Insights From Building Campaigns On Health And Social Development

We met 19-year-old Sangeeta in Gumla, 17-year-old Swati in Sitapur, and 20-year-old Aarti in Karauli who are bringing revolutions in their towns by asserting their voices. They are anomalies in their communities, creating stories that one should see and hear about. At Kahaani Wale, we communicate stories of these anomalies who are driving change. Having conducted over 200 interviews, creating over 30 messaging tools and running 3 national campaigns on health specifically, we have engaged with more than a million people, both online and offline.

This article aims to consolidate the challenges, learnings and possible solutions we came across while building campaigns on issues of maternal health and care, adolescent health, and sexual and reproductive health in India. Leading health organizations across India approached us with the problem: How to create campaigns that are ground-up, communicate the difficulties faced by the stakeholders and show impact with real people as the face of it?

1) Clarity is essential to reach the target demography.

One of our campaigns was on respectful maternity care. The objective of the campaign was to create awareness on seven issues of respectful maternity for policymakers. Hence, we categorized these issues and gave mothers a platform to voice their demands. This generated more participation amongst them, bringing their real stories to the forefront. Due to the relatability of the content, we were able to reach out to more than 11,000 people on average for every post across mediums, reaching over 200,000 people online. Consequently, policymakers received the content generated from this engagement with seven clear demands. Offline and online engagement legitimized these demands, strengthening the cause.

2) Visual tools move the needle where it matters.

For a campaign on maternity care that was being run internationally, we had to present the findings for the Indian chapter for advocacy purposes. With our experience, we can affirmatively say that visually communicating the findings makes it more impactful as only numbers don’t do the trick. So we decided to make a film by utilizing the voices of the funding organization, on-ground partners and the women who were a part of the campaign. Delivery of findings in an audio-visual format to the policymakers was easily comprehensible as opposed to the data presented through reports.

3) Have a single protagonist to tell the story.

We have noticed single character films gain more traction compared to others in our body of work. As most digital content is aimed to grab the attention of a non-attentive viewer, it is essential to make the audience relate and emotionally connect with the character. When we have multiple protagonists or stakeholders, attention is divided amongst them, making the story less likely to stick in the minds of people.

In our experience, for compelling messaging, it is vital to have a single character lead the narrative. Localized storytelling with a local hero who faces the same set of challenges as the rest of the community, but manages to break out and shape her future makes for a great story.

4) Relationships with people are the key to good content.

Strategic communication, if well targeted, can move the audience emotionally. To be able to tell a moving story, it is crucial to develop relationships at multiple levels. On-ground partners have more insight into individual stories that could make great communication pieces. This helps in getting the most authentic narrative and also ensures that the stories are not too far from the actual reality.

5) Authentic messaging translates into powerful stories.

While figuring out messaging for a women’s leadership project in Bihar, it was very easy to be swayed by fabricated realities that were presented to us. For example, to see the health facilities in the village, we decided to visit the Community Health Centre (CHC). When the staff realized that there was a team waiting outside the CHC, it suddenly came to life. A pregnant girl was brought to the CHC, made to lie on a stretcher and then checked, all for the benefit of the camera. It is essential to discern the genuine from the fake to create impactful communication as fabricated stories do not have the same level of engagement. Capturing real-life sequences result in larger value addition to the story.

6) Being vulnerable brings genuineness in messaging.

Since the conversations around sexual and reproductive health are sensitive and still considered a taboo in India, getting young men and women to talk about the same without feeling any shame or being conscious was tricky. We helped them ease into the topic by having lengthy and indirect conversations, while always providing them with alternatives if the truth was too difficult to share. By sharing our anecdotes and vulnerabilities, we were able to connect better with the character.

7) Consent is crucial for transparency.

Our work with a philanthropic foundation that ran a pan-India campaign on adolescent health resulted in filming in 3 States, 7 districts and with 10 partners, having a reach of over 180,000 on social media.

One of the main challenges while capturing events on such a large scale for nonprofits and foundations is that the collective consent of the people being filmed is not taken before the shoot. Consent while shooting is a basic principle as this lets people raise issues if they have any. This also helps to gain trust with the audience at the event and prevents problems during the shoot.

The purpose of any campaign is to move the audience and make them empathize with the character. These insights aid us in creating authentic campaigns driven by struggles and triumphs of local heroes. These stories have the ability to reach the masses and create a ripple effect. With our experience, we can unequivocally say that by giving the anomalies a chance to voice their story, new norms are built in communities, creating a sustainable change and moving the needle where it truly matters.

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