Best practices in strategic communications must be adopted to help achieve developmental goals in today’s digital era, says the Founder and Past President of the African University College of Communications (AUCC), Mr. Kojo Yankah
Mr. Yankah, who was speaking at a public forum at the University of Ghana on the topic: ‘Communicating Development beyond Politics: Can the Tenets of Strategic Communication Help in the Digital Era?’, underscored the importance of digital technologies and strategic communication in the changing landscape of development and political communication.
“I agree with the view that best practices in strategic communication can help achieve development goals, and also, that digital technologies can be effectively used for public engagement,” he said.
Mr. Yankah, further noted that Ghana and most parts of Africa had a long way to go to make extensive use of digital technology in the delivery of strategic communication.
Highlighting the role that the proliferation of media outlets has played in public information and the development communication discourse, he indicated that these outlets “communicate more politics, sports and entertainment than direct, development-oriented stories which aim at social change”.
While drawing attention to the potential difference that strategic communication and digital technology can make toward enhancing the national development discourse and efforts, the founder of AUCC noted that this was not challenge-free.
“Digital technology has the potential to pollute the environment, but it can be positively used to sanitise the environment – depending on who controls it.”
“The danger lies in only 26 percent holding the power of digital technology through social media and conveying messages with differing intents and objectives to the majority,” he stressed.
As part of his recommendations toward addressing these challenges, Mr. Yankah underscored the need for broadband deployment to be moved beyond privileged communities in Ghana, and made accessible and affordable in rural areas.
A panel discussion, which was also held during the forum, revealed critical insights. The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Petroleum Authority – one of the panelists, noted that partisanship does not help to tell the strategic and development communication narrative in an effective manner. He stressed the need for the media to provide “coherent voices communicating in an intelligent, knowledgeable, non-partisan and neutral manner that engenders the development of our country”.
Speaking on the overarching theme for the public forum, another member of the panel discussion and CEO of Stratcomm Africa, Madam Esther Cobbah, said strategic communication had to be deployed in a manner that resonated with the people among whom development was being sought. “You have to understand the people; you have to understand the challenges associated with communicating development with them, and strategically and creatively find ways of delivering your message,” she advised.
On her part, the Chair of the National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE), Madam Kathleen Addy, also a panel member for the discussion, highlighted the continuous educational efforts by the commission to dissuade the politicians from making campaign promises that they invariably did not have the mandate and resources to fulfill.
She said: “First of all, development is not your primary role – you are not the agents for development. You don’t manage the purse for this constituency; it’s the local assembly that does.”
In an opening address, the Head of the Department of Communication Studies, Dr. Abena Animwaa Yeboah-Banin, decried the politicisation of matters relating to the collective developmental efforts of the country. She noted that the issues of development affect all Ghanaians. “There is the need for dispassionate, non-partisan discourses to find the best way to tackle them.” It was against this background that strategic communication was being proferred as a possible solution to the challenges in effective communication for national development, she concluded.
The public lecture, which attracted a diverse audience from persons with various affiliations to the university, forms part of a year-long itinerary of events scheduled in commemoration of fifty (50) years of the existence of the Department of Communication Studies.
The department has, so far, trained hundreds of graduates who have chalked significant successes in their chosen careers in the media and communication space in Ghana and globally. This is in keeping with its mandate to improve the practice and understanding of journalism and mass communication, as well as add to knowledge through research.
The writer is an MA student of the Department of Communication Studies, University of Ghana.