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“Jo baat tujh mein hai, woh teri tasveer me nahi…”

Manoj Rai, Director, writes about how communicating communications was a significant part of the Learning Week held in April 2016.

Jo baat tujh mein hai, woh teri tasveer me nahi…” [There is something special about you; I cannot see it in your picture], sang Mohd. Rafi in the film Taj Mahal. Well-known lyricist  Sahir Ludhianvi penned the lyrics which won the Filmfare Award for  Best Lyrics in 1963.

I recalled these words as I sat in the photography workshop organized as part of the PRIA Learning Week, held between 4 and 9 April 2016. The photography and videography workshop was part of a day-long skill building investment; the other skills we built were on writing for web communications and inter-personal skills.   

The resource persons for all the workshops emphasized some common principles:
1. Think about the ‘whom’, ‘what’, ‘why’, ‘how’ and ‘when’ of communication and follow your thoughts and actions seriously.
2. Your communication is as important as the actions you plan and implement in the field. 
3. Use both modern and traditional tools to communicate rationally and effectively.

PRIA colleagues eloquently elaborated upon the reasons for, rationale and methods of communication. They talked about the importance of arranging content as per the needs and interests of the target audience. Many programme staff commented: 'delayed communication is no communication’, ‘communication is most important and all available options for communications should be explored’, and ‘there must be a thoughtful plan about communication before organizing any event’. This surprised the resource persons. Our understanding of the need and importance of communication seems unparalled; yet why were programme staff reluctant to write about and take good photographs of their work?

In the field, PRIA events are a great success, bringing forth all-round congratulations and compliments. Participants find PRIA programmes enriching and very useful. When programme colleagues verbally share information about these events and their projects, the communication team listens attentively. Their interest piqued, they even ask a few questions. They why is it they show such disinterest in the photographs sent in by programme staff? Why does our website not sparkle with photographs which speak a thousand words?

Audio-visual communication has always been challenging within PRIA. And it is to bridge this learning gap that we organized the photography and videography workshop for programme staff in our Learning Week. PRIA’s programmatic documents, manuals, policy briefs and research reports are widely cited and well received. PRIA’s training programmes and trainers are sought after by NGOs, government, academic institutions and corporates. But PRIA’s audio-visual content does not communicate even 10% of our work. The echo of our words and writings gets lost in this world of high-decibel visual media.

The problem we were told is because we do not think smart, review rationally and strategically visualize our target audience when it comes to communicating with pictures. We hoped the resource persons would address this issue, and they sure did. They elaborated on the basic principles of taking photographs through a life lesson: Too much and too less is risky; too much of anything is bad. That is why, when taking a photograph, use of strong flash on a flex banner reflects light and the photo becomes unusable. In our Training of Trainers (ToT) programme, PRIA trains others on how to modulate voice, control speed of dialogue and review reactions of the audience. We now learnt how to ‘modulate’ apertures and adjust shutter speed while clicking photographs. The importance of planning for photographs as part of event planning and reviewing photographs before sending them to the communications team was also emphasized.

We realized the power of photographs to communicate what words cannot. We learnt to write from our hearts, to  “string a necklace” with our words. There was a sense of positivity. It was heartening to listen to my colleagues: “We must take communication seriously.” “We must use our hearts and minds in taking photographs and writing.”

And at the end of the day, our communications team was smiling and humming. Perhaps what they had wanted for a long time would finally arrive in their inboxes. The message for communication had been communicated effectively…

Photo: Collaborate by Brenderous, licensed for reuse under this  Creative Commons Licence

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