Find out more or subscribe to Premier Christianity magazine here.
INGOs need to assert far more confidently the founding values of their organisations. They should not let themselves be driven by internal marketing and fundraising pressures in these economically challenging times. That was the message which sang out to me from a recent Oxford academic webinar on the topic of ‘Aid Agencies: Past, Present & Future’.
This is not the time to retreat into tired old communication tropes of the Lowest Common Denominator. Trustees and senior management must accept that the erosion of public support is a phenomenon of the past decade that had set in long before more recent scandals engulfed charities in negative publicity. Numbers donating to UK INGOs have halved over the decade, falling from 18.7 million in 2013 to 9.9 million by 2019, according to research by the Development Engagement Lab of Birmingham University.
Aid may not be the only answer to global poverty but the creative Make Poverty History initiative of 2005 helped galvanise public mobilisation that saw the UK achieve the 0.7% aid target in 2013 – the first G7 country to meet this UN target.
Of course, what has been built up can go back down and certainly the fractious political climate of recent years is far from propitious, but can it really be said that INGOs have played a clever hand over this period? The inter-agency Campaign to Defend Aid and Development, set up in 2017, rightly insists that the focus should be on communicating progress in tackling poverty and the possibility of its elimination. But the Campaign’s audience research, Public Insight, draws attention to the necessity of redressing “years of under-investment” in what it calls the brand of international development.
Mark Galloway, Director of the International Broadcasting Trust, detects encouraging signs that agencies are moving off the back foot, instancing Save the Children’s The People in the Pictures project on ethical storytelling, which led to new guidelines for how its media and fundraising teams should work with and represent beneficiaries, and a similar initiative by Amref in the UK. He also cites WaterAid’s innovative ways of fundraising, attempting to move away from a transactional approach. But much greater creativity is called for across the whole INGO sector to share compelling stories of empowerment and development effectiveness. These will be needed more than ever in the face of the economic havoc wreaked by the Covid pandemic.
The 2020 Global Poverty Report of the Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI) reminds us just how much development progress had been made pre-Covid, with 65 out of 75 developing countries studied significantly reducing poverty between 2000 and 2019. Forty seven of these countries were on track to halve poverty across vital dimensions such as health, nutrition and sanitation.
This is the time for INGO managers to regain their confidence, double down on their investment in communications, and speak out with much smarter, more arresting messages.
What an extraordinary time we are living through. As journalists, we are trained to observe and report. But the pandemic is something we are all experiencing too. Which isn’t to say we are exceptional as journalists, but it’s a reminder that we need to deal with what’s happening in our home lives as well as our professional lives.
In practical terms the pandemic has meant a sea change in how we operate as a TV news operation. We need to work responsibly in terms of protection and social distancing, and adapt to working from home as so many have. Yet for Sky News, we also feel a responsibility to still get to the heart of the story, despite the hurdles that stand in our way.
This was illustrated in a most vivid way by Stuart Ramsay’s reporting from Bergamo earlier in the year. We all knew that Italy was in lockdown and had a problem. But no one had seen evidence of what it meant until Stuart and his team brought a hellish perspective to our screens from the hospitals there, and a warning from Italian doctors to the UK – act before it’s too late.
Now, a personal perspective… I know that the NHS listened and learned from what happened in Italy. I joined Sky in June, after a three year absence from journalism working as Director of Comms for DFID. Just three weeks after starting, my appendix grumbled and then burst, meaning a short stay at Northwick Park hospital and a slightly longer absence from my new colleagues. Which was inconvenient to say the least! But one nurse there did tell me it was the Italian experience that opened the hospital authorities’ eyes to what was coming. If Sky News played some part in that, then we should be proud of what we achieved.
Sky remains committed to international coverage, despite the challenges of filming abroad in a world of Covid
One practical implication of the pandemic has been a closing of borders across the world, but that hasn’t stopped us telling the story. Our correspondent in India, Neville Lazarus, filed a series of telling despatches about what’s happening there; we have done the same from our bureau in South Africa. Sky News has been unerring in its commitment to reporting on Covid’s spread across North and South America. And just a few days ago, Alex Crawford sent a distressing, upsetting but necessary report from Yemen, where Covid is just one factor among many in the rarely told story of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
We’re also very pleased that we refused to take our eyes off the climate ball. While the world focuses on Covid, this summer has seen the second largest Arctic ice melt on record. Sky News sent Adam Parsons to Iceland to see the melting glaciers, and Stuart Ramsay to Brazil to see the devastating – and under-reported – fires in the Amazon and Pantanal regions. Travel may be tough in a Covid world, but it shouldn’t stop us revealing truth and witnessing reality.
Sky News is particularly grateful to all the journalists and fixers who live and work in the countries we operate in. None of what we’ve achieved this year would have been possible without their commitment. And for them too, as well as us, a Covid world is an often difficult world.
There is huge variation in experience, both between and within countries, communities and cultures. National authorities in Africa have taken a range of different approaches, just as they have elsewhere. It would be hard to speak of one common European experience: just compare the UK’s response with that of Sweden or Germany. In the same way, there are very few parallels to be drawn between the experience of Senegal – which acted swiftly to close its borders, has opted for widespread testing, and is implementing lessons learned during the Ebola crisis of 2014 to 2016 – and that of Tanzania, whose response has been hard for both local and international media to evaluate. Focusing on continent-wide trends is certainly important: but drilling down to look at the lived experience of countries and communities is equally so, and will make for richer reporting.
The doomsday scenarios laid out by some commentators overlook the many success stories coming out of the continent. While it’s important to remain clear-sighted about the sharp rise in cases – and the already-apparent secondary impacts of the pandemic – we can, in parallel, continue to shine a light on examples of regional cooperation, innovative partnerships, strong leadership, pioneering research, and community-led change. Among the experiences of 55 countries there are both lessons to be learned, and reasons to be hopeful.
South African writer Sisonke Msimang warns that well-told stories can create an “illusion of solidarity” that stops us from taking action. When we read about an exceptional individual who has overcome their circumstances, our feelings about that person can blind us to the structural inequalities that have created those circumstances. This holds true for the hero narratives we’ve been seeing in the stories of frontline health workers, in Africa and around the world, putting themselves at risk to save lives.
Yes, it is inspiring to read about extraordinary people stepping up to shield their families and communities from the worst of the crisis. But let’s put those stories in context and let’s use them to galvanise our collective efforts to create meaningful, measurable, systemic change.
This global crisis has highlighted our interconnectedness. It has thrown into sharp focus the importance of strong, resilient health systems staffed by trained (and paid and protected) health workers. It has exposed long-standing fault lines and deepened inequalities and its ripple effects will continue to be felt long after the crisis has peaked.
