Media Training: The art of reaching and convincing people

How do I reach large groups of people and convince them to change?

Representatives of the Presidential Climate Commission (PCC), the National Treasury (NT) and the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) dealt with this question during a media training session at the end of November 2022 in Johannesburg.

The South African – German Energy Programme (SAGEN), implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) invited the participants to strengthen the effectiveness of public communication in the field of renewable energies and the future of energy supply. Under the direction of a South African - German team, both core messages and their media effectiveness were examined.

The participants were able to try out statements and interview answers in a safe space, but under technically real conditions. The Johannesburg company Treehousefilm set up a real interview set complete with camera, light and sound and demonstrated how a professional recording works. The German TV journalist and media trainer Juliane Hielscher developed core messages together with the decision-makers and simulated various media appearances.

It quickly became clear that the key messages had to be formulated in a short, concise and understandable way. Because long-winded arguments from an expert point of view are not understood by those outside the specialist field and essentially fall flat. The simpler the statement, the greater the chance that people will both agree with the content, and remember it. The way this message is spoken is decisive. The speech rate should be slow enough that you can understand the sentences the first time you hear them. Therefore, proper pronunciation and articulation is helpful in the media public realm. Sovereignty and competence are expressed in a relaxed and calm body language, while the audience likes to look at a friendly facial expression and usually finds it confidence-inspiring.

This became evident during video analysis of the test recordings. The participants felt first-hand how difficult it is to explain complex topics such as climate change, the advantages of renewable energy or the Just Energy Transition, to concentrate on the core messages while still conveying a relaxed or even optimistic impression. As almost all issues in the energy sector are complicated and need explanation, and media consumers generally understand little about them, it is all the more important that the communication departments work together with representatives from politics and administration to educate South African society about the elementary future issues of the energy sector. The current unstable energy supply is obviously seen by many people as the biggest problem. Climate change and the necessary transition to a circular economy are less in focus. That is why it is so important to point out the opportunities that South Africa has during the narratives. Because wherever there is sun, wind and water, the necessary resources are already available free of charge – and probably for a very long time.

SAGEN | South African – German Energy Programme

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Photos: ©Manyatsa Monyamane