Communicating the triumphs and tragedies of the unfolding story of man’s ability to destroy or preserve his environment is perhaps the most important journalistic endeavor of our times.
Rosemary Martin
(Director – Reuters Foundation)

I still remember a Sprite ad campaign that came out during my high school days back in the 90’s. The slogan read “Image is nothing, thirst is everything. Obey your thirst” The irony in that slogan was that image was everything in pulling that marketing campaign off.

Image is still everything in business, industry and culture today. But with enhanced user accessibility to information through break-throughs in information and communication technology (ICT), the battle to be heard and seen has reached a whole new level. From the  local supermarket ‘s “Clearance Sale” flyer to massive presidential campaigns, their sales pitch is driven by carefully manipulated image with the aim to reach many and achieve the desired results.

In essence everybody is selling something. It may be a product, a service, an agenda or perhaps even an idea. But strip away all demographic boundaries and preferential alliances and you are left with one target that they are all pitching to. The public eye.

Most non-government organisations (NGO), faith based organisations (FBO), civil societies and other similar organisations and associations have however been more modest in their public relations drive. Perhaps it’s due to the absence of a profit motive in their target goals. Or perhaps ‘awareness’ is a less brutal a term compared to ‘marketing’. Then again there’s also the glaring reality of financial constraints and budgetary requirements from their various benefactors.

However, in contrast to profit-driven ventures, these non-profit making bodies are selling something of a much higher calling. They sell something of more significance than mere acidic beverages which in the long run may actually be detrimental to one’s health and wellbeing anyway.

These organisations and their respective community based organisations (CBO) out there actually live and deal with the common people on the ground. They promote improved livelihoods through effective and sustainable developmental initiatives. They encourage gender equality by working with communities and churches to empower women with knowledge and skill to overcome barriers and allow them to go into business enterprises. They fight for the rights of the little people who cannot stand up against the tyranny of corporate greed and corruption. They raise awareness to critical issues of both local and global significance. In effect, these entities actually get results and get to see turnarounds from their efforts.

It is therefore imperative that NGOs get in on the act to further promote their work and what they stand for to the public. These organisations need more work in their image and branding department to get more recognition so that they can be just as noticeable as their international counterparts like Greenpeace and that big Panda. They have to make themselves and the message they proclaim relevant to all and sundry. They need to rethink, re-evaluate and re-strategise how they are portrayed to the general populace in order to garner more support, promote participation and raise the profile to  pressing issues like Climate Change, HIV/AIDS, TB, Corruption and Law & Order to name a few.

To effectively do this all communication and information disseminating tools available at their disposal should be fully utilized. This includes the more traditional means like posters, brochures, newsletters, banners, radio and television spots as well as internet technology; a tool that is far-reaching and more readily available today to Papua New Guineans than 5 years ago.

To be or not to be seen is definitely not the question to ponder on today. Rather what can be done to be seen and heard – and effectively – should be the thought for consideration.

...End...

Nichson Piakal
Partners in Conservation.

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