Making public policy issues sexy

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I spent Wednesday in a training session on communication strategies to promote government reform. In development jargon - "policy advocacy". You might think business environment issues like small business tax rates, construction permit simplification, and customs clearance procedures are so sexy that they sell themselves. As it turns out, they do not. Hence a concerted effort across the IFC to get better at explaining why this stuff matters - to politicians, the media, the business community, and the average citizen.

Much of the training was inspired by a recent presentation in DC from Bill Clinton's "image maker", Steve Rabinowitz. (Click here for a video transcript.) In a strange twist of fate, the master communicator himself turned up yesterday. Clinton is in Hanoi on the last leg of an HIV/AIDS trip to Asia and hosted a roundtable here in the hotel, so a few of us played hooky and snuck in. He stressed the importance of healthcare delivery systems on the ground, because "you can't just drop the medicine out of a plane".

Two good examples of communication campaigns: the South African Revenue Service (SARS) produced a line of comic books on tax compliance (click on cartoon lower left), and privatization rap songs proved surprisingly popular in Tanzania.

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