What happens in Africa matters everywhere: because we are a global community, meeting common challenges with shared solutions. As the world recovers and rebuilds, let’s retain the sense of solidarity that has powered efforts to fight the pandemic. Let’s ensure that Africa continues to make headlines and that the stories that get traction are complex and varied.
Too often, African voices are excluded from conversations about COVID-19 on the continent – and this despite the ubiquity of digital platforms that allow us to transcend distance. There is no shortage of expertise in Africa. Organisations such as the Mo Ibrahim Foundation have drawn on the wealth of available data to present a clear and accurate picture of the COVID-19 context, highlighting where efforts can be concentrated in the management and mitigation of the pandemic. We have also seen the Global Partnership for Sustainable Data call on the members of its network to support each other with vital resources, produce and analyse quality data, implement good practices, and share experiences. Amref Health Africa has teamed up with Dalberg to run #AfricaDialogues, a fortnightly series of webinars bringing African expertise to a global audience.
Journalists and editors should use this opportunity to seek out new voices, to amplify “local talent”, and to build relationships that will outlast the crisis. INGOs have a responsibility too, to put forward in-country colleagues and to elevate their expertise.
Rachel Erskine and Janice Njoroge, are Communications Managers with Amref Health Africa UK and Kenya respectively. Together, they co-chair Amref’s Global Website and Social Media Working Group. This blog represents the views of the authors rather than those of the organisation they work for.
International coverage has always been one of The Independent’s priorities.
At our latest online briefing we spoke to Gemma Fox, Deputy International Editor at The Independent to hear more about the types of stories they are interested in and how to pitch to them.
“We’re all about spending time with stories, having those longer features, those analyses, those really important interviews, and making sure we’re telling the stories that do matter.”
Gemma highlighted that their audience has a strong interest in international stories, and discussed with our members the stories that receive the most engagement. They have invested significantly in their foreign coverage, with correspondents based all over the world and Gemma noted the importance of ethical, in-depth storytelling.
“If there’s an angle that you feel hasn’t perhaps received enough attention in the media, that is hugely important, do get in touch.”
Reassuringly, she also noted that generally the pitches she receives from NGOs are of good quality with the story clearly labelled and described, with information about access and interviewees.
Coronavirus has radically changed life as we know it, but what’s clear is that there’s huge enthusiasm and support for the world not to go back to normal once it’s over – pollution levels are at a record low, plant and animal species that were dwindling are making a resurgence and the world as we know it is unrecognisable. What the world needs now is INGOs, private sector, governments and institutions to work in collaboration and partnership to forge a new world order that protects and benefits those that have suffered the worst effects of Covid-19.
To us, collaboration is key and our work with big corporates and foundations enables us to look up from the detail and the grass roots, take a different perspective and create answers to multi-layered problems. In working with us, we help ensure the private sector understands the needs of the people they want to work with.
The media should play a key role in helping the world emerge for the better – looking at the way they operate and act almost as convenors of those who can help make change happen, rather than simply operating as news broadcasters. This is a unique opportunity for the media to use their powerful influence as a force for good, in a world where objectivity is fine, but even objectivity itself has become politicised.
Practical Action has many examples of working with the media to generate positive, inspirational and mutually-beneficial coverage that has gone far beyond a simple article in a newspaper. For example, recently, Damian Carrington, The Guardian’s Environment Editor travelled to Sudan to see one of our projects that is helping farmers at the coalface of climate change to regreen the desert and change their lives.
This article was seen by the Head of UNEP in Sudan who went on to share it with the Sudanese Prime Minister and the wider donor community, including DfID. A great example of the impact a positive piece of media coverage can have.
We’ve also worked with a number of Bauer Media outlets including Magic FM and Absolute Radio through partnerships on our UK AidMatch campaigns. These partnerships are important for reaching new people with development messages but equally as a reciprocal, collaborative relationship that benefits Bauer financially and Practical Action in building support and fundraising.
At Practical Action we’ve launched a campaign called Anything But Normal, calling for the world not to return to its previous state before coronavirus hit. There’s already been some great strides in the discussion with BBC Radio 4, BBC Sounds and the World Service running a series called ‘Rethink’ focusing on how the world can emerge in a better position post covid-19 and The World Economic Forum are hosting a number of discussions entitled ‘The Great Reset’ which bring together thought leaders, NGOs, the private sector and the media. But there’s more to do and the conversation needs to continue to gather pace and not become side-lined and forgotten.
Collaborations such as that which BBC Futures developed with NESTA are a perfect example of the media working in partnership with NGOs to effect change and at Practical Action it’s something we’re keen to explore.
Twitter’s Katy Minshall shares her 4 top tips for how NGO Trustees can make the most of the social media platform.
We recently held a special training session for Trustees from IBT’s member organisations to look at how a Trustee can join Twitter and use the platform to promote the work of their charity, and help a charity to achieve its strategic goals. Here, our speaker Katy Minshall, Head of UK Government, Public Policy and Philanthropy shares her top tips for making the most of Twitter.
Don’t be shy to send more tweets. Don’t be afraid to retweet and experiment with tweeting at different times of the day, and tweeting different content. Just see what works. Sometimes it will get lots of engagement, sometimes it won’t, but don’t be afraid to tweet more.
Sharing your unique perspective on a trending conversation will give you the opportunity to be exposed to new followers who are looking at that hashtag. It will ensure you are tweeting content that is relevant, topical and timely.
Define your style and be consistent about it. Where you can, tweet with personality. Even something as basic as using an emoji, or engaging more with your followers and replying to those who tweet at you. Having that voice, and tweeting with personality will go a long way.
Your best allies for impactful content are polls, videos, images and GIFs. The more, and the richer quality of media you can use, the more likely it is your tweet will be successful.
Watch our ‘Meet the Expert’ interview with Katy below. Registered IBT Members can read the detailed briefing notes from the membership dashboard.
As lockdown draws to a close in the UK, commentators have highlighted some of the positive impacts on the environment. As business closures, travel restrictions, and social distancing policies have been rolled out across the world, the Earth’s airways, seas and roads have been substantially cleared of human activity. With this, so have many of the unattractive elements of humankind’s presence on the planet.
Carbon and nitrogen oxide emissions have plummeted. In China, carbon emissions are down 25% compared to the same period last year, and nitrogen oxide levels dropped 50% in the same period. This story is much the same in other locked-down countries. Since the US implemented restrictions in March, cities around the country have seen massive reductions in pollution levels; New York alone has seen a carbon reduction of almost 60% in just over a month. Similarly, satellite imagery from NASA has shown visible signs of greenhouses gasses clearing across Europe and data has indicated significant drops in European countries’ pollution levels. In the UK, air quality has improved by up to 60% in some cities since the lockdown, and this is mirrored in Italy, Germany, Spain and France.
