Read this! The Government of Tanzania at the forefront of public relations management…an in depth interview with Mindi Kasiga and Gerhard Butschi

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In a recent post I referred to the Tanzanian Government case which Mindi Kasiga and Gerhard Butschi presented at the Global Alliance’s recent World Public Relations Festival in Cape Town, as one of the two most inspiring and innovative presentations.

Without further ado (as my friend Strumpette would certainly say) I will now pass you on to a highly interesting interview I did with Mindi and Gerhard.
I am sure many other questions will come up and please feel free to comment, as I am sure both interviewees will be happy to answer.
Only one further note: take a good look at the digital management website where the pro.com software is explained in detail….what a great piece of hard and productive work!
Thank you Gerhard, and thank you Mindi for being so kind, professional and charming…and while you are at it, please take a look at the Tanzanian team in action (mindi and gerhard, professional public relators at work, what are you doing?).

QUESTION 1: Why was the President so committed to the Communication Initiative from the outset?

The Communication Initiative of the government of the United Republic of Tanzania started in 2002 during President Benjamin Mkapa’s second term in office (which lasted from 2000-2005). Pres Mkapa was determined to lead the war against corruption and to coordinate decision-making processes governed by professionalism, objectivity, integrity, impartiality, transparency and good governance. By this time, civil society and pressure groups had become aware of their role in educating and communicating to the public, and also providing criticism of the government when needed. Moreover, Tanzania’s multi-party system provided a platform for opposition parties to explain or dismiss government success stories. The overnight explosion of the media resulted in a situation where allegiance to the government was no longer a given. This was contrary to the media environment of the 1980s where two or three state owned print media ensured that government was portrayed in a positive light. In view of all these changes, Pres Mkapa was concerned that government’s success stories were not being heard. He was also concerned with the capacity in his office in the areas of information, communication and outreach. It was thus his commitment and tireless efforts that drove the initiative to increase and improve communication with the Tanzanian people.

By the end of Pres Mkapa’s second term (2005), the situation had deteriorated for the government. The new market driven economy (that replaced socialism) had transformed the Tanzanian society completely. Especially in the big cities, people became much less tolerant of government communication that only technocrats could understand because the packaging was too difficult to digest. During the early years of his first term (2005-2006), the current President, Jakaya Kikwete, committed himself to the Communication Initiative and promised to give it more prominence and support in order to make sure that it was sustained. This has resulted in every Ministry currently having communication units staffed by at least two professionals (who have received extensive training where necessary). Furthermore, most Heads of Communication now attend management meetings in their ministries, thereby participating in policy-making and implementation. A government communication forum attended by all communication specialists in the different Ministries and the Directorate of Communications (the latter situated in the President’s office) takes place every week, supported by teleconferencing when the need arises as well as informal daily interaction between the communication specialists.

QUESTION 2: How were the Cabinet Ministers convinced to cooperate in the effort?

At first it was very difficult to get Ministerial buy-in for the Communication Initiative. While a few were genuinely interested, high-ranking officials close to them were very sceptical. However, Government was committed to make Ministers more aware of the importance of communication. Therefore, in 2005, Pres Mkapa invited the South African Minister of State in the Office of the President, Hon. Essop Pahad, to address the Tanzanian Cabinet. A similar effort was undertaken in 2006 (during the current President’s term) whereby Minister Pahad was again invited to Tanzania to speak on the importance of Government Communication.
These efforts played a big role in convincing many Ministers that the Communication Initiative is indeed important. As political figures, the Ministers also understand the need to communicate different initiatives and policy implementation processes that are ongoing in their ministries as well as the danger of not communicating to the people.

QUESTION 3: How did the rest of the bureaucracy react?

The biggest challenge was not to convince the Ministers about the importance of communication but rather the bureaucrats and technocrats in the government — a battle that is still continuing today. Some of the deliberate efforts to make them aware were the following:
ü The high level meeting where former President Mkapa called all Permanent Secretaries, Regional Commissioners, District Officials, some Parliamentarians and a few Ministers together with Media people and articulated the need for government and the media to communicate to the people of Tanzania.
ü Another step was highlevel communication training that was tailor-made for Permanent Secretaries, Policy Directors, and departmental and ministerial spokespersons.
ü A process to establish a Government Communication Policy has also made many Permanent Secretaries aware of the Communication Initiative.
ü A study tours for senior government officials to South Africa and United Kingdom to study communication structures was another deliberate step to create awareness of the Communication Initiative.

