A SCOTS freelance PR consultant has just returned from Kenya, where she spent two weeks as a volunteer communications trainer, as part of a wider business leadership course.
Kelly Paterson took part in a training conference which focused on media management, in particular the challenge of persuading travel journalists that a bout of civil unrest had not made the country unsafe for tourists.
Though she herself did not have to handle the media regarding a series of killings in the wake of a disputed general election two years ago, many of those attending did, ranging from five-star safari lodges to local communities without electricity or mobile telephones.
She was attending the conference as a volunteer with the charity, Africa Matters.
Said Kelly: “The media obviously had the story of the post-election killings in the area I was in, Laikipia.
“The session I did focused on being able to communicate the area’s messages, including what exactly was the violence about – tribal conflict which has been going on for centuries, where exactly in the area the incidents occurred, if tourists were involved – no – and had it was finished – yes.
“The delegates simply did not have the training to communicate these messages, nor was there a point of contact in the region. We addressed the opportunities and the challenges that arise out of such media exposure of the area and how the different organisations can communicate with their staff, people, customers, media, neighbours, etc.
“We had a range of communication tools at our disposal: mobile phones – there’s actually a good signal, for the most part, internet – mainly dial-up connection, and some community lodges even have blogs.
“Some communities gather each day, say under a large tree, to discuss the news of the day. Newspapers remain in circulation for a few days and are often passed from community to community. Some also listen to radio. However, word of mouth is still the most trusted news source.”
She was one of ten Scots helping to present the conference, and took part at her own expense.
Africa Matters hope that they will be able to undertake two missions a year. The next course is being planned for early next year.