Mainstream and social media reporting has reflected this shift, with many reporters and members of the public coming forward to celebrate the idea that the Earth is healing while humanity hits the pause button. Images of formerly smog-filled cities, like Los Angeles, New Delhi, and Beijing, have surfaced across various platforms, accompanied by headlines and captions which revelled in this concept. “The Earth is slowly healing,” CBS News wrote, while The Guardian described “nature bouncing back” in their coverage.
Alongside this, other tales of a revived natural world have been popping up, forming one of the few so-called ‘silver-linings’ of the COVID-19 pandemic. From deer grazing in a housing estate in East London, to alligators roaming shopping centres in South Carolina, and cayotes at California’s famous tourist attraction the Golden Gate Bridge – pictures, videos and testimonials have excitedly described the presence of wildlife in formerly urban and human-dominated spaces.
Indeed, it makes sense that people are excited by these kinds of stories. With the news dominated by the loss, suffering, and economic hardship the pandemic has already caused, the idea that the world is in some way being revived by humanity’s absence from it has brought with it a ray of comfort for many, who would otherwise have little positivity to hold on to.
In fact, reporting stories like this is extremely important, not just so that we have something to motivate us through what is undeniably one of the hardest times in most of our lifetimes, but also so that we are able to understand just how much impact humanity’s actions do and can have on the world and also to answer questions about what we want a post-pandemic world to look like.
However, there is also a very real danger that discussions around the topic of climate change and the coronavirus can border on ethically dubious territory. When we stop celebrating the temporary revival of the planet as a side-effect of lockdown measures and start celebrating the pandemic itself, a dangerous narrative evolves. This is one that tiptoes into the realms of eco-fascism, a school of thought that dictates permanent, draconian restrictions on human life in the name of environmental revival.
There are numerous examples of media platforms slipping into this kind of narrative. The Sun, for instance, published an article at the beginning of May that described the fact that “coronavirus has saved [thousands] of lives” due to drops in pollution levels, while The Guardian published a headline (quoted from a UN representative) which stated that COVID-19 was nature’s way of “sending us a message”.
Although it is tempting to want to cling onto something positive at this time, we must remember – as members of the public and as reporters – that a global pandemic cannot and should not be considered a reasonable means of solving the climate emergency. Of course, we should celebrate the environmental changes we are seeing as a by-product of lockdown measures. But we should use the experience as a way of both understanding the importance humanity plays in preserving the health of the planet and forming new, sustainable environmental policies in the future.
The media has a responsibility to ask questions which reflect real, tangible and ethical change. We need more reporting which questions and analyses how we can achieve this. Can remote working become more widespread in a post-pandemic world, for instance? Or could we be effective in building up the renewable energy sector as we make the journey back towards normality? By asking these kinds of questions, the media can play its part in calling the government to action, so that this time can be used as a means of trialling and assessing how we can bring about real, sustainable environmental legislation in the future.
‘Returning to normal’ should be about learning, and finding new and improved ways of protecting the planet — without sacrificing human life or freedom.
Luna Williams is the political correspondent for the Immigration Advice Service. The IAS is an organisation that assists private clients, as well as asylum seekers, refugees and trafficking victims. It is currently working alongside charities on a campaign to encourage the government to call an amnesty for undocumented migrants.
Even before the coronavirus pandemic was sweeping the globe, millions of girls around the world were living through crisis – due to conflict, disaster and displacement. That’s why, in March 2020, we launched Our Vision: A Call to Action by Girls in Crisis – an eight-point plan for change, co-created with girls and young women living through crisis.
Our experience shows that girls are among the worst affected by any crisis, yet their voices are often the least heard. This is despite that fact that they are the experts in their own lives and know what needs to change.
From the start, we saw this as a multimedia project with voice, video and photography at the heart as a key tool in our advocacy approach. We ran youth-led consultations with over 150 young people – Congolese refugees in Rwanda, South Sudanese refugees in Northern Uganda and girls living in conflict-affected North East Nigeria. Each location represented a different experience of what it is like to be a girl living through crisis, whilst also sharing many commonalities. From this, together, we created a clear blueprint for change for the international community to endorse.
|“It is important for governments to listen to the voice of the girls so they can resolve our issues.”|
Umalisa, 22, Congolese refugee in Rwanda
|middle column||“I wish for the future generations to be deciding for themselves, advocating for others and having a peaceful place to live.”|
Sandrine, 27, Congolese refugee in Rwanda
We wanted these inspirational young women to have the opportunity to tell their stories to leaders and decision makers themselves – to deliver this in their own words and to finally have their voices heard. Therefore, we created a video Call to Action.
Video is a powerful tool to give these young women the platform to directly share their story. But we would only have one opportunity to film with the young women in each country. It meant that consultations, policy analysis and filming were happening at the same time. We took the time to answer questions, explain the campaign and ensure all participants understand where their voices would be heard – in Rwanda, the conversation about consent took over an hour. It was brilliant to see the girls empowered to ask us some tough questions and make an informed decision as to whether to be involved. It was fast-paced and challenging but it was worth it – the result feels truly owned by the young people.
The video is a culmination of this process – each girl’s story and demand spoken directly to camera with a montage of solidarity at the end – and we are so proud of it.
We launched the Call to Action at an event in the UK Houses of Parliament in early March. The video took centre stage and it was so powerful to watch as screens all across the room broadcast the girls’ eight-point plan for change directly to decision makers.
Since then, the context has changed dramatically due to the corona virus pandemic. This has exacerbated the difficult living conditions for those living in humanitarian contexts such as refugee camps, where water is scarce, conditions crowded and social distancing often not an option. And we know from our experiences during the Ebola outbreak that girls face unique challenges during such crises.
We know it is more important than ever to ensure we are listening directly to girls and ensuring their voices are central to our advocacy.
That’s why we are reaching out to the girls involved in developing this Call to Action to hear about the impacts that this pandemic is having on their lives so this can be reflected in the project. Next, we will be calling on the international community to endorse this Call to Action with a focus on ensuring that the rights and needs of girls living in crises are central to world leaders’ agenda at the G7 Summit in the UK in 2021.
Uganda photography by Quinn Neely and Rwanda photography by Rob Beechey – Copyright 2020
For our latest online IBT briefing, we were joined by Michael Herrod, Head of Foreign News and Tom Clarke, Science Editor at ITV News.
