How Farm Radio’s VOICE standards can help you design audio content for Talking Books

Well-crafted audio content can increase the likelihood of knowledge retention and the adoption of healthy behaviors. So how do you develop effective content to ensure great results? Fidelis Da-Uri, senior content manager at Literacy Bridge Ghana, is an expert on the topic, with over eight years of experience designing Talking Book content for organizations like UNICEF and CARE. We asked what advice he would give someone who wants to create audio content.

“Farm Radio’s VOICE standards are great place to start,” he says.

Farm Radio International is a Canadian-based, nonprofit organization that works with radio broadcasters throughout Africa to fight poverty and food insecurity. Da-Uri attended classes with Farm Radio and applies the principles he learned when he sits down to develop content outlines and scripts.

Here’s how Da-Uri applies Farm Radio’s VOICE standards to Talking Books:  

V: Value and respect your audience, both women and men

“Do not view your audience as people who are illiterate and know nothing. It’s important to respect their lives and work, and the issues and barriers they face,” says Da-Uri. “These ignorant people you need to enlighten. They’re busy, hard-working people who need access to information in a language they can understand in a format that’s informative and engaging.”

O: Opportunity to speak and be heard

“Communication should not be a one-way event. Give people an opportunity to share their feedback on what you are telling them. They are experts on their own experience, and their feedback will help you improve your messages to meet program goals,” says Da-Uri. 

The Talking Book has a built-in microphone that allows listeners to record their questions, comments, and ideas. In addition to listening Talking Book user feedback, Da-Uri and the LBG team also conduct stakeholder meetings and help facilitate community dialogue, debate, and problem-solving around the issues that Talking Book programs address.

Learn how user feedback helped improve UNICEF Ghana’s content

Fidelis Da-Uri records audio content for the Talking Book. When designing messages, he applies Farm Radio International's VOICE standard.

Fidelis Da-Uri records a Talking Book message. When designing audio content, he applies Farm Radio’s VOICE standards.

I: Information

“Give people relevant information when they need it. You should not be discussing issues on post-harvest losses when farmers are clearing their lands,” Da-Uri advises. “For example, if your program is focused on education, you may want to remind parents that it’s time to start saving for school fees or to register their child for kindergarten. In the communities where we work in the Upper West Region, we update Talking Books during the rainy season with messages on malaria and importance of using bed nets.”

Most Talking Book programs update audio content on a quarterly basis. This allows Amplio’s partners and affiliates like LBG to create and share messages that are seasonally relevant, whether it’s information on health, education, or farming. Talking Books also can be updated in response to emerging issues. During a polio outbreak in northern Ghana, LBG was able to deploy information on the importance of vaccines and vaccine schedules.

Currently, LBG is partnering with Ghana Health Services, Amplio, and UNICEF on Talking Book COVID-19 awareness campaign. The project launched in April, and LBG continues to update Talking Book content in response to community feedback and the evolving situation. Recent updates include messages on government protocols, social stigma, domestic violence, and more. 

C: Consistency and convenience

“Research your topic area and collaborate with stakeholders like government departments to ensure accuracy and consistency. Remember, you will lose most of your audience if they know your messages are not consistent. Whereas, you build trust and engagement if messaging is consistent,” Da-Uri says.

“Convenience is also important. Even if people have radios, they may not be able access information when they need it. With the Talking Book, people can listen to messages in their local language on demand. At community health posts, nurses play Talking Book messages during antenatal care (ANC) visits and child welfare clinics. So families can listen while they’re waiting to be seen. Also, sometimes health workers don’t speak the local language well enough to explain key concepts, so the Talking Book helps.”

In Kenya, USAID’s Afya Timiza program used Talking Book to support community health volunteers. CHVs who used Talking Books to share consistent messages reported an increase in the level of community trust and engagement. As a result, community health centers saw a 110% increase in ANC visits.

E: Entertaining and memorable

“Including a variety of formats, such as dramas and songs, appeals to the interests and tastes of a wide range of listeners. Content creators should develop messages that are clear, believable, appealing, and persuasive and test their messages with the target audience,” Da-Uri says.

Da-Uri says interviews and songs are the most popular message formats in the communities where LBG works. A skilled xylophone percussionist, Da-Uri often composes music to use for Talking Book content. He’s not the only one. “Communities also have been inspired to record their own Talking Book songs in response to new information and ideas.”

Check out Farm Radio

Farm Radio’s VOICE standards are designed to help broadcasters create radio programming for farmers, but the standards can be applied to other channels and sectors. See VOICE standards to improve your farmer program to access a checklist of indicators with examples of program content and presentation. To learn about Farm Radio and how to sign up for their training programs, visit their website 

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