Conference materials and outputs
Coalitions can produce a wide array of materials. From brochures and posters to t-shirts and badges, to statements and press releases, promotional materials are a key element of a coalition’s communications work at the national, regional and international level.
A single conference can produce outputs across the following areas:
There can be significant benefits to having members undertake substantive research, rather than the coalition itself. Sign-off for research findings can be difficult across a coalition and getting individual members to undertake this work helps to embed the issue within their own institution. A greater breadth of engagement is displayed when a range of members bring their own reports for distribution at meetings
At a conference, the coalition will likely draft a number of statements for delivery or distribution. Those who are asked to speak on behalf of the coalition should be able to write their own statements, even if they seek input from the steering group. It is also important to have diversity in who is giving statements, always ensuring that speakers have credibility or expertise.
Briefing documents should be accessible materials that summarise the problem under consideration and make recommendations for how to address it. These include one- or two-page briefing papers, more detailed policy or position papers, factsheets with tables of data that can be aimed at campaigners and government officials. It is important to communicate clearly to campaigners when a particular document is internal and not to be shared with government officials. Including the words ‘not for reproduction without author’s consent’ at the top of the document should limit problems if it goes beyond the coalition’s membership.
The use of film and photography can be a highly effective way of communicating the diversity of a problem and the diversity of a campaign to a range of different audiences. Images can be powerful without translation and often resonate with people from widely divergent social and cultural backgrounds.
A range of coalition materials tend to be produced for media engagements: this can include a written press release, a video news release, fact sheets and
‘frequently asked questions’-type documents, high resolution photographic images, and B-roll (unedited video footage available for use by broadcast journalists). Coalitions will also provide speakers at press conferences, either jointly with governments and international organisations or simply as the coalition. Production of media documents can be a tense affair in coalitions. It is important to balance the brands of the big member organisations and the egos of the key players to highlight the diversity of the coalition and to have the strongest and most credible, quotable, voices possible.
The coalition will often contribute to and take responsibility for coordinating NGO ’side events‘ during a meeting. There may be one or more coalition- organised side events where the coalition sets out its key messages. Members of the coalition might be invited to participate as panelists on other side events and if so it’s important to be clear about whether they are speaking on behalf of the coalition or their own NGO or both. Coalitions often schedule evening events in addition to events during the day. These can be more relaxed and a good chance for coalition participants to build a sense of collective identity. Very importantly for a coalition, evening events can offer outlets for people with different cultural and social backgrounds to express themselves and try to unwind when meetings are getting tense.
“The work involved in being part of a coalition should not be underestimated, it can be very difficult indeed. But the potential rewards in terms of he collective impact are worth the investment. Coalitions can have a greater credibility, greater visibility and greater impact than any one organisation working my itself.”
Anna Macdonald, Oxfam
MATERIALS: WHAT SHOULD WE MAKE?
At different times during the lifecycle of a coalition there may be widely differing expectations, funding and capacity to produce materials. During the early stages, a single leaflet or policy brief may be sufficient. For the Dublin Diplomatic Conference in May 2008, the CMC produced the following materials:
- 24-page CMC participants handbook with map of Dublin
- 27-page CMC policy papers with analysis on 13 negotiating topics
- 32-page CMC lobbying guide explaining how people should undertake their lobbying
- Boards with movable flags that were placed according to countries’ negotiating stance on three key issues
- Various exhibitions provided by CMC members and exhibited at the conference venue
- A professional multimedia exhibition exhibited at the Dublin Gallery of Photography
- Waterproof jackets
Guides to campaigning and advocacy will stress the importance of developing a strategy before printing your t-shirts and it is important to have a well-thought out reason for each item you are producing. Branded materials can help to build a sense of collective identity during a major negotiation. Of course it is also possible to get by with basic materials that communicate the key messages simply and clearly. It’s important to tailor your materials to the circumstances you are facing , the audience you are trying to influence and the stage you are at in the campaign.