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Congo Rings A Bell

June 12, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 170

I visit the UNHCR web site, as well as those of other aid agencies, and as a journalist I am always sad that (a) so many people in the world are still being turned into refugees, and (b) my profession, TV news, so seldom covers these humanitarian crises. Yes, we all know about the U.S. networks' dread of yet another tale of suffering from a far away land, and the fear that audiences will catch compassion fatigue and hit the remote control.

But when I recently read a UNHCR post, a bell rang. I knew it was time to set aside, at least for now, my sulking about TV news, and speak directly to the public agencies, NGOs, public-private partnerships, and others who work so hard to help those in need around the world. Here is the first sentence from the UNHCR article:

"Amid continuing instability and bursts of fighting in eastern Congo, civilians keep crossing into south-west Uganda and Rwanda, where the number of arrivals since late April has passed 10,000."

© UNHCR/S.Modola Congolese arrivals at the Nkamira transit centre in Rwanda.

Ten thousand people! There are many American towns smaller than that. And in some African refugee camps I have visited, more than 100 thousand displaced people were being looked after.

What if entire American towns were forced to flee, overnight, and sleep in the open in the next state, in the same conditions as those refugees from eastern Congo? It would actually make a great tv news feature for some enterprising American station, and their reporters wouldn't even have to travel to Africa. But that story will probably not be written or produced.

So, let me instead talk about what CAN be done by the NGOs THEMSELVES to better publicise humanitarian issues. It can be summed up in two words: Serial Storytelling, which are video webisodes in which a global social media audience can become emotionally connected to the personal ongoing stories of those otherwise nameless faces in news photos and video clips.

If you give a potential donor or supporter, in addition to articles, photos, and video clips, a real life drama to follow, you will give them a good reason to revisit your site. After all, with serial storytelling we become involved in their personal struggles for survival, the humanity, hopes, dreams, and needs that we all share. And we do not know what will happen to them in the next episode. It is real, raw, honest, and engaging.

Most NGOs and public aid and development agencies have put huge efforts into social web media, but they have seldom added serial storytelling. I have recently communicated with several agencies and NGOs, and the general consensus seems to be that 'yeah, something needs to be improved about our media outreach but we haven't gotten to grips with it just yet." One staffer with a well known NGO even told me they didn't need any help, pointing out that they produce videos that have won awards. But when I looked at their YouTube site I discovered they had mostly one off videos with hundreds of views, not the thousands they should have. Some of their videos were indeed worthy of awards. But they had no serial storytelling. And without serial storytelling, millions of social media users are unlikely to revisit those award winning videos.

This, I believe, does not reflect a bad attitude. It is just that so many agencies are overworked and they might be thinking that any diverting of attention to video storytelling might come at the expense of doing what they are there for: to help others. And most NGOs do not, for good budget reasons, staff high end storytellers.

So what can be done about that? Existing staffers can be trained in the basics of video storytelling, without curtailing their effectiveness as aid workers. NGOs can also commission freelance video storytellers. Be sure to check out their experience first. Also, aid groups can ask corporations to sponsor storytelling. The NGO gets top serial storytelling which will target social media users, the largest pool of donors on earth. And the sponsor gets screen credit, and the credibility of working with your agency.

I will be writing more on this subject.

Mike Lee turns your ideas, projects, dreams, or memories into compelling videos that motivate, inspire, and bond people together. Mike is a former ABC News global correspondent, is a freelance journalist and Social Networking Video Consultant. In the process of writing and performing thousands of TV scripts, I have found that a talented, experienced, and truthful critic is your best friend. Many new entrepreneurs seek advice mainly from family, friends, or colleagues. Nothing wrong with that, because it can often boost our morale. But those closest to us often distort the truth, for fear of hurting our feelings, or even, in the case of office rivals, a chance to derail our progress. I help you make the best online video possible, and to give you the impartial and reliable feedback of a media professional. And I know that criticism only works when delivered in a thoughtful, compassionate, and constructive way. My service is for those of you who want highly individualized guidance, and who want to keep your online videos, thus your commercial edge, confidential until published. Please find out more at

Source: EzineArticles
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