ITV News has a longstanding commitment to bringing international stories to a mainstream audience, covering everything from big news events and political disruption to the human impact of climate change. During the lively discussion, Michael explained how he hopes that ITV’s foreign news coverage helps to bring international stories to an audience that wouldn’t usually hear about them.
We also heard from ITV News Science Editor, Tom Clarke, who offered plenty of useful insights into how they plan to approach COP26 and climate change coverage over the coming months. The climate crisis is a key focus area for ITV News, and our members from Oxfam, Islamic Relief and Tearfund were able to share their thoughts on how climate stories could fit alongside the current coronavirus coverage.
It was encouraging to hear Michael explain that there is still a healthy appetite for global stories amongst their UK audience, and both Michael and Tom were able to share advice with our members on how to best pitch them stories, as well at the types of stories that their audience is most interested in.
Despite being “the world’s biggest minority”, people with disabilities are often forgotten and their stories are not heard. They regularly face discrimination and exclusion from water and sanitation, healthcare, education, work, and community life. Should they also face exclusion from the media? We at Humanity & Inclusion say no, we need the media to highlight this terrible inequality.
Now more than ever we can’t ignore the plight of 1 in 7 human beings who desperately need our attention and compassion. In times of crisis, like the one we are living through with Covid19, we know that people with disabilities will be disproportionately impacted and will be left behind. Although there has been some media coverage highlighting the stories of people with disabilities, too many media outlets ignore their plight. We recently received a reply from a global news outlet, saying that they could not report the story of the people we support because they do not cover disability
We are hearing stories of isolation, exclusion and hopelessness from the people with disabilities we support around the world. In a survey of 700 people with disabilities in Nepal, which we have just released, almost a third report a mental health impact, like anxiety and hopelessness and three quarters are experiencing a drop in their basic household income.
Every day we hear the stories of the people behind these statistics. Like Bimala and her son Birendra from Nepal. Birenda is 12 and has cerebral palsy. Before the lockdown we were providing him with regular physiotherapy and also making sure he was included in school, which meant that his mother was able to go to work during the day. With the lockdown, Birenda’s school has shut. His mother can’t take him to the hospital to get his treatment. She has to stay at home to take care of him and she can’t work. Because of his disability, Birenda does not understand the current pandemic and why he can’t go to school. With the lack of money, Bimala is very worried about the future of her family and how she is going to provide for them.
But their stories should not only be heard by us, they should be heard by everyone. Everyone should know about the terrible impact Covid19 is having on so many people with disabilities. And for this we need the media to relay their stories.
The current battle against the spread of the COVID-19 has highlighted in horrifically stark terms the fundamental importance of handwashing with soap and water in controlling the spread of infectious diseases. Three billion people across the world – and 75% of the population in the least developed countries – do not have access to somewhere to wash their hands with soap and water.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, this lack of the most basic of services together with a denial of rights to water and sanitation, led every year to tens of thousands of deaths from diarrhoeal and waterborne diseases, mostly hidden from the headlines and ignored by those with the power to change this situation.
Now in the face of a terrifying disease, everyone is having to learn quickly about putting hygiene at the heart of daily life. Currently, fear is acting as a powerful stimulus for people to drastically change their behaviour, but we know this may not last for long. Here are the key lessons that we have learnt from working in this field for almost 40 years.
You can’t just give people soap and expect them to want to use it, know how to use it or why. If you are forced to decide between buying food or school books or soap, then just being told that soap is important is not enough to put it on the shopping list and change behaviour around washing hands.
We all know that knowledge only is not enough – otherwise we would all adhere faithfully to public health guidelines on exercise, diet, smoking etc. Key to bringing about lasting behaviour change is understanding and targeting the motives that drive people to change their habits – so they can move from knowledge to actual practice. When there is an outbreak of disease like now or during Ebola outbreaks, a motivation to change behaviour can be fear but it can be temporary stimulus.
But Ebola showed us that often behaviours adopted during a time of acute crisis do not become long term so WaterAid works with other motivations such as nurture –loving your family and wanting to protect them. Other drivers include a sense of wanting to fit in and so we work to make washing hands a social norm.
Gender, age, disability, ethnicity, race, religion and economic and health status all play a part in determining who will and won’t have access to the basic necessities of clean water, sanitation and handwashing facilities.
We are committed to tackling inequalities across all strata of society and our programmes always consider how everyone, especially those that are the most marginalised – can access them.
What’s clear is that there are strategic moments when messages and lessons around hygiene are most effectively transmitted and it is often by working in tandem with other sectors, such as health or education, that change is most successfully implemented. For example, we reached thousands of mothers with life-saving hygiene lessons in Nepal when they took their babies to be vaccinated in a government-run routine immunisation programme.
Even the best designed behaviour change programme to get people to wash their hands will fail if there is nowhere to wash hands. So our work is community wide – helping to ensure that every home, school and healthcare centre has somewhere to wash hands with soap. Yet globally only around half of schools have somewhere for pupils to wash their hands with soap and water and over 40% of healthcare facilities have nowhere for doctors and nurses to wash their hands where they see patients.
Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programmes that focus solely on providing taps, toilets and one-off trainings are unlikely to deliver lasting outcomes. To be successful, you need a whole ecosystem in place – so you need taps that keep working because the utility company is well staffed and adequately financed, you need every teacher and every school child to receive training, you need the health centre to be able to rely on always having soap available. Otherwise, it is just not possible to keep the good habits going.
We have learnt that by supporting and working with governments, we can be most effective and implement at scale. This means making the case as to why investing in WASH pays dividends in terms of increased health, dignity and productivity. In the face of a global pandemic, the importance of good WASH is hard to overstate and so we are working with governments to rapidly increase the provision of handwashing facilities and also supporting mass media behaviour change campaigns.
Our behaviour change work is based on getting to know the community context – what matters to people, what holds back people for behaviour change, what motivates them and then monitoring over time to see if the programme has been effective. Then we evaluate and make changes as needed.
Most of our initial COVID-19 response has been using digital, social and mass media, in order to comply with social distancing requirements. For example, in Zambia we have worked with celebrities, athletes and artists to record hygiene promotion videos that have been posted on social media platforms. In India we launched a high profile campaign using text messaging, WhatsApp groups, community radio and local TV channels. In more normal times, we also use community-based projects like performing traditional dance and theatre in Ethiopia to pass on hygiene lessons.
For our latest online IBT briefing, we were joined by Katy Minshall, Twitter’s Head of Policy and Philanthropy.
