Preparing and Budgeting for Communication: Key issues to take note
Budgeting involves a set of activities lined up in order to achieve a given task. During budgeting, it is necessary that one plans ahead so that the donor can anticipate challenges that can be met and that all the necessary resources are mobilised beforehand.
Literature states that for purposes of planning, firstly the organiser should collect all the relevant information that may be required in the study area. This may include study materials and necessary protocols to be followed. Secondly, the organiser should collect secondary data for the site including demography, cultural norms and other related studies either taking place or previously took place in the same site as these might affect the perception the community would have on your study. Lastly, current laws, policies and practices should be reviewed as these might pose challenges when undertaking the study.
The strengths and weaknesses of the team (internal) and other factors related to the site of interest (external) should be identified. The strengths and weaknesses of the team might include but not limited to its affiliation to other institutions, staff experience, knowledge of the local language and adequacy of resources. The strengths and weaknesses would give a rough estimate of how strong or weak the team is. Identifying the external factors would help assess the risk of controversy that might be posed by undertaking the study through misinterpretation. This threat could be alleviated by using multi-stakeholder approach. The organisers should take keen interest on other professionals who have previously worked in the area, issues to do with gender, political events and even attending to community functions as these help establish trust and credibility within the community.
It is stated that although sponsors undervalue the function of communicating the results of research to the participating community and other stakeholders, sponsors recommend that separate line items of communication and dissemination activities be included in the budget.
Good communication requires that a communications team from the site should be working together with the sponsors. The team should comprise of a variety of staff members reflecting expertise in science, communication and community engagement. Teams should be adaptable, manageable, involving technical support staff, have a clear leader and engage the community advisory board for their input.
It should be noted that all staff members have a role to play in communication and should therefore be prepared to answer question. This could be achieved by training the staff members through fact sheets, use of hat trick and stating the three main points of the study. It is important to bring all the members together before the study begins. During such a meeting, members may share lessons learnt from the environmental scan, share intelligence on institutional or political factors, determine basic processes for internal communication, identify staff resources and conduct some basic media training. This meeting could be followed by a site initiation meeting where an overview of the strategic communication of the team would be presented. All sites should have a clearly designated spokesperson provided with media training to respond to inquiries from officials, media, advocates and the general public in timely and respectful manner.
This paper is based on a collection of field information compiled for communicating clinical trials in ‘Communications Handbook for Clinical Trials’ (undated)