Information is a highly valued commodity during emergencies and communication is an important element of it. Communication facilitates hygiene promotion (HP) through active listening, information exchange and guidance and advice to target audiences, enabling them to develop positive hygiene behaviours and practices. Communicators need strategies and tactics to create effective messages which motivate the target audience to protect families, communities and nations in an emergency.
Diverse Communication Skills C.2 are needed to create and deliver key messages and to build trust with the communities. Identifying different target audiences is important for tailor-made communication to ensure inclusivity and a high degree of participation and ownership C.3.
Hygiene information can be communicated in different ways. Participatory communication C.4 is based on dialogue, involvement and interaction; it aims to understand the perspective of the affected community and tailor interventions to their specific situation. It can also encourage communities to play an active and influential role in decisions that affect their lives. Mass communication C.5 allows for the dissemination of information and key messages to large numbers of people rapidly and cost-effectively. No single method is guaranteed to be effective however; a mix of different methods tailored to different target groups C.3 is advisable.
Constantly Monitoring M.2 and Evaluating M.3 the effectiveness of communication strategies, listening to and involving the affected community are vital elements of communication. Systematically collecting community perspectives, concerns, reactions and rumours is essential to improve and adapt the response C.6.
Effective communication takes language and cultural factors into account C.7. Information should be simple, clear, consistent in its meaning and responsive to audiences’ needs. The content should respect and acknowledge cultural differences and context through the use of appropriate language. Remote communication strategies may be required C.8 if access to the target population is reduced due, for example, to safety and security concerns.
Risk Communication and Community Engagement C.9 is a response-wide strategy, often used in disease outbreaks. It aims to provide critical information to the affected community on how to stay safe and what actions they can take in response to the crisis.
An effective Communication Plan C.10 assesses the needs of the target audience, selects appropriate hygiene messages, defines objectives, identifies appropriate communication methods and channels, prepares communication materials and communicates the messages in a timely and effective manner. It provides a sequenced framework for action, describes the content of the communication, how it will be communicated, through which media and to whom. Planning also identifies the available or required resources, helps to define roles and responsibilities and assigns financial and staffing resources.