Katy led a training session with our members, sharing best practice for how INGOs can make the most of Twitter. She noted two unique characteristics of Twitter that make it a particularly useful tool for charities: it is a platform for users to engage with public discussions, and it is fast-paced and reactive to cultural and news events.
Katy was able to share her top tips for how organisations can make the most of Twitter. Highlighting the importance of getting the basics right, she advised members to keep tweets concise, use only one or two hashtags, and include clear call to actions. She noted that whilst sharing videos and photos generally result in higher engagement, it is also important to be able to react quickly when relevant conversations are trending.
One of the biggest mistakes organisations make on Twitter, according to Katy, is to focus too heavily on posting whilst neglecting engagement. It is crucial to incorporate engagement into your social strategy if you are to make the most of the platform. Using Twitter polls, asking open ended questions, or engaging in other active conversations are good ways to do this.
Katy was then able to answer questions from IBT members, including Médecins Sans Frontières, DEC and Saferworld, who used the opportunity to ask more in depth questions about content optimisation, paid campaigns and scheduling.
For the first time in the living memories of many of us, the whole world is facing the same immediate threat: Covid-19. How we speak to others, the language we use and what information we trust counts now more than ever. We only need to switch on the news and listen to political leaders for five seconds to see the impact words and tone can have on relationships between people and countries.
So, how can we all get our communications right at a time when everyone’s priorities have shifted and when the UK public is being bombarded by Covid-19 related news from every direction?
I recently worked with policy and media colleagues from UK INGOs, big and small, to help flesh out appropriate words, feelings and sentiments that can help us reach our audiences with the thought and care needed.
Here are some key ideas on how to effectively communicate during this crisis.
As development and humanitarian communications professionals, at times working in some of the most challenging contexts, we know this all too well. There have sadly been too many moments when I have spoken to people at their rawest, and in moments when they have needed to get their story out in the hope of making something change. Right now, these are the same conversations I am having with family, friends and colleagues, as well as people working in countries around the world.
Showing sensitivity to what’s happening in the UK is crucial, especially when we know we haven’t seen the worst of this crisis yet. Many UK INGOs are showing solidarity by reconfiguring their services to the UK to help take the pressure off frontline services. Others are volunteering to help get food to people most at risk.
But we can also do this through the words we use. Everyone can see frontline workers putting their lives at risk for us and we all want the people we care about to get through this.
There’s no “I” in “us.”
Like many of us in the sector, I find it hard to let go of the idea that charities help others because it’s the right thing – not because of what we’re set to gain. Covid-19 puts the whole of humanity in the same boat. Right now, we need to make the case for a swift, collective global response whenever we get the opportunity.
We need to emphasise that the world is only as strong as its weakest health care link. This message will help us hit home the reality that if we don’t act now to help people everywhere, we risk losing lives and will struggle to return to normality anytime soon. There is currently no cure for Covid-19, which is why talking about the global nature of this crisis and the need for a global, unified response is critical. Because it is the truth.
Remember the importance of using language that reflects hope, backed up by facts. We are seeing countries help one another emerge from the other side. Serious conversations about debt relief for poorer countries are happening. Let’s also remember how far we have come in eradicating polio, malaria, smallpox and nearly ebola. The world has people with the expertise to help countries pull through this.
Why are INGOs so important to tackling the Covid-19 crisis? Because we will ensure nobody is left behind.
This is what the third sector does best, both here in the UK and globally. We reach people who are hardest to reach. We are the relentless voice in political ears that flags problems and solutions, and are quick to point out the gaps in funding or programming that leave the vulnerable behind. We make sure leaders do what they say they are going to do, and are transparent and accountable. We deliver on the ground through communities and local partners.
We do this life-saving work by helping the people hardest hit to tell their own stories. In your communications, talk about the people you support and their needs in this crisis. Talk about who you are, what you do and how your INGO can help us get on the front foot of this crisis, especially to your existing supporters, the wider public, policy makers and political leaders. If ever there was a time to support the third sector in all the shapes and sizes it comes in – this is it.
For our first online IBT briefing, we welcomed Belinda Goldsmith, Editor-in-Chief at the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The Thomson Reuters Foundation aims to cover the world’s under reported stories across a range of issues including aid, development, women’s and LGBT+ rights and climate change.
During the session, Belinda explained how TRF works, including their relationship with the Reuters news wire, and shared details of the types of stories they look for. She highlighted that they have a priority on original journalism and breaking new stories, and that they are keen to know what the latest trends are and to make their reporting forward looking.
She also shared her tips for NGOs hoping to pitch her stories. Explaining that the focus of much of their reporting is the impact of issues on ordinary people and vulnerable communities, so it is important to always think about the human angle when pitching to them.
Belinda was then able to answer questions from IBT members, including Save the Children, Saferworld and Islamic Relief, who had an opportunity to pitch their ideas and understand more about TRF’s global audience.
Image: Mercy Corps adapting its humanitarian aid programming, like this registration for emergency cash distribution in the DRC, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
By Douglas Alexander, Christina Lamb, Simon O’Connell, Ed Williams, Ceri Thomas and Anne-Marie Tomchak
Journalists and media outlets in the UK are already playing an important role in providing vital information to an anxious public. In the months ahead they will also have a key role to play in finding and communicating these solutions, and in telling our shared stories.
While it’s understandable that we are all worried about our own families, communities and countries in these difficult times, we know from our experience that people in fragile and conflict-affected places will be disproportionally affected by this virus. Vulnerable communities around the world already experiencing humanitarian need due to violence, poverty, food insecurity and extreme weather are more susceptible and for many, COVID-19 is just the latest in a long line of emergencies threatening their families, their lives and their livelihoods.
At a time when people are crying out for social connection, when we are seeing news consumption levels rise exponentially, with almost half of the population saying they are watching more television and one-third reading more newspaper content, there’s now a great need for coverage to expand beyond domestic news, share knowledge and connect the local with the global like never before. For a country as outward-looking and internationalist as the UK, there’s a responsibility on all of our media outlets and news correspondents to step up and recognise the importance of better international coverage in the weeks ahead.
We welcome the BBC’s (the most trusted brand on the coronavirus) new Africa tracker, launched last week and the Independent’s coverage of an Imperial College report looking at the potential impact on lower-income countries. Can we have more of these?
The world is facing a never-before-seen event on a global scale. Younger people are becoming more engaged with media, with a 60% increase in streaming among people aged 18 to 24 and a 49% increase in live TV viewing. It is our responsibility to provide them with the full global picture, and the harsh reality is that this pandemic is going to hit other, more fragile countries much, much harder.
