The development communication aims at the behavioural change for the social and economic growth of a particular public. Till now we have studied that development communication is a strategic process of disseminating messages based on pre-conceived policy and plans. Thus this process involves a few fundamental steps to achieve its goals. These steps can be described as under:
- Proximity to the receiver
- Establish credibility
- Involve receivers in planning (message design or info product)
- The message is developed and the programme runs
- Evaluate the message/programme
- Next phase of planning
Proximity to the receiver
In general, proximity means nearness or closeness between the message and receiver. Local news will grab much attention of the audience than an incident happened far away. We look at proximity in development communication in a more complex manner. Cultural proximity or distance is defined as the extent to which an individual perceives his or her culture to be similar with another based on factors such as race, ethnicity, language, religion, social values, etc. (Wang, 2009). However, it is also conceptualized as a predilection for media content that is culturally similar (Pool 1977; Straubhaar, 1991, 2003). Thus, at the first step of the development communication process, we determine the public’s proximity to development message.
Establishing credibility is important to achieve the goals of the development communication process. Early research in persuasion operated under the assumption that communicators that are perceived as similar to their audiences are considered more credible, and thus, more likely to persuade (Simons et al., 1970). Recent communication studies have explored the relationship between racial affiliation and perceived credibility of ethnic group news coverage; results suggest that group identification plays an important role in credibility assessments (Beaudoin & Thorson, 2005).
A group discussion structured along the lines of a ‘quality circle’ where stakeholders or representatives discuss issues of
importance to the community, Information needs, queries about services being delivered etc. It is an open discussion following the principles of small group dynamics and where specific deliverables – questions to be answered, products to be introduced, programmes to be initiated – are brainstormed.
Involve receivers in planning
The local community possesses information which is relevant to their own conditions and circumstances and are an exclusive resource without which a development project may fail; the local population has the fundamental human right to participate in the formation of their own advancement, and inclusion of the native population draws support which facilitates the fulfilment of common goals. Researches prove that an individual feels more empowered when he/she will want to work towards the common goal. The sense of responsibility for the final result of any project for an individual is directly proportionate to the degree to which that individual has contributed to the planning and implementation of the project. (Garima Shrivastava)
The message is developed and the programme runs
The content of the message plays a very vital role in the success of a development communication plan or programme. Following are few important factors that should be considered while creating content for development communication:
Generic content: this is more general and relates largely to ‘citizenship type issues. Such content may focus on rights, responsibilities and duties of citizens; information and education about government institutions, public figures and national events such as public holidays; and issues such as country’s relationships internationally.
Specific content: concerning the programmes, policies, projects and, Services of government.
Local content: systems need to be in place to monitor the questions communities are asking. This can also be informed by ongoing national research into public information needs. FAQs will lead to responsive information products and programmes from the government.
As the initiative involves partnerships across various social sectors, some of the information transferred may originate from the private sector as well as various non-governmental programmes although this is not the primary focus of the initiative.
Core content: a dialogue about the ‘State of the nation’ – corruption, crime, youth development, employment, disability, gender equity, multiculturalism etc. If, for instance, the communicator transmits a weekly current affairs programme to communities gathered in centres (video or radio), there must be some key content which inspires this weekly activity.
The sender develops the content of the message. In the process, the sender decides on the medium (written or spoken) and the format (such as email, letter, leaflet, meeting, talk, press release, presentation, podcast.).
The sender then transmits the communication by the relevant communication channel (such as presenting at a meeting of the heads of department, producing printed material, announcing on a website or in the press). The message then reaches the audience. The audience will then decide whether to respond and if so how. The audience response will have a particular content and format through their chosen communication channel. This may not be the same as the one the sender used to transmit the message (such as an email after a meeting where the sender gave their presentation).
Evaluate the message/programme
After disseminating the message or broadcasting the programme the next step is to evaluate it based on the feedback of the public. Evaluation helps you to understand the impact of the message/programme. There are various ways to evaluate the message. It can be direct feedback from the target audience or it may be based on the observation of the audience during the process of communication and after that.
Next phase of planning
After evaluating the message the process of development communication moves ahead with the results gained from the evaluation. If the message/programme has achieved its targeted goal/behavioural change in the target audience you can move forward to the next goal. On the other hand, if the evaluation results show the need for more persuasion, the communicator will make further planning to restart the process. Sometimes the need to repeat the process for several times may arise. Mostly, in the development process, some messages needed to be repeated more than once until the audience becomes habitual to the new behaviour. For instance, during the lockdown period messages are being repeated to take precautions and stay indoors for the safety of everyone. We have seen that people took some time to adapt to the lockdown lifestyle.