QUESTION 4: What was the early Burson Marsteller audit about and what did it say?

This report was commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as part of their project with the Government of Tanzania to build communication capacity. The overall brief was ‘to enhance the capacity of the President’s office to enable more effective, accountable and transparent communication of the Government’s policies and activities, so as to encourage greater participation in the business of government by the citizens of Tanzania.’ The project focused on the communication capacity in the President’s Office and the entire government, and complements UNDP’s participatory Democracies Programme that has a major civic education component.

The report covered seven main areas and its recommendation for actions with regards to sustained enhancements in communications capacity were focused on the following: vision, policy, strategy, structure, mechanisms, training and equipment. The goals were that, five years after the recommendations in the report have been implemented, the following should inter alia have been achieved:
1. Vision: The Government provides timely information to the citizens; the enhanced communication is contributing to increased transparency; communication structures initially implemented at key ministries are adopted throughout government; and relations with the media has improved.
2. Policy: A government communications policy has been drafted and implemented in order to achieve the above-mentioned vision. The policy constitutes a series of operational guidelines and the authority for following them. (The report also outlined some of the needed requirements and statements for this policy).
3. Communication Strategy: For proper implementation of the above policy, a two-way communication strategy is needed which identifies messages, audiences and the means of getting the messages to and from the audiences. This requires a high degree of co-ordination across government departments. Also, messages need to be developed within a framework, in which each level of message respects the level above and informs the level below. This whole process needs to be undertaken in a systematic manner.

QUESTION 5: How did the UNDP help in selecting professionals?

The UNDP Deputy Resident representative to Tanzania at the time received the Burson Marsteller report and conceptualised the project for the government of Tanzania. After the appointment of the Director of Communications (which was part of the recommendations), the two of them worked on a concept that fitted government as well as UNDP structures. They agreed in principle that after the project has taken off (after five years), all structures and personnel needed would be absorbed by the government and communication will no longer be a UNDP project but rather a Government Communication Initiative.
Jobs descriptions were prepared and positions were advertised in local newspapers. Initial staff members recruited were the following:
ü Communications Officer with Media background (through UNDP)
ü Communications Officer with Marketing background (through UNDP)
ü Electronic Communications Officer (through the Government)
ü Communications Officer with Communication Arts (through UNDP)
ü Communications Officer with Political Science background (through the Government)
ü Director of Communications with International Relations background, also acting as Deputy Private Secretary to the President (through the government).

QUESTION 6: How were these professionals subsequently trained and by whom?

All staff went through training programmes right after they joined, with the exception of the Director that had to be trained before everybody else. Initial staff members also undertook several study tours to South Africa and the UK. One of the recommendations from the South Africa study tour of early 2003 was that Benita Steyn’s book on Corporate Communication Strategy be studied by all Tanzanian government communicators.
The first comprehensive joint training was conducted by Dr. Gerhard Bütschi from Switzerland in September 2003, and again in early 2004. Other training courses were conducted by the World Bank’s Training Institution DevComm, the University of Dar es Salaam, as well as private consultants from South Africa and the UK.
Once Digital Management’s software solution for strategy formulation, planning, implementation and evaluation of the public relations/government communication function had been acquired by the Tanzanian Government (sponsored by the World Bank), Benita Steyn (from South Africa) and Dr Gerhard Bütschi presented an intensive weeklong theoretical training course in strategic communication management and evaluation (attended by 47 government communication specialists). This course was preceded by a series of electronic briefings. Thereafter Tanzanian communication specialists participated in two phases of systems training on the software.

QUESTION 7: How do you distinguish ‘information’ from ‘dialogue’?

