Let’s Show Ourselves! Polish-Norwegian Couples Speak about Communication
Nearly 100 local government officials from Poland and Norway met in Bergen on March 11th and 12th to talk about comprehensibility-securing techniques and efficiency in reaching out to local residