Anticorruption Campaigns – A Multimedia Approach

Lawrence Ott, 13th IACC, Workshop contribution, Sustainability

Lawrence Ott, Director of Communications

Casals & Associates, Inc.

“Each year, over US$1 trillion is paid in bribes worldwide.”World Bank

“Investment in a relatively corruption country compared to an uncorrupt one can be as much as 20% more costly!” World Bank

“Nations that fight corruption and improve their rule of law could increase their national income by 400%.” UN Wire

When we at Casals & Associates became involved in anticorruption programming for the international donor community back in the early 1990s, most of the effort was focused on financial accountability and on the reform of government financial management systems to make them more integrated and more transparent.  When we looked at the issue initially, two sides to the problem of corruption began to emerge; we began to view the problems of corruption in a way similar to the way many had traditionally looked at economic growth.  That is supply and demand.  We saw that the supply side resided primarily with government and big business, where much of corruption was initiated. Along with others, we felt that we could tackle corruption by seeking changes in governance that included integrated financial management systems, improved and modernized accounting and the introduction of the Internet and other information systems into national and local government in what became E-government. 

All this was good and made for an excellent first step.  But what of existing attitudes toward corruption among the citizenry and the media? At the time we reasoned that if corruption continued to be viewed as business as usual among the public, community organizations and the media, changes in government structure, no matter how well intentioned, would and did repeatedly fail.  For long term success, we needed the support of the public, its community organizations and the local media.  What we came to call the demand side of the anticorruption equation.

If this approach is correct, and we believe it is, then how do you reach the citizenry and how do you make them aware of the insidiousness of corruption, its impact on a nation’s economy as well as the moral life of its citizens?  The answer is complex as societies are complex, and calls for a well planned “demand” strategy.  The goal becomes to create a new perception of corruption, one that exposes it in all its negativity for the individual and society.  This approach calls for a broad, long lasting, campaign to reach into and across individual societies.  The key component of this strategy is aPublic Awareness Campaign. This campaign must be targeted in terms of content, audience and goals. A shot gun approach is doomed to failure, especially considering the limited resources available to conduct these public outreach endeavors.

Today, you have heard from my three of my colleagues, all of whom have had extensive experience in the conduct of anticorruption public awareness campaigns across a wide range of countries and cultures.  They have covered most of the basics about the general how and why; the necessity of preliminary research, of an overall strategic plan, and a careful analysis of message content, the media and the audience, especially the segmentation of audience.  For the most part, national public awareness campaigns need the cooperation of many stakeholders with the same interests at heart and a sharing of financial resources toward a common goal.  And finally there must be some form of measurement to know if the effort is successful, and more importantly, to adjust future efforts to make the campaign even more effective. 

Any public awareness strategy needs to be a long term effort.  Individual campaigns can be shorter, but the longer the effort, the greater the possibility of success.  Generally, such campaigns work best when they reinforce or strengthen existing attitudes, rather than try to change existing attitudes.  Commercial advertising campaigns, from which public awareness campaigns are adopted, often call for the expenditures of tens or even hundreds of millions of Euros to increase market share by one or two percentage points. They are generally repeated over extended periods of time, measured in months and years, not weeks or days. Establishing a brand that covers all media becomes extremely important because it reinforces recognition and multiplies reach.

Now, we would like to turn this discussion over to those of you who are participating with us today here in Athens.  We would like you to leave our panel with some concrete ideas about how public awareness campaigns can be applied in your particular country, under the cultural, political and societal environments in which you and your organizations live and function.

Most efforts at anticorruption public outreach campaigns funded by governments, international donors and/or NGOs are most always woefully under funded.  The time frame of these campaigns is usually ineptly short, and even the messages they develop are often off mark.  Understanding the severe limitations that most public outreach campaigns face, let’s see if we can find and define some common denominators among those ideas we have shared here that will work for you.  Now, we would like to hear from you:  what is realistic, what is possible, and when is the best time to introduce a campaign.  What will work for you?

Before we begin the discussion, I would like to show a short video that gives a feel of anticorruption campaigns across cultures and time….

VIDEO (3:00)


docAnticorruption Campaigns – A Multimedia Approach

Brazil 2012

Brazil 2012

IACC Video

IACC Video