If one revisits the four historic PR models, information as a purpose of PR refers to the dissemination of information from organisations/government institutions to stakeholders (that is not based on research or strategic planning, and therefore does not presuppose previous knowledge of their concerns, needs or expectations). We therefore see it as a one-way approach to PR/communication characterised by the government’s ‘need to tell’ and, at its best, an effort to satisfy a stakeholder’s ‘need to know.’

Dialogue is the foundation of the 4th PR model, namely the two-way symmetrical/participatory approach to PR/government communication that has effects that benefit both the organisation/government institution and its stakeholders/citizens. We therefore see it as the ‘need to share views, expectations, and concerns in an effort to facilitate mutual understanding between government and stakeholders, based on dialogue (participatory communication) rather than monologue by government’. Government communication specialists serve as mediators between government and the stakeholders, interpreting them to each other, adjusting their relationship by using negotiation to bring about changes in the knowledge, attitudes and behavior of both the stakeholders and the government.

QUESTION 8: When and how did the software come in the picture?

After Government leaders realised that they needed a digital communication management solution to manage the complexities of two-way communication between State House/its Directorate of Communications and their stakeholders; 26 government Ministries and their stakeholders; as well as coordination between State House/the Directorate of Communications and the Ministries/departments/agencies/their communication units.

The international tender process started in October 2005 and was concluded in 2006 when Digital Management AG Switzerland was selected the preferred partner in the Communications Initiative.

QUESTION 9: Why is the software so important and which are its real benefits?

The software consists of an explanation mode (view) as well as a data entry mode.
• The explanation mode outlines the theoretical principles that underlie the software (most notably the strategic alignment of PR tasks/activities/plans/strategies to top level strategies and policy frameworks) and is thus an important self-help tool to fulfil the expressed need of building capacity amongst communication specialists in Tanzanian ministries/departments/ agencies as well as the Directorate of Communications situated in State House (President’s Office). It creates understanding of why the paradigm shift to participatory communication is necessary and thus serves as a motivator to discontinue outdated practices such as a focus on information dissemination. The explanation view provides descriptions of each step in the process as well as access to a glossary with over 600 terms, covering not only the PR/communication field but also related fields. The glossary thus standardises terms and puts all 50 communication specialists in the Tanzanian government on the same page (so to speak) in achieving common understanding of complex concepts.
• The comprehensive methodology of the data entry mode serves as a road map to lead government communication specialists along each step of the way in their efforts to digitize the government communication function, especially its new focus on managing stakeholders, issues and reputation risks, and evaluating the success of communication projects and campaigns. Each step is accompanied by ‘yellow pages’, providing information and tools and methodologies on ‘how to’ formulate strategy and complete the planning and evaluation templates provided. It is thus a learning tool, even in the data entry mode.
• Benefits for the Tanzanian communicators are that they become more effective. Strategic alignment between broad government policy frameworks and strategies, and communication strategy and plans is obtained, as well as an enhanced reputation for the government through issue and stakeholder management. They also become more efficient in that duplications and redundancies are avoided, virtual teamwork is optimized, budgeting and cost control is improved, and people, processes and funds are managed and reported. The efforts of 50 communication specialists in 26 Ministries and State House are coordinated, streamlined and synchronized with regards to strategies and communication activities, efficient use of resources (people, time and funds) is achieved and there is continuous improvement through organizational learning.

QUESTION 10: Is it not an excessive superstructure with many binding constraints?

No. As you will see above, the software enforces standard procedures and provides common understanding of complex concepts and processes in every ministry which is more of an advantage than a disadvantage. It fosters and enhances cross-ministerial collaboration and provides an information-sharing platform, available to all members of the government communication fraternity.

QUESTION 11: What led the World Bank to support the project?

The World Bank has been supporting Tanzania as a stable Government for many years. The software fulfils the aim they share with government leaders namely of guiding and entrenching participatory communication processes in State House and the 26 Ministries. That is, elevating communication practice from a technical focus on information dissemination and media relations to a strategic role in developing an overarching communication strategy that supports government policies and frameworks. Furthermore, implementing and evaluating communication projects and campaigns to ensure that the people of Tanzania has a voice in government, that their expectations are met as far as possible, and their concerns and needs are addressed.

that’s it, folks…

6 COMMENTS

  1. I am one of those who were not only impressed by the efforts by the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania, but left UK where I was working as an Information Officer with The Deprtment for Constitutional Affairs, in Her Majesty Courts Service, and decided to come home (Tanzania) to be part of the history being made by Tanzania Government.