As we rightly see the celebration of so many of our local heroes and inspiring stories of community spirit and volunteerism, there are also incredible stories of people in places like Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Pakistan who are adapting quickly in the face of huge constraints to ensure people have the urgent supplies they need. Health, water and sanitation teams pivoting to protect communities against COVID-19, examples of social distancing in refugee camps, and innovative remote management of ongoing emergency distributions.
As well as informing and awareness-raising, the media can also play a crucial role in demonstrating our inter-connectedness and global responsibilities – which include reminding the UK Government of its ongoing commitment to help vulnerable communities around the world, upholding the values of humanity and compassion, and showing us that we are more dependent on each other than ever before.
To the UK media, we ask: help us shine a light on the most vulnerable communities battling this outbreak, partner with us to tell the stories that connect us all – of teams striving to respond to the world’s greatest needs in some of the world’s most challenging places and against all odds, and support us to share solutions, so that together we can beat this, for everyone.
Douglas Alexander, Former Secretary of State for International Development
Christina Lamb, Sunday Times Chief Foreign Correspondent
Simon O’Connell, Executive Director for Mercy Corps
Ceri Thomas, Tortoise News
Anne-Marie Tomchak, Journalist and broadcaster
Ed Williams, President and CEO of Edelman EMEA
Douglas, Christina, Ceri, Anne-Marie and Ed are all members of Mercy Corps’ European Leadership Council
A couple of years ago, Mark Galloway, Director of IBT, asked me what my boys watched on television. ‘Nothing’, I replied. His eyes nearly popped out of his head! I told him that they and most of their friends just watch YouTube videos and play online games on their phones.
And that set me thinking. How could we, as the communications department of a charity, reach young people if they weren’t watching television or reading papers? And when algorithms mean they may not be seeing the social media posts we want them to see?
At the same time, I was reading Shelina Janmohamed’s book Generation M: Young Muslims Changing the World. And I discovered that young British Muslims either felt that they were not represented in films, TV programmes or video games; or when they were, they saw themselves represented as terrorists (if male) or weak and oppressed (if female). And I thought about the impact that must have on the psyche of a young British Muslim.
I wondered if we could produce a video game app as a means of reaching young British Muslims and as a way to communicate Islamic Relief UK’s two key messages: aid works, and Muslims are inspired by their faith to donate to charity and to do good in the world. Could this also be a way of tackling widespread islamophobia in the media?
Since we’d never done anything like this before, we didn’t know whether it would work, let alone how successful it would be. But the CEO of Islamic Relief Worldwide took a risk and allowed me to go ahead with the game without demanding any KPIs. A huge relief! We found a brilliant developer in Shahid Ahmad, the Managing Director of Ultimatum Games. As a Muslim, he had suffered Islamophobia and tokenism both in the gaming sector and society at large. He could bring his own experiences and passion to the project. But he also knew how to create compelling games. This was important to us because we didn’t want our game to be preachy. We wanted people to enjoy playing it, to share it, to talk about it. And to feel good about seeing people like themselves in it.
Shahid’s wealth of experience meant that he could create a game that was both informative AND fun. Starting with a microdam in Mali, players work their way through real-life projects run by Islamic Relief UK, hiring staff of different genders, ethnicities and appearances and earning ‘deed coins’ for their work. Once a certain amount of money is earned on a project, it is upgraded to different levels and once these levels are maxed out, new projects open up.
We rolled out Virtue Reality at Sheffield’s National Videogame Museum during Charity Week – a crucial fundraising initiative for Islamic Relief run by Islamic Student Societies at universities across the country. We invited local schools to come along and try out the game. And my media team targeted a range of media, recognising that this story straddles many themes: children’s; education; faith; BME; technology; charity; international development; local; and even mainstream news.
One of the reasons we had such success with media is that we made the launch visually attractive for broadcasters. Over an hour at the event was dedicated to children playing the game and being interviewed by journalists as they played. The BBC, Sky’s children’s programme FYI and the Islam Channel all attended and broadcast footage. We also prepared spokespeople for different specialities on the day: Shahid from the tech perspective; our Head of Programmes to talk about in-country work; our Head of Fundraising to talk about Charity Week. And myself to talk about where the idea came from. Having so much to offer meant we could give our diverse media exactly what they wanted.
The media interest validated the product. Editors who were quiet at first started warming up again a week after the launch event, having seen coverage on the BBC News website and across charity sector media. And the more the game was shared via external links online, the more it was shared on social media by influencers like Shuhei Yoshida (Sony’s President of Worldwide Studios), and Melissa Fleming, Director of Global Communications at the UN. Many communications professionals will be familiar with that domino effect of attention on your campaign or message. That was the case with Virtue Reality.
So far we have had coverage in over 50 outlets – and are still fielding interview requests three months after launch. It has been downloaded over 5,000 times and currently has a 5 star rating on the appstore and 4.8 star rating on Google PlayStore. And Virtue Reality’s journey is far from over. It has now been launched by our offices in Malaysia and Germany, and this year, offices in Canada, the US and Australia will introduce it to their markets.
Check it out for yourselves by downloading the app for free on the appstore or Google PlayStore. Tell us what you think!
Judith Escribano is Head of Communications at Islamic Relief UK
We recently invited Joe Elsworth, Account Director at LADbible to join us for an IBT member briefing. He manages LADbible’s relationships with government and the charity sector, working on branded content partnerships across LADbible Group’s range of channels and platforms. Joe spoke to us about their social strategy, how LADbible Group has evolved from a solitary Facebook page to one of the biggest youth media publishers in the world, and how they are successfully engaging with young audiences.
Following on from their award winning campaign, Trash Isles, LADBible now work regularly with some of the biggest global brands and campaign for good causes. Over the past year they’ve worked with the Army, the Home Office, RNLI, Amnesty International and many more. Joe shared some of their most successful campaigns, why they have worked on social, and how to affect behavioural change in young people or make them feel passionately about an issue.
Joe shared insights into how LADbible choose the topics and content that will appeal to their audience, and feel relevant to them. He explained that they spend a lot of time looking at the comments on videos to stay close to their audience, using their 700,000 daily comments to identify key themes and trends.
He also share his tips for optimising video content for each social media platform, highlighting the importance of keeping on top of the latest changes in algorithms and best practices.
To finish off the session, IBT members from Practical Action, Christian Aid and ONE Campaign had an opportunity to ask questions on how they can utilise their social video platforms to better engage wider audiences.
Find out more in our ‘Meet the Editor’ interview below. Registered IBT Members can find the full briefing notes and LADbible contact information here.
