Media and communication

Because communication generates acceptance and legitimacy

Media and communication play a crucial role in the democratic development of societies. They are vital to make reforms succeed and transformation processes sustainable. As the ‘fourth estate’ media monitor and challenge social change through information, analysis and debate. The aim of communication by government and non-governmental institutions that advocate reforms to improve people’s life is to create a broad public dialogue in order to gain trust, approval and support.

Professional and independent media as well as political, dialogue-based communication promote transparency and create platforms for jointly shaping policy. Citizens and civil society can get engaged in a dialogue with the state and can bring in their views to the process of political decision-making. This generates acceptance and legitimacy and increases the pressure on the government to be accountable.

On behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) we assist our partners in employing communication as a key element in the sustainable development of good governance, in developing specialist skills and in establishing the necessary infrastructure. At the same time, we work with media companies and associations, professional journalists and citizen journalists to support them in their role as intermediaries and watchdogs, particularly in the sphere of politics. The digital world, especially the social media, play a key role here. They open up new opportunities for participation and co-determination.

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Political communication

Communicating in the political sphere is a distinctive activity of governments, civil society organisations, interest groups and, in the age of social media, citizens and traditional media. Political communication, however, involves a strategic, holistic approach that sets itself apart from the chaotic, diverse, amorphous clamour of voices communicating on a multitude of things.

Our understanding of political communication is based on dialogue, and invests in the principles of good governance, participation, transparency, accountabilityand inclusion. In the context of communication for development, we see strategic political communication as a core task and a managerial responsibility of state and non-governmental institutions involved in the democratisation of a society. We do not see it as institutional PR.

Successful political communication helps convey and explain political actions accurately and appropriately, in a way that target groups can then appreciate and respond to. We support our partners in analysing the communicative task at hand in the light of the political context and stakeholder positions.

Our partners are then able to identify target groups, define key messages and determine what methods they will use to convey them. They decide whether they intend to pursue communication for reform, raise awareness on specific issues, or change behaviour. They also consider whether they wish to mobilise target groups, or simply communicate information. Having made these decisions, they select communication measures that range from flyers to town hall events.

To what extent political communication delivers results, whether any fine tuning is required, and if so what it should involve, can be determined through qualitative and quantitative measurement. The advisory services we provide ensure that our partners achieve their communicative goals and advance their agendas sustainably, transparently and on the basis of dialogue, while maintaining objectivity and integrity.

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Reform communications

Any government or administration that wishes to implement reforms successfully must communicate. It must inform, educate, explain, listen and respond in order to gain the acceptance and trust. And it must communicate in order to encourage citizens, civil society as well as the private sector andits own employees to support and actively participate in the reform measures.

The key to all this is integrated communications. This means comprehensively targeting specific stakeholder groups with carefully selected, strategically harmonised communication messages. Regardless of whether the process involves fiscal reform or decentralisation of the state, reforms usually have a significant effect on specific sections of the population. Reform processes generate complex impacts, and for many people are not easy to understand.

Public institutions must therefore deploy target group-specific messages and communication instruments to put across the need for reforms as well as to continuously communicate their overall direction. State institutions must deal with people's feelings of uncertainty or insecurity which means defusing debates on supposed winners and losers of the reform process right from the outset.

Through information, education and proactive dialogue, both internally and with all other target groups, state institutions pave the way for changes in social behaviour. They are credible to the extent that they uphold ethical standards, that the information they provide is verifiable and that they respond convincingly to critical questions posed by the media.

We advise our partners on integrating communications into their deliberations on reform right from the outset. We also advise them on developing communication strategies, on familiarising themselves with dialogue-oriented communication instruments and on applying these to target-specific groups. Moreover, we support the establishment of effective communications departments, and develop programmes for a wide range of media-related and communication needs.

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Media development

Independent and professional media play a key role in the democratic development of societies. Notwithstanding the growing importance of social media, readers and listeners expect the traditional media to provide scope for research, contextualisation, explanation and orientation.The media can and should create public space and publicity by informing, questioning, exposing and debating.

The media thus contribute toward transparency within society, and hold political, economic and other decision-makers to account. They strengthen citizens in their active role as the voice of civil society in the policy-making process.

In many partner countries, however, the media are subject to censorship. This means they can only perform their watchdog role tocertain restrictions, if at all. Yet even in these countries, the media are able to support and provide information on on-going reform processes – whetherthese be in the economic, administrative or education sector – through professionally versed reporting.

GIZ cooperates with the media in manifold ways. We work with media institutions, professional journalists and citizen journalists, and together with them develop training in aspects ofjournalistic skills, ethical standards for the media and specific sectoral expertise. We advise journalists’ associations on curriculum development and management issues. We also support networking between journalists, citizen reporters and civil society organisations, and the creation of platforms for dialogue with the state.

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Social media

The internet has brought about profound political, economic and social changes around the globe. What was initially construed as a source of technological change has turned out to be a catalyst for cultural transformation, the implications of which are stillrather difficult to foresee.

It is not only our working world and financial markets that have changed drastically as a result of the global systems linking up computer networks. The most recent reform movements around the world have demonstrated what effects mobile communication, social networks, blogs and other forms of digital communication are having on the way states and societies interact.

Where political liberties are restricted and the traditional media are censored, or where the media are unable to perform their role of providing information because they lack adequate resources, social debates and the expression of political will are increasingly taking place in the digital world. Engaged citizens and civil society organisations are using the interactive and participatory opportunities of Web 2.0 to create new spaces and their own public sphere for their issues – both online and in the real world.

This is creating entirely new possibilities for development cooperation to inject further vitality into the dialogue between governments and civil societies. Based on the understanding that dialogue-oriented communicationis key to the sustainable development of good governance, GIZ is supporting its partners in integrating digital media, and especially social media, into their communication processes.

Contact

Dr. Ute Böttcher
ute.boettcher@giz.de


Advisory and service portfolio

Here you will find an overview of the technical and methodological services we offer.