‘Disruptive’ Mobile Plays Well with ‘Older’ Radio

e ventures in cyberland
Author(s):
Monica specializes in strategic communications, web and new media, and print materials with an international or multi-cultural context.

(Internews’ Gaza Humanitarian Information Service is referenced in this article from eVentures in Cyberland.)

Many of us in developed countries find it annoying when somebody calls and hangs up before you can answer.

But in developing countries, "missed calls" are becoming an extremely cost-effective cue for transmitting and obtaining information—without incurring fees for voice calls or text messages. In India, for example, small businesses call vendors and hang up to indicate they need deliveries, fishermen use a "missed call" to inform buyers they are on the way back to the shore, and cricket fans use "missed calls" to get an SMS back with free score updates.

Now development professionals are increasingly pairing radio and "missed calls" to create interactive strategic/behavioral communications campaigns. These campaigns combine mobile—a disruptive and relatively expensive new technology—with an older free technology that reaches most of a target audience in many places. This synchronization keeps cost downs and, more importantly, prevents old and new technologies from competing with one another and creating useless noise. Two great examples are Radio Farm International's use of radio programs to advertise a "missed call" service for agriculture and weather tips in Tanzania and SMS polling about farmers' crop choices in Uganda.

Other ways mobile plays well with radio include call-ins, call-outs, voice messages, and interactive voice response. All of them turn traditional radio's one-way flow of information from broadcaster to listener into a powerful two-way distribution channel. When a high percentage of a target audience has web-enabled feature firms, mobile chat platforms (such as WhatsApp and Mxit) also present opportunities to combine radio and mobile to fuel listener-to-listener interaction.

Internews' Gaza Humanitarian Information Service, combining radio, SMS, and social media for humanitarian relief outreach in the Gaza Strip, provides an excellent example of what is possible. The efforts' expected results are:

  • "Communities access timely, accurate, well-targeted humanitarian information through radio and SMS and social media
  • Communities engage in 2-way communication with aid agencies through provision of high quality radio content, radio call-ins/talk-back programs, SMS channels and contemporaneous audience research
  • Key media outlets improve their capacity to broadcast quality humanitarian reporting by better understanding relief operations, effectively liaising with aid agencies and managing/sharing audience feedback
  • Effectiveness and accountability of the humanitarian response increase, as communities improve their understanding of how to access relief services and understand aid operations, including constraints and challenges, as well as how to best communicate with aid agencies"

I love the way the Internews and other examples above avoid the pitfall common in too many communications projects involving social media and mobile: cookie-cuttered tactics creating multiple, competing ways to spam audiences with identical content they just ignore. Tailoring your communications to fit a channel and audience needs makes it more likely your audience will see or hear your messages, remember them, and perceive them as relevant enough to prompt action. It also makes it more likely you will achieve your outcome (versus output) communications objectives even in an era of rapid technological change.

Related Stories

  • Ukraine: Finding Home for Children on the Run from War in the East

    Wednesday, March 22, 2017

    The military conflict in Ukraine’s east has driven thousands of Donbas residents out of their homes, seeking safer abodes and better fortunes in other places across the country. Now they are called ‘internally displaced’, or IDPs, and many of them, literally, have to start their lives from scratch. And it is even more difficult for those families with children. In addition to financial hardship, many families must also cope with the psychological effects the war has had on their children. When the state fails in tackling these deeply emotional issues, volunteers come forward to help.

  • Internews Aims to Safeguard Dialogue, Info

    Radio World
    Friday, March 17, 2017

    Internews is a non-profit organization with a mission to “empower local media worldwide to provide people with news and information and the means to make their voices heard.” The association has been operating globally for more than 30 years and today is working in Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Tanzania. Radio World spoke to Brice Rambaud, regional director, Sub-Saharan Africa at Internews about the impact of radio in these countries.