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Comprehensive communications support

© APRA Tanzania/MPOLI

Working in six focal countries (Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania and Zimbabwe), Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) aims to generate new evidence on pathways to agricultural commercialisation. Funded by the UK Foreign, Development & Commonwealth Office, the consortium is producing high-quality evidence and policy advice in areas of central importance in sub-Saharan Africa, such as women empowerment, reducing rural poverty and improving food and nutrition security.

WRENmedia has worked with APRA since the inception phase of the programme in late 2016, when Susanna was initially asked to provide support in drafting a policy-oriented communication and engagement strategy. Prior to this, WRENmedia provided communication services to a precursor of APRA, the Future Agricultures Consortium (FAC), for 5 years. In our work for FAC, we regularly worked with our correspondents to provide conference coverage and write stories from the field, related to the various FAC themes, including young people and agrifood, climate change and science technology, and innovation. We also provided communications training to research staff.

Since May 2017, WRENmedia has provided comprehensive communications support (1.5 days a week) to APRA’s Impact, Communications and Engagement (ICE) unit to revise the ICE and digital strategy, draft and design programme and country brochures, write policy briefs from longer papers and provide infographics for social media campaigns. WRENmedia is also responsible for working with teams on country level engagement strategies and organising sessions for annual review meetings.

During 2020 our support to APRA has included overseeing the editing and design of over 20 working papers and six policy briefs. The team also edited and published over 50 APRA blogs and wrote 20 news items. With the COVID pandemic proving to be such a major factor in APRA’s work on agricultural commercialisation, over 25 blogs focused on the impact of the pandemic on APRA’s study areas. In addition, WRENmedia edited and designed a synthesis report as well as seven individual country reports providing a rapid assessment on how COVID-19 has affected food systems and rural livelihoods in APRA countries. A new design and graphics were also produced for APRA’s new Accompanied Learning on Relevance and Effectiveness (ALRE) outputs.

Achieving significant social media impact

WRENmedia has supported the extensive social media promotion of all of these outputs, to encourage engagement with the research. Each month, we post between 30-50 tweets in addition to sharing (and re-tweeting) important news and developments from other organisations in agricultural research. This results in, on average, 60,000-70,000 impressions (the number of times a tweet has been seen) and between 150-250 new followers every month. A recent tweet publicising the APRA eDialogue series on ‘What Future for Small-Scale Farming?’ received almost 200,000 impressions through precise targeting, and with minimal advertising campaign costs.

The impact of social media as a ‘gateway’ to APRA programme outputs is significant – with 20% of all visits to the FAC website in November 2020 coming through social media. To ensure that APRA social media activities remain strategic and meet appropriate key performance indicators, we provide monthly social media analytic reports that use information from a variety of sources to provide a concise overview of activities, as well as recommendations for adjusting our social media approach in coming months.

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