If someone told you there was a way to tell stories that didn’t mean squeezing everything into two minutes, was possible to produce on a low budget and that would result in more than half your audience researching more about what they’d learnt, would you be interested in knowing what that was? I assume your answer is yes.
These are just some of the things I learnt at the launch of Podcasts: where next? I think we’ve all been to events where we come out with a freshly clear inbox and a report that eventually finds its way into the recycling. This is not one of them and I would really encourage any charity storyteller, regardless of whether you work for an international organisation, to read this report because it is packed full of really fascinating insight and practical advice that is transferable to any sector.
The panel event, hosted by Channel 4 and chaired by Krishnam Guru-Murthy, was a rich, varied and at times funny conversation. Here are my top ten takeaways:
In 2019 one in eight adults listened to a podcast at least once a week, double the number just five years earlier. But the stat that blew my mind is that in the 15-24 age group podcast downloads surpassed music downloads for the first time in 2019. For charities desperately trying to reach younger audiences this is massive news.
68% of audiences listen to the entire episode they’ve downloaded and with 91% listening alone you really do have a captive audience. 67% of listeners go on to discuss a topic with family and friends and 52% will research more about the topic.
In an era when a three minute film is the ‘long’ version and an in-depth written story tops out at about 500 words, podcasts are almost inconceivably luxurious in the opportunity they offer. But 20 minutes is seen as the best digestible length.
The longer length means you can explore an issue or a story in more length, unpicking back stories and discussing the complexities of an issue. People who listen to podcasts are an interested audience who are actively seeking information so give it to them
Actively seeking information is not an invitation to be lectured to. Podcasts are still entertainment, so find creative ways to broach your issues. One of the panellists, Sarah King, was from the Institute of Development Studies and their podcast is called Between the Lines which follows the book group model, centring each episode on a different book.
Podcasts are not the place for clipped rehearsed soundbites. We’ve all turned off the radio when a slick overly trained spokesperson is spouting key messages and that’s just a one minute interview. Podcasts are intimate experiences and need engaging and authentic voices who will talk freely and openly.
A comment that got a ripple of laughter from the audience, but the point was serious: podcasts allow you to liberate issues and conversations that may not work for radio or the TV sofa shows.
Chucking out one podcast and expecting it to be a success is not going to work. Commitment and consistency is needed and you have to invest time in discoverability. Whether you go for an interview, round table discussion or narrative format, it will take time to grow your audience so you need to commit to a series or a regular pattern of new episodes.
Although it will take time to build your audience old episodes will always be there (if you want them to be) and so, when you capture new audiences, they will be able to rummage around in your archives.
Podcasts do not need to be big budget endeavours. Taking your audiences to communities and countries they may not otherwise visit is an opportunity but it is not the only way. With the right voices you can produce perfectly good podcasts in a quiet room and with a good quality microphone.
These are just some of my takeaways but the report is full of lots more interesting insight plus advice on hosting platforms and how to pitch stories to existing podcast. Do have a read.
Save the Children supporters recently helped transform the lives of a group of British children caught up in horrors far beyond their control.
The Government announced they were bringing home some of the innocent, British orphans who had been stranded in appalling conditions in overcrowded camps in northeast Syria after fleeing areas that had been under the control of ISIS.
Their short lives have been full of violence and fear but this brilliant news means these children have the precious chance to recover, have happy childhoods and live full lives. All children deserve that chance. And for the British children among them we can make it happen by bringing them to the UK.
This didn’t just happen on its own. It has taken a huge effort to get to this point and Save the Children campaigners have played an absolutely integral role. They spoke out in their thousands and our Government listened.
More than 10,000 campaigners emailed the Government calling on them to bring home all British children stranded in north-east Syria.These messages were sent in just five days, as support surged.
The campaign was given a boost when the BBC found three British orphans in a camp – stranded and in danger. Conditions for British children were now on the agenda but we were worried attention would die away before pressure built enough to make a difference. It was important for Save the Children to use our position as one of the few NGOs working in the northeast to keep the story going.
Fighting then came dangerously close to the British orphans’ camp. Hundreds of women and children fled and chaos reigned. But through our contacts Save the Children was able to confirm that the British orphans had been taken to safety nearby location, though they weren’t in our care.
Later, we were able to reveal that altogether there were more than 60 British children trapped in the area. This key part of the picture – previously unknown – generated widespread coverage in the media and helped decision-makers understand the scale of the issue.
Then we took our campaign direct to those in power. Save the Children projected ‘Don’t leave British children trapped in Syria’ onto the Houses of Parliament the evening before parliament dissolved for the election campaign. We sent a 50 sq m message that children’s lives cannot be left at risk for months in dangerous, freezing limbo while the election unfolds.
We started seeing positive signs coming from the corridors of power and the Government shifted position. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said for the first time that he thought ‘innocents should not be caught in the crossfire’ and he would look at whether British and orphans could be given safe passage to the UK. MPs from all parties spoke out in support and the Government acknowledged a duty of care to the British children in North East Syria. These are the building blocks of real change.
Everywhere we work has one thing in common: children are incredible. They want to play and learn, and just be children again. And they want to grow up to be doctors, teachers and football players. With the right care they can bounce back, recover and amaze us. They just need the chance. These children are no different, no matter what they’ve been dragged into by the decisions of adults.
By starting to bring these children home the Government showed they are prepared to do what’s right and stand up for children – even when it’s difficult. But this has to be only the start.
There are still as many as 60 British children that remain stranded in appalling conditions and Syria’s harsh winter will soon begin to bite. All are as innocent as those who have been rescued and our very real fear is that they won’t all survive to see the spring.
Everyone who helped bring these first children home should be incredibly proud, from campaigners making their voices heard to those working tirelessly behind the scenes. Every child saved is a triumph of compassion in the face of cruelty. Now it’s time to finish the job. They must all be brought home before it is too late.
If your organisation is interested in becoming a member of IBT, please get in touch here.
Back in 2017, the idea came up in a creative brainstorm. We knew we had a series of PR moments coming up focusing on reproductive health and rights, starting with Menstrual Hygiene Day in May. We’d also just started to build our work on girls’ rights here in the UK and we were looking for ideas that bridged the gap between our global and domestic work. The emoji felt like a creative, relevant and low-cost way to talk about the sometimes difficult topic of menstruation, and something that could have a tangible impact. We carried out a survey which found that almost half of women aged 18-34 believed that a period emoji would make it easier to discuss periods with friends and partners. That seemed like reason enough to try and make it a reality.
The best word I can use for the process is long! Our Digital team did a lot of research before the campaign, so we knew we had to show the Unicode Consortium – who decide which emojis to take forward – that there was a significant public interest in this emoji being approved, and that nothing else existed that could stand in its place.
We did this by getting our supporters involved from the outset. Our in-house designer created various emojis and we asked the public to vote for their favourite. We had over 55,000 votes, so we knew we were on to something.
Unfortunately, the ‘period pants’ design that was originally chosen was rejected by Unicode and we were advised that we were more likely to be successful if the emoji had multiple uses. So we teamed up with NHS Blood to resubmit the successful blood drop emoji (the runner-up in the public vote).
We wanted to get as many people on board as possible to show Unicode that there was a real need for the emoji. But we also knew it would resonate most with a younger female audience – which is slightly different to our existing supporter base – so we adjusted our communications accordingly. Our main media targets were places like Marie Claire, Grazia and Stylist – outwardly feminist titles read by our primary target audience. We also did some paid Facebook activity targeting younger women.
We knew that if we could get campaigners and journalists on side from the beginning, they would want to follow this story through to the end no matter what the outcome. If we hadn’t got the emoji that would have been a story in itself – why have emojis for unicorns, wizards and at least three different types of trains been approved, but not one for periods?!
Our campaign on period stigma has also been a lot wider than the emoji. In the past two years we’ve released the only representative statistics on girls facing period poverty in the UK, written a first-of-its-kind report, Break the Barriers, looking at period poverty and stigma in the UK and how this is linked to period poverty globally, and our Let’s Talk. Period. programme with sexual health and wellbeing charity, Brook, which has supported a huge number of girls across the UK.
Building up our expertise in this area has meant we’re consistently quoted in media stories and have become a go-to voice on periods.
The media reaction to the arrival of the period emoji has been incredible, and we’ve had coverage everywhere from the Sun to Vogue. We really targeted technology reporters and women’s interest press, both of whom had a specific interest in the emoji, and the majority of coverage has been really positive and supportive.
There has definitely been a step change in the past two or three years around reporting about menstruation, though. When we first launched the campaign in early 2017, members of my team remember it being a really hard sell, with journalists literally laughing down the phone. So much has changed in that time – period poverty in the UK, and the stigma that contributes to this, has been highlighted as a real issue by individuals and organisations including Plan International UK, so I think by the time we were successful in getting the emoji the need for it was much more widely accepted.
Unicode don’t share a lot of information on their decision-making process, so we never knew the timelines they were working to. We found out that the emoji was on keyboards when a member of staff happened to download their IOS update! That made communications tricky, as we had to be nimble and reactive rather than being able to plan in advance. We had to get as much ready to go as possible, and then just work like mad to get it all out there.
The main objective of all Plan International UK’s campaigns is to create actual change for girls, so the approval of the emoji and it now being available to use globally is the most tangible measure of success, and the one we’re most proud of.
We aimed to create this change – and open up the conversation around periods at the same time – through media coverage and digital engagement, and had measurable KPIs. We were aiming for a social media reach of 2 million (with 2,000 engagements across all channels), 500 solidarity votes on which emoji to put forward, and a modest 20 media clippings (as previously mentioned, the media environment wasn’t as period-friendly then as it is now).
The campaign completely outperformed these targets; from the activity surrounding the approval of the emoji in February 2019 alone we had 295 pieces of UK media coverage (and many more globally), our social media posts reached 4 million people with 8,500 engagements and drove 30,000 visits to our website – all at no cost.
It’s also been really interesting to see that the emoji has resonated across countries, and our colleagues in other Plan offices have been able to get real cut-through in their media landscapes too – from the Netherlands to Australia and even the government-run channels in China! So in that sense it’s been a truly global campaign.
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By Nasim Salad, UK Policy & Advocacy Coordinator, ONE
In the last 3 years, Brexit has dominated not only UK foreign policy, but also media coverage in general. As such, the role of Britain’s global influence has received few column inches despite our soft power being amongst the best in the world.
Britain is currently ranked as 2nd in the Soft Power Index. From our world class universities and lifesaving scientific research, to our internationally renowned entertainers and artists, Britain’s global influence across academia, science and culture is well documented. Yet, Britain’s commitment to international development, one of the most prominent contributors to our world-class soft power, is all too often omitted.
Whilst the British press enjoys lauding our international pre-eminence in areas such as sport or science, the global recognition and respect for the UK on its development assistance is rarely covered. Many people are often surprised that the UK is admired for its international development achievements.
During the general election, this positive narrative should be conveyed more strongly across platforms, to inform the public of not just the incredible work that UK aid achieves, but to also celebrate that our development efforts are applauded globally.
Former Secretary of State for International Development, Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell, once described the UK as a “development superpower”. The UK commits to spend 0.7% of its national income on aid, the only major economy to do so. The Overseas Development Institute has said it is necessary for every donor country to reach this target to end extreme poverty. This commitment is recognised internationally; a British Council survey of 20,000 young people from across the G20 nations showed that support for global development was the greatest driver of trust in the UK.
Britain’s development efforts are highly regarded. The Department for International Development (DFID), the main Government department delivering UK aid, is frequently ranked as one of the best development agencies in the world for its effectiveness and its transparency. UK aid has a remarkable impact on some of the poorest people in the world. In just 4 years, UK aid has reached 32 million people with humanitarian aid, helped 56 million children to be immunised, and supported 14 million children to gain a decent education. The British public understand that their generosity is helping to alleviate poverty. Recent polling suggests that 89% of UK respondents believe that helping people in developing countries is important.
At a time of political instability and rising populism, it is vital that Britain remains outward looking. This means ensuring that we retain an independent Department for International Development. In their Soft Power Index report, the authors at Portland Communications remark on recent rumours about departmental mergers, suggesting that such a merger would; “Send a signal that the UK cares less about global development than it once did. The resulting impact on Britain’s soft power is unlikely to be positive.”
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and DFID are both experts in their respective fields. DFID lifts people out of poverty by educating children and vaccinating young mothers. The FCO exerts Britain’s diplomatic prowess in the world’s most difficult regions. Combining the functions of the departments risks blurring their respective objectives and damaging our international reputation just when we need it most.
2020 is a make or break year, Britain has many opportunities to enhance its soft power. It will be hosting the UK-Africa Investment Summit, the COP 26 (UN Climate Change Conference), and the Replenishment Conference for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. These summits offer major opportunities to enhance this global presence, and to lead efforts to promote sustainable economic growth in Africa, tackle climate change, and end preventable disease.
Maintaining the 0.7% commitment and accelerating efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals will be key to preserving our hard-earned global reputation. Now, more than ever, the British media need to be cheerleaders for our soft power.