Media Campaigns - Internet and Email (WU)

Compiled by:
Doerte Peters (seecon international gmbh)

Executive Summary

The media (television, radio, print media, internet and email) play a significant role in spreading information and raising awareness on water and sanitation. They enable to influence and change public opinion and behaviour on an issue. This can lead to public pressure on the local policy actors, so the media can indirectly influence decision makers as well. Furthermore, the media can play a role as an advocacy tool (WATERAID & WSSCC 2003). Here we will focus on why and how to use internet and email, which enables people to have access to information on SSWM from all over the world. Through networking, fora and email people having access to computers can take part in actual water and sanitation related discussions and activities easily.

Media Campaigns as a Tool to Influence Both the Public Opinion and Policy Makers

As the media are part of the lives of many people (BURKE 1999), they can give a basis for public discussion and the reconsidering of norms. Case studies show that the media can have an immense educating impact on the public opinion and behaviour (BURKE 1999). Also, the media can influence the decision makers indirectly, when the public gets aware of a topic and applies pressure (WATERAID 2007). The media play also an important role in advocacy work.
Summarised the media are useful for the following reasons (WATERAID 2007):

 

  • Change public attitudes and behaviour
  • Inform the public about your issue and proposed solutions
  • Recruit allies among the public and decision-makers
  • Raise money for your cause
  • Get your issue onto the political public agenda
  • Make your issue visible and credible in policy debate
  • Influence decision-makers and opinion leaders

 

Main Stakeholders and Target Groups

The target group of your work are mainly people who already know something about the topic and search for more information. They might be little or well informed and from any location, so you need to consider different levels of knowledge.
If you cannot do it yourself you will need someone for helping you with creating a homepage. Sometimes there are courses on creating website, otherwise you can ask at organisations like NGOs if they might help you or know someone specialised.
You can plan internet and email campaigns on the local level, but most of the information given will be accessible all over the world.

Why Choose Internet and Email as Media to Reach Your Targets?

Internet and email are in fact different tools that are used in an integrated way. The internet contains website, fora and files, where you get information, do research and download. It can also be used for online discussions in fora, and often you can register for an email newsletter for a specific page or campaign.
Email is mostly being used for advertising (e.g. for an activity) or for networking, especially in groups. It is very useful to send files to each other.
For the following reasons it is useful to work with email and internet to spread information on water and sanitation topics (BURKE 1999):

 

  • The internet is the most interactive medium you can choose. In opposition to radio, print media and television, people having access to a computer can take part in the internet. They can do research, send files to each other and click on links they are interested in. According to this, the internet is a two-way medium through fora, networking and email: People can ask questions and discuss directly
  • It gives people access to sources from other countries, and enables exchange of information between groups
  • E-mail enables networks to function more efficiently: Key figures can download information and send it as printed copies to other members, or pass it by word of mouth, thereby reaching the majority who are unlikely to have access to a computer
  • Information and communications technology can also enable pressure groups within a government to tap into international literature and compare their government’s record to their internationally recognised obligations
  • Electronic networks can create forums for informal discussion specific to particular groups
  • Internet gives women's groups in particular access to communication in a public space that would often otherwise be denied them

 

 The internet is an important tool to get access to information, in particular for women, who often have less access to communication. Source: unknown

How to Plan a Media Campaign

The following six steps are the main ones for developing a media campaign in general. The questions posed will guide you through your planning (adapted from FOCUS 2006):

 

Step 1: Define Your Audience: Whom do you want to reach with your message? Can you reach this audience within available resources? Do you know enough about your audience to select effective messages and channels of communication?

 

Step 2: Set Clear Objectives: What is your overall goal? Do your plans fit with other activities and plans in the community? Have you identified your objectives?

 

Step 3: Define Channels and Vehicles for Communication: Which channel is the best to use for your targets?

 

  • Giving additional information and networking: internet and email
  • Raise awareness/spread information: accessible media with broad reach (e.g. radio)
  • Change attitudes: channels with emotional impact (television, radio)
  • Model specific skills: television works best because of sound, sight, and motion
  • Change public opinion: look for news coverage via editorials, news interviews
  • Complex message: print presentations

 

Step 4: Identify an Effective Message: Have you chosen a message for your audience that has the right message content (or theme)? Does the message have the right tone (light or heavy) and the right appeal (rational or emotional)? Would using humour or fear be appropriate and effective?
Any message you choose should pass the What? So What? Now What? Test:

 

  • What? refers to the basic information being conveyed
  • So What? addresses the reasons or benefits for action
  • Now What? clearly defines some desirable and productive action

 

Step 5: Implement Your Campaign: What work needs to be done? Have you made a timeline? When and how long will you run your campaign, and with what intensity? When will you find a web designer, obtain the messages you selected in the format required? Have you set out a work plan that defines required tasks, the people responsible and the timing?

 

Step 6: Evaluate Your Campaign: Does your campaign track coverage (process indicators)? Does it generate additional media coverage? Can you see changes in knowledge or attitudes (outcome indicators)?
The evaluation of internet and email campaigns is not so difficult. You can count how many people visit your website, so if it is a growing number it is successful. Also, if you offer a newsletter, you can see how long the mailing list is. As the internet and email are most useful combined with other media, make sure you quote and write the link for the page in all other media used (see also radio, posters and flyers or video).

Things to Consider Before Using the Internet and Email

  • First, it is important to find out if the internet and email is the right media to reach your targets. Many people lack access to computers and internet, and usually you just reach people that are already aware of the topic, searching for more information (BURKE 1999).
  • If the internet and email campaign is part of an overall media campaign, it could be beneficial to use a corporate slogan or name that is recognisable within all kinds of used media. Make sure you use identical information in all media.
  • It is also important to understand that internet and email only support other media and should be a part of a wider communication process that encompasses other awareness raising instruments. On its own, internet and email cannot achieve that much but combined with other media as well as other awareness raising and communication tools in the SSWM Toolbox it can help to achieve your objectives very well and cheap.
  • The main challenge is to create website that are accessible and attractive to a wide range of people while, at the same time, contain enough information for those who are really interested (SCHAAP et al. 2001).
  • Internet and email might not be the best medium to raise awareness, because it reaches less people than for example the radio. It is usually better for giving deepened information on a topic. Also, it could be even better for raising the awareness of a specific group than any other tool, e.g. for children at school doing quizzes and games on the computer.
  • As the internet and email are most useful combined with other media, make sure you state and write the link for the page in all other media used.
  • When you send emails make sure they are not being treated as spam by their receivers.
  • The realisation that electronic information can empower civil society has been fully recognised by some governments who fear such developments and have tried to censor content (BURKE 1999).

Ideas for Using Internet and Email

(Adapted from SCHAAP et al. 2001)

Several organisations run non-profit awareness campaigns on the internet. The internet can be of significant use in campaigns, but even if it is not for running the campaign itself, it can be used for networking and dissemination of information about the campaign. The following examples show several ways of how to use the internet in campaigns.

 

  • Advertisements on the web: Consumers can be directly reached through advertisements on the web, on web pages of information providers, newspapers, newsgroups, search engines, bookstores and government homepages.
  • Source of public information: Through the internet, campaigns can provide an additional source of accessible information to the public such as information on how to save water or which toxic substances should not be flushed down the toilet. Several campaigns mention their web addresses in their conventional campaign material. It is a handy tool to use together with commercials, posters or PR activities.
  • Networking: The internet can be a great tool for networks of volunteer activists, teachers or students involved in different programmes and initiatives. Through the internet, plans, data and results can be shared among participants. The internet can also help mobilise members of a network for certain public action at the right time.
  • Resources for the water sector: The internet is helpful in providing professionals in the water and wastewater sector with relevant and up-to-date information. This includes fora for online discussions, ordering services for literature and promotional material, database access and documented experiences from other initiatives.
  • Educational programmes on the internet: The Environmental Protection Agency in the USA has several educational software programmes available on the internet, for example, on groundwater protection or the need to protect wetlands.
  • Online discussions: Campaigns could provide sites with online discussions or message boards on water and sanitation topics. Participants might post their reactions to an ongoing discussion.
  • Involving schools from all continents: It is also possible to make several schools from all continents participate in discussions and real-time lessons/meetings, for example once a week. See e.g. the Sustainable Sanitation Exchange Case study further below.
  • Another idea is to send email newsletters on programmes and actions to inform interested people about the new development and possibilities to participate in the water and sanitation sector.
  • Also there can be educating games and quizzes to address especially children (see also: school campaigns).

 

B ringing together schools from different continents to jointly discuss water and sanitation problems (see case studies “Sustainable Sanitation Exchange”) — a good way to raise awareness. Source: unknown 


Applicability

The applicability of internet and email is not as large as the one of radio, printed media and television. In rural areas, there might be no or few computers. The tool could be better for urban areas, where schools, universities and many private people have access to computers.

The main benefit is that once internet and email are being used, information spreads really fast and is accessible for anyone having a computer with internet.

As you do not need much to create a homepage or a newsletter, just a computer and internet and maybe some help of a web designer, you can start it anywhere.

Some governments try to censor contents, which makes it impossible to use the internet as an information source.

Advantages

  • Fast exchange of information
  • Information on all different levels of knowledge
  • Across local, regional and national boundaries
  • Source for further information
  • Enables networking
  • Addressing of children possible
  • Newsletters enable to participate in local actions; two-way medium through fora, networking and email: people can ask questions
  • Discussion in fora, Inclusion of women from societies that restrict women’s presence in the public sphere

Disadvantages

  • Access to the internet is still limited in many parts of the world
  • Computers are expensive
  • May be subject to censorship

References Library

BURKE, A. (1999): Communications & Development. A practical guide. London: Social Development Division. Department for International Development. URL [Accessed: 14.07.2010].

FOCUS (Editor) (2006): Community Based Media Campaign Action Pack. Kingston: Ontario Stroke Strategy. URL [Accessed: 17.04.2012].

SCHAAP, W.; STEENBERGEN, F. van (2001): Ideas for Water Awareness Campaigns. Stockholm: The Global Water Partnership. URL [Accessed: 17.04.2012].

WATERAID (Editor) (2007): The Advocacy Sourcebook. London: WaterAid. URL [Accessed: 12.04.2010].

WATERAID & WSSCC (Editor) (2003): Advocacy Sourcebook. A Guide to Advocacy for WSSCC co-ordinators working on the WASH campaign. WATERAID & WSSCC . URL [Accessed: 17.04.2012].

Further Readings Library

Reference icon

BURKE, A. (1999): Communications & Development. A practical guide. London: Social Development Division. Department for International Development. URL [Accessed: 14.07.2010].

This document includes a guide to using different media (drama, broadcast media and other media). In the internet section, it focuses on networking. You can get detailed information on networking, especially combined with gender questions. As there are some case studies, the document is not just theoretical but close to reality.


Reference icon

FOCUS (Editor) (2006): Community Based Media Campaign Action Pack. Kingston: Ontario Stroke Strategy. URL [Accessed: 17.04.2012].

This planner takes you through a 6-step process to develop a community-based media campaign. Although it is written for a campaign on alcohol risks, it offers clear step-by step information on how to plan a media campaign that are useful for any kind of a media campaign. It includes many useful tips and tricks.


Reference icon

SCHAAP, W.; STEENBERGEN, F. van (2001): Ideas for Water Awareness Campaigns. Stockholm: The Global Water Partnership. URL [Accessed: 17.04.2012].

This document includes a section for advocacy, presenting an overview of many ideas and initiatives with emphasis on practical suggestions and clues. It is not a guidebook for planning your advocacy work but it might be a great knowledge source and starting point for your activities.


Reference icon

WATERAID (Editor) (2007): The Advocacy Sourcebook. London: WaterAid. URL [Accessed: 12.04.2010].

This book provides detailed information about drawing up advocacy action plans that aim to improve the water supply and sanitation situation. The document presents concrete examples of advocacy work in practice and it provides many tools, tables and diagrams, which advocacy workers may like to reproduce, adapt or distribute for their own advocacy campaign.


Reference icon

WATERAID & WSSCC (Editor) (2003): Advocacy Sourcebook. A Guide to Advocacy for WSSCC co-ordinators working on the WASH campaign. WATERAID & WSSCC . URL [Accessed: 17.04.2012].

This guide for the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for all (WASH) campaign offers practical guidance on advocacy work related to water and sanitation. It aims to explain the different advocacy tools, provide practical examples of advocacy work, and provide information on key policy actors and processes and how to influence them at local, national and international levels.


Case Studies Library

Reference icon

SCHAAP, W.; STEENBERGEN, F. van (2001): Ideas for Water Awareness Campaigns. Stockholm: The Global Water Partnership. URL [Accessed: 17.04.2012].

This document includes a section for advocacy, presenting an overview of many ideas and initiatives with emphasis on practical suggestions and clues. It is not a guidebook for planning your advocacy work but it might be a great knowledge source and starting point for your activities.


Reference icon

SEECON (Editor) (2010): Sustainable Sanitation Exchange. Basel: seecon.

This short flyer presents the project “Sustainable Sanitation Exchange” – a project that virtually brings together two school classes, one from the south, and one from the north, to discuss sustainable approaches towards sanitation and strengthen intercultural understanding.


Awareness Raising Material Library

Reference icon

UN-WATER (Editor) (2009): Communication-Matrix. UN-Water.

This short matrix shows what can be done by using the media to make an issue public.


Important Weblinks

http://www.globalwaternetwork.org/ [Accessed: 26.07.2010]

The webpage of the “Global Water Network” is an example for a professional network. You can discuss in fora, adopt projects and get informed about water and sanitation topics from all over the world.

http://www.projectwet.org/ [Accessed: 22.04.2010]

Project WET (Water Education for Teachers) is a non-profit water education program that prepares curricula and materials on various water topics and devotes much attention to training teachers how to use them. The Project WET curriculum and activity guide is available to all formal and informal educators. The program started in the USA but now there are internationally sponsored Project WET programs together with other organizations.

http://www.rwsn.ch/ [Accessed: 26.07.2010]

The webpage of the “Rural Water Supply Network” is a good example for how to create an interactive homepage. There is a lot of information given on the page, but visitors do also have the possibility to register for a newsletter and to take part in actual discussions.

http://www.waternetonline.ihe.nl/ [Accessed: 26.07.2010]

WaterNet is a regional network of university departments and research and training institutes specialising in water. The network offers training, education, research and outreach by harnessing the complementary strengths of member institutions in the region and elsewhere. You can register for a newsletter and as a member you can log in for more information and networking.

http://www.wateruseitwisely.com/ [Accessed: 16.08.2010]

This site explains a hundred ways how you can conserve water.

http://www.isoc.org/ [Accessed: 04.03.2011]

Uimonen gives a fairly balanced overview of where the internet is heading to, and how it relates to social development.