27 March 2014

Plan well for maps

Maps are a great way to illustrate an issue, yet they can be fraught with challenges.
Many advocacy and information campaigns use maps to get collaborators involved - reporting on stockouts of medicines, or incidents of violence, for example. Maps are very helpful for outbreaks of disease, or in cases of disaster. Animated maps might help you explore geo-specific trends.

But there are some key questions to consider before you start - like getting access to an accurate map and how much it will cost. There are plenty of disputed borders in the world and tracking those takes time and money, so map owners typically want to be paid. Free maps might carry branding or other limitations, though there are a bunch of useful free options available.

Once you have a map, you need to consider how to get reliable data and how you will keep the map going. Fundamentally, how does the map fit into your communication?

In a blog about mapping violence against women, advocacy specialist Dirk Slater of Fabriders explores options including the mapping tools Ushahidi and Crowdmap. Dirk also discusses some key issues that you should consider before spending time and money on your project:
  • How can mapping support your campaigns and missions - how will you use it, how will it be maintained?
  • Take security very seriously: consider how to get quality data but avoid identifying people where information is sensitive. This inclues verifying the people who provide information.
  • Consider the cultural relevance of maps: do your audiences use maps, and how do they read them? Do they expect street map view, or satellite view? Topographical or political?
  • Consider how the map will be used. Will it show off your data to good effect? Will it influence people? How does the map connect with your strategy? 
Dirk also provides links to some further resources: questions to ask yourself before deploying Ushahidi, cleaning data, how to use icons, and how to verify users.

See: What I’ve learned about mapping violence

26 March 2014

How to write a good advertisement

Many people hate advertising because it is irrelevant, shrill or poorly thought-through. Writing ads that attract, inform and motivate our audiences is an important skill, but it is nothing new. 

The TV series "Mad Men" celebrates the heady days of advertising in the 1960s, but modern advertising came of age much earlier. Vance Packard's book, "The Hidden Persuaders" (Amazon) explored how advertisers tap into human motivations and weaknesses. It was first published in 1957.

Even earlier, in 1942, Victor O. Schwab wrote the seminal work "How to write a good advertisement" (Amazon). Republished many times, the work is a classic of logic and commonsense. Fundamental lessons include focusing on the benefits to the buyer, not on the strengths of the company or even the features of the product or service.

Schwab was a very creative writer, as illustrated by this poem his book:

I see that you’ve spent quite a big wad of dough
To tell me the things you think I should know.
How your plant is so big, so fine, and so strong;
And your founder had whiskers so handsomely long.
So he started the business in old ’92!
How tremendously interesting that is… to you.
He built up the thing with the blood of his life?
(I’ll run home like mad, tell that to my wife!)

Your machinery’s modern and oh so complete;
Your “rep” is so flawless; your workers so neat.
Your motto is “Quality”… capital “Q” –
No wonder I’m tired of “Your” and of “You”!
So tell me quick and tell me true
(Or else, my love, to hell with you!)
Less – “how this product came to be”;
More – what the damn thing does for me!

Will it save me money or time or work;
Or hike up my pay with a welcome jerk?
What drudgery, worry, or loss will it cut?
Can it yank me out of a personal rut?

Perhaps it can make my appearance so swell
That my telephone calls will wear out the bell;
And thus it might win me a lot of fine friends –
(And one never knows where such a thing ends!)

I wonder how much it could do for my health?
Could it show me a way to acquire some wealth –
Better things for myself, for the kids and the wife,
Or how to quit work somewhat early in life?

So tell me quick and tell me true
(Or else, my love, to hell with you!)
Less – “how this product came to be”;
More – what the damn thing does for me!

Too much to read? Here's Jeff Waite reading out the passage:

18 March 2014

Books for development - Conference

WHEN: June 2nd - 4th 2014
WHERE: Jack Morton Auditorium, George Washington University, 805 21st Street, N.W., Washington, D. C. 20052

The Books for Development Conference is an international forum for all those interested in the role of books, both print and e-formats, in promoting economic and social development.
The conference will address intertwined challenges of publishing for underserved populations: content delivery and business models. It will bring together leaders in publishing, technology, distribution, library science and economics to answer questions such as:
  • How can we develop sustainable business models for publishers, booksellers and distributors serving the developing world?
  • How can we exploit the cost advantages of production and distribution of e-publications in geographic areas with limited electronic infrastructure?
  • What is the current role of government policy and regulation in promoting or inhibiting availability of books?
  • How can advances in technology and funding enhance the value of library services for underserved populations?
  • How can we support indigenous publishers?
Learn more and register at the official website: http://www.books4development.org/