    I have been working as a Communication Specialist in The Vice Presidents Office as Head of Information, Education and Communication Unit for the past one year. I must admit, despite my 17 years as a PR proffessional, I have never seen such a determination in PR/Communication specialists in believing in a process they think can and will bring changes and create a more better service delivery to the nation, as I have seen in the Tanzania Government Communication initiatives!

    Much as I left my beautful “home” in London, my family and my job, I do not regret. It is amazing how The Tanzania Government is serious in making sure this project is a success. I am proud to be part of this initiative.

    There are lessons to be learned by other Governments in Africa. The Tanzanian Government Communication initiative, is one of the best success story one can loud and learn a lot from it. The digital communication management software is something I can not forget to mention. It is something that has changed my proffessional way of looking at handling communications, and to mention just one feature in the software, all Government specilists can share good practices, be it a communication strategy or plan nd how as one big family, can learn from each other!

    I am proud to be part of this and I look forward in using the software and assist my Government achieve what has been identified as a major project in engaging Tanzania citizens in government decision making through communication/PR!

    Ambassador Kalaghe, the outgoing Director of Communication in The Presidents Office and the rest of his team, Kisare, Mindi, Asha and others, have been a blessing to the rest of the Government specialists in MDA’s. Our “tutors/proffessors” Dr. Butsch and Benita, has been very helpful to support all communication specialist in learning strategic communication as well as how we can use the software to deliver communication processes as may deem fit in our country.

    Innocent P. Mungy, MCIPR

  2. I am also one of those who are impressed with the Tanzanian Government’s efforts to effect a paradigm shift –moving away from information and publicity (media relations) as the purpose of government communication towards a two-way participatory communication approach with the Tanzanian people. I have been just as impressed with the government communication fraternity’s determi-nation and commitment in aligning themselves to this broad policy framework of government leaders, and their quest for knowledge on how to implement this change effectively and efficiently.

    However, when I saw Jim McNamara’s paper ‘The Fork in the Road’ on the website of the Institute for Public Relations (www.instituteforpr.com) last night, I couldn’t help but think of the Tanzanian ‘Communication Initiative’. This government took the ‘high road’ when they came to the ‘fork in the road’. It has been a textbook case so far: a top management pushing a two-way communication approach; building capacity amongst their communication specialists; empowering them with strategic communication and evaluation knowledge; and providing them with arguably the most sophisticated software tool for strategy formulation, planning, implementation and evaluation of the public relations/government communication function.

    In my view, the Tanzanian communication specialists have now also arrived at the ‘fork in the road’. And which road are you going to take—Kisare, Mindi, Asha? (Directorate of Communications, State House); Innocent? (Vice President’s Office); George, Job, Jumanne, Eva, Alex and all the others from the Ministries? Are you going to travel together with your government on the high road, enabling and supporting them in their quest for participatory communication? Or are you going to take the low road, followed by most, its turnoffs described by Jim McNamara as an unwillingness to measure outcomes; full of excuses on a lack of time to do formative and evaluation research; pleading a lack of knowledge and resources to do environmental scanning?

    Because you see, true ‘participatory’ communication will stand or fall on:
    · Environmental scanning and monitoring — assessing the climate and keeping track of what is going on out there; detecting trends before they become issues.
    · Public relations auditing and government reputation studies – identifying stakeholders and their concerns, expectations, values, norms and attitudes (before they become activists).
    · Social auditing — determining the effects of the government’s behaviour, policies and strategies on their stakeholders, and how the effects must be corrected.
    · Communication auditing — evaluating communication programmes and campaigns (developed to address identified problems, issues and risks), and assessing their success.

    Therefore, I challenge all of you who have already begun the journey on the high road to remain there, not to be sidetracked by short cuts that seem quicker and easier at first glance, but will make you loose direction so as not to arrive at the final destination at all.

    BS

  3. Benita,
    do not be too tough on our Tanzanian friends…what they have accomplished sofar is exceptional and of course it would be a great disappointment for all (and hopefully for their stakeholders..i.e. tanzanian citizens and their various bosses and interlcutors) if they failed to proceed along the ‘high road’ as Jim McNamara (please see our post in this blog dated october 2006 about his veyr relevant paper). Let me tell you what a highly popular usa bloggist, normally never tender with how we hype social media and conversation, privately wrote to me the other day commenting this post:

    “QUESTION 7: How do you distinguish ‘information’ from ‘dialogue’?”
    THAT’S IT!! A discussion of that is critically important obviously. But it is also key in understanding some of the flaws in the social-media paradigm, you know. I’d also ask: How do we know we are dialoguing with the right people? How do we best manage the asymmetric aspect of today’s Web dialogue. i.e. how do we discriminate what to listen to and what to filter out? Perhaps the foundation of the 5th PR model. Hugely important stuff, Toni. Thank you for sharing.

    This instead is me again…
    °I am obsessed by the idea that to be an effective professional the first thing we must learn to do is how to identify ‘the right people’ to dialogue with. It seems so obvious, so easy, so simple….but the more one thinks about it the more one realizes this is truly our biggest challenge…not only…but also the one we have fewer intelligent, innovative and updated tools at our disposal. I believe we really have to discuss about this in depth and at length..there is no easy fix.. does someone wish to open this discussion on this blog? If so, if you already have access please do so, if not please send me your post at tonimuzi@tin.it and I will post it for you and I promise I will be the first commenter…

    ° I will skip over the asymmetric bit about social media dialogue, although I do recognise it is an issue in itself. However to be fair as much as I agree that there is asymmetry in social media dialogue, as long as we do not hype it too much, it is certainly more symmetric than elsewhere, except and not always for face to face…

    ° but I do want to comment on the third point ny friend makes when he writes: how do we discriminate what to listen to and what to filter out?
    The issue of discrimination of content, but even more importantly of certain stakeholders to whom we decide not to listen to, raises another can of worms about which we think little and talk none amongst ourselves…No? Can we also open a discussion on this issue? Any volunteers???

  4. Toni: Please don’t get me wrong. I have the greatest admiration for what the Tanzanians have accomplished so far. I did not mean to be negative—rather, I wanted to point out the pitfalls on the ‘high’ road. It was a plea for ‘please don’t do what so many others are doing.’ (This is the lecturer in me). After I read your post, I immediately sent them a communication explaining what I meant. But if any of them is reading this, they are welcome to come and box my ears in public (or in private).

    The ‘high and low road’ scenario is actually my own addition to Jim McNamara’s article. This was a phrase coined by Clem Sunter, a well-known corporate figure in South Africa who made many speeches all over the place before the ANC became the ruling party in 1994–spelling out the high road and the low road scenario and the consequences of the wrong choice for South Africa.

    I am as obsessed as you are about the most important thing in being an effective public relations professional is to identify ‘the right people’ to dialogue with. I want to add to that ‘and to listen carefully so that we know what the dialogue should be about’. Sometimes, by listening and finding out what to talk about, we will be led to the right people to talk to.

    That is why my post above named environmental scanning (by whichever means), PR auditing (identifying stakeholders) and government reputation studies, as well as social auditing BEFORE talking about communication audits. Although Jim’s article was mostly about evaluation research (and I agree there is a problem with that not being done), to me that is not where it starts. That is not the most important research that PR people should be doing. If we don’t select the right people to talk to and if we don’t select the right things to talk about (and sometimes find the right people to talk to in this process), it doesn’t actually matter much whether the messages got through or how they were received. To me the strategic role of public relations evolves around ‘listening’, with the aim of selecting the ‘right people to talk to’ and/or selecting the ‘right things to talk about’.

    BS

  5. Could you please send me the Tanzania communication initiative (2002) document! please I am interested to see the content

  6. I have a hard copy of an older version of this document, it was due for a review August this year. I will inquire to see how far is the process and if it is done I will post it here.
    Mindi Kasiga.

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