Event Reports

Prayers, Campaign Songs and Lots of Applause

by Markus Brauckmann

The E-lection Bridge Africa West in Ghana

A quiet prayer to begin with, in the middle fiery campaign songs and at the end cheerful applause for the speaker: the KAS Media Africa workshop titled, ‘Media Training and Strategy: How to reach the voter’, reflected the colourful diversity of political communication in the West African country of Ghana. The seminar for members of the democratic opposition took place under the umbrella of E-lection Bridge Africa on 6. and 7. February 2012 in Accra, in close cooperation with the local KAS country programme.

The event marked the seamless continuation of last year’s successful collaboration between KAS Ghana and KAS Media Africa. In order to once again meet the exact needs of the national partner party, the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Country Representative Dr. Gregor Ryssel painstakingly identified the suitable target group of regional political communicators. Accordingly, invitations went out to around 20 carefully selected participants from the ‘Central Africa’ region. KAS Media Africa designed the program together with the American campaign expert, Heather Thuynsma. Thuynsma, who has gathered first-rate experience in several American and international campaigns, aimed to demonstrate how political actors can reach the people as well as the media. In an age in which communication has a lasting effect on political messages and strategies, this aim proved to be particularly useful for the participants.

The trainer structured the workshop in an efficient building block system. After a basic introduction to the subject under the headings, ‘How do we reach other people?’ and ‘What do we actually want to say?’ she dealt with the following key topics in detail: target group, precise speech, and, finally, the desired maximum effect of media appearances. “Let me give an example,” explained the former team member of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, “if you want to reach a target group of fishermen in a harbour town, you should choose another approach than with young first-time voters in an urban area since these groups pursue different interests.”

As homework, the participants were to develop a short stump speech. This short campaign speech serves as a blue-print for candidates’ and politicians’ public appearances, which they can then vary slightly depending on the place and audience. Thuynsma: “We can view this as a robust basis for many forms of political communication.” The next day the regional experts found themselves in front of a compact video camera. Each speech was explicitly reviewed and criticized by both Heather Thuynsma and Markus Brauckmann (KAS Media Africa). According to Brauckmann, “The dedication and motivation of the entire group impressed us a lot.” The biggest challenges to come out of this practical exercise were the length of the speech, setting the main focus and staying on message.

In the final evaluations, the participants emphasized the relevance of the seminar. They planned to put what they learned immediately into practice, “whether on the street corner or at a campaign event.” In particular, they realized that not only are the words themselves important, but also how the message is packaged with personal and visual elements. After the workshop’s success, the KAS Country Program Ghana and the regional media program Sub-Sahara Africa are already thinking about a sequel later this year. “I am optimistic that we will continue along this path,” said Dr. Gregor Ryssel.

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Contact Person

Christoph Plate

Christoph Plate bild

Director Media Programme Subsahara Africa

christoph.plate@kas.de +27 11 214 29 00 +27 11 214 2913
Participants from Ghana's NPP Party at the Voter Communication Workshop v_2