INVOLVING THE AUDIENCE IN CREATING THE PROGRAMME
You must have the target audience themselves involved in the production process. We had 45 minutes of broadcast and didn’t want to have a programme full of instructions. We wanted our programme to be entertaining and at the same time provide useful information in a format, language and approach that our target audience could relate to. So we always brainstormed with Syrian refugees on the ideas themselves and the content of the programme. The Syrian people invited to the brainstorm session on vaccination, automatically and instantly related to an old folk-song that had been broadcast on TV many years earlier, which was about being vaccinated. We integrated this into the video with animation, along with information provided to us by the UNHCR, which was very effective.
The findings from our initial research showed that refugees needed more practical information on how to access services and it was not enough to simply promote health, or education; and this is what lifeline is about. We needed to give the hotlines they can call, and to say where services are located and details on legal procedures. When there’s a crisis like this, the hotlines always change, the services and legal procedures change and there’s a risk that you produce material that a month later is irrelevant. How do you respond when the situation completely changes? So we got round the information being out of date in terms of how to do it, but gave the audience the key to finding out themselves. Instead of detailing the legal process of renewing a residency, we provided the number of GSO which they could call to get the most up to date information.
My lessons are you have to be responsive, flexible, you have to adapt to changing circumstances. Also, we always made sure the actors, scriptwriters and all the people involved were from the community itself.