The African Food Fellowship is upskilling its Fellows in media and communications best practices to improve story-telling and visibility around food systems and leadership.
In an interactive workshop organised for Kenya and Rwanda cohorts on Friday 18, 2022, renowned journalist and media consultant Julians Amboko took the Fellows through the building blocks of a good story, how to conduct themselves at interviews and how to successfully pitch and package communications materials. The Fellows also enjoyed a crash course on crisis communication, audience mapping and story-telling techniques best suited for different audiences.
“In today’s digital world, the ability to influence and harness collective action requires excellent communication skills in order drive a transformation agenda. As a Fellowship we appreciate the insight and direction shared by Julians that focused on communication impact, performance, and effectiveness,” said African Food Fellowship dean Eunice Khaguli.
Julians is business editor at Nation Media Group’s flagship television station NTV, where he hosts a weekly business show, and he is also a consultant writer for the World Bank. He called on the Fellows to “Think like a journalist and act like a reputation gatekeeper.” “Thinking like a journalist involves you always ask yourself, what is the one thing that my audience will take away from this story? This helps you to craft succinct, impactful messages that are easier for your audience to remember,” he said.
The Fellows expressed their appreciation and enthusiasm for the communications workshop, frequently interjecting with questions about how to practically apply the lessons to their day to day life. Some expressed difficulties in getting the attention of media practitioners in order to reach a mainstream audience for their work, while others shared misgivings about misrepresentation by media outlets where their message is distorted and misunderstood, thus damaging their brands.
"I appreciated what it meant to actually be objective and ethical when collecting and disseminating information. We currently run a blog for our business, https://kigalifaam.com/shirikiana, and it was great to learn that as much as we want to reach vast and different audiences, it comes with the great responsibility of taking time to understand, summarise and correctly relay what you want your audience to know,” said Florence Mwashimba, an Access to Nutritious Food Fellow from Rwanda.
Successful communications and good media relations is an essential tool for food systems leaders, allowing them to produce and disseminate communications materials that resonate with various audiences in order to raise awareness on pertinent issues, secure buy-in and support from funders and influence policy decisions at local, regional and international levels. For a subject as scientifically complex and with multiple intersections as food systems, good communication is essential in order to ensure that key messages are heard, understood and retained by the intended audiences.
This is the first of many such workshops and the Fellowship is planning to organize subsequent sessions to give Fellows and faculty a solid grounding in communications so that they can use media platforms effectively for their work.