An expert guide and practitioners’ assessments
Our guide: Natalie Domeisen, Head of Corporate Events and Publishing Programmes at the International Trade Centre. She’s also one of the two most effective communicators I’ve worked with in the UN Geneva system. By chance, the other person in my Geneva pantheon was also there: Sarah McCue, now an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, and back in town to work for ITC on a report about Artificial Intelligence and its implications for trade: cutting-edge stuff for policymakers.
What made these two women such stars in my judgement was that they not only knew their subject but that through their careers they treated the people they were helping not as know-nothings who needed to be brought up to speed but worked with them as facing challenges they were trying to solve together. They always got feedback from their “customers” about their experiences, and were continually creative in their solutions.
The lunchtime session followed this pattern of collaborative work, with an emphasis on action, and the meal only came afterwards. In addition to Natalie sharing ITC’s experiences and tips on how to “make the leap from static publications content to dynamic content online”, the 30 or so participants – researchers, managers, marketing specialists as well as communicators – spent as much time in working groups looking at the ways in which Geneva’s international organizations have been presenting their activities digitally and assessing their success (see below).
Natalie suggests looking at UNHCR, Unicef and UN New York’s web sites for ideas (see below). UNHCR, for example, offers photo essays, highlight reports and story maps on its features page.
And this is the page presenting the key report.
Below, an indication of the range of web products UNCHR uses to speak to the under-25s. This web page for the report offered a video of 3 main takeaways, key findings, charts, and individual stories.
For those who want it, UNHCR offered a guide to the framework and methodology to create the report. Its final, perhaps unexpected, message: “Investing in data is key to making headway in the lives of refugees and host communities”.
At the workshop, for several organizations the news from the Geneva communicators was not good. Front pages would not load, navigation was a challenge, videos dragged through their content.
At Global Geneva Insights we have complaints, too, about the way our website operates. But we are web amateurs on a shoestring budget struggling with WordPress and don’t know how to fix it. Professional organizations don’t have that excuse.
Global Geneva’s experience
You can’t generalize the findings, as Natalie would be the first to point out. Global Geneva’s best-read articles, with 30,000 hits, are text-heavy reports and long, in contrast to the conventional wisdom that users just want short snippets.
GGI’s audience is made up largely of international professionals for whom long reports and fully researched articles are their standard diet. For the young people we are also seeking to interest in international affairs we construct specifically tailored pieces or hybrids, like this story, that can point to strategies that young people can explore to find their own answers.
For the rest, I still receive notifications every week of academic citations of webified reports I wrote for the United Nations on environment, development and trade over 20 years ago.
Secrets of their success
What helped make Natalie and Sarah so successful was that they didn’t conceive their community as the generalized public, or even just journalists from mainstream media, but gave equal prominence to people like young entrepreneurs (ITC’s focus is small businesses), hardworking specialists whose experiences and challenges in developing countries were out of view to the central governments that most UN bodies deal with. Listening to what they had to say was a key part of the two women’s modus operandi. Simply having someone take note of what such people had to contribute made these creative business people enthusiastic about contributing to improve the UN’s assistance programmes.
Rethink your reports for interactivity
In some aspects, you can have it both ways. Natalie suggested web presenters should consider splitting their longer videos into short sections, to cater for visitors who want to scan and skip while deciding what to explore in depth.
She also recommended rethinking your reports for interactivity on the web even if you start with a PDF. Unless your introduction is likely to give journalists the summary and quotes they are looking for, these generally don’t work on the web: they slow visitors down when they want to get straight to the core messages.
And one key point from ITC’s experience: bring in someone who has real expertise in producing for the web. They can provide solutions to your problems that will be a struggle if you just try to muddle through.
This may not be expensive – another crucial finding from her experience. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel or insist, as some organizations do, on having your exclusive tailor-made system. ITC found off-the-shelf programs that did what it needed, and uses these.
Natalie wasn’t promoting ITC’s efforts in her workshop but I found this on the website about a trade trends report for small business and the 2023 World Export Development Forum.
Below, a Contents Page for the Forum with Messages and Reports:
Below, the front page of a report for WEDF, with key messages and quotes
Now it’s your turn
If you want to see examples of UN e-publications, here are just a few that were featured at the workshop via QR codes. They are in no particular order. You may want to look at the splash pages at a mobile’s screensize as well. The screenshots include links to the urls. The workshop gave participants the facility to carry out a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of each site afterwards.
Want to explore further?
Geneva Communicators Network: “The Geneva Communicators Network (GCN) provides a platform for communications professionals working in the Lake Geneva region to meet and share views, news and information. Currently there are over 1000 members from communications, public relations, media and marketing: FREE and open to anyone working in communications in the region” (LINK)
Lunch event. How do organisations make the leap from static publications content to dynamic content online? 8 December 2023 (LINK)
UNCTAD. UNCTAD Handbook of Statistics 2023. 14 December 2023. “An online version allows people to interact with the data, charts and graphs. By using “nowcasts”, the handbook provides data-driven real-time estimates of current developments. These can assist governments in anticipating shifts in trade and the economy before final official statistics are available.” (LINK)
UNCTAD. UNCTAD eWeek: More than 3,500 participants from 159 countries outlined actions needed to transform digital opportunities into shared and eco-friendly progress: digital infrastructure and skills, data governance, environmental sustainability, and environmental sustainability. 4-8 December. (LINK)
Glenn O’Neil of GCN and OWLRE. Communication evaluation: What ChaptGPT says and what it got wrong. 14 November 2023 (LINK): “It mixes up methods and measures and does not address one important aspect – assessing contribution/attribution of any results found. Also it fails to distinguish between the different levels of results, from output to outcomes to impact. AI has not yet eliminated us evaluators!”
ITC. ChatGPT and AI: What this means for small business. Article by Martin Labbé, International Trade Centre, 6 April 2023 (LINK):
“AI is being used in robotic milking systems in places such as Braz, Austria, to decide which cow should be milked when, with little supervision from the farmer. [A] tailor in Burundi […] is using ChatGPT to draft marketing materials like brochures and website content. What will happen to the three million workers in the Bangladeshi ready-made garment industry assembling $5 t-shirts, with a monthly $70 salary, when the current equipment is ready for renewal? In the Philippines, some of its 1.2 million business-process-management jobs – to a large extent customer care for global clients – could be replaced through robotic process automation. In Senegal, chatbots are being used instead of customer care operators as clients and investors alike want to reduce costs. Continuous learning, re- and upskilling will be essential for blue- and white-collar workers.”
Nusereal AI-news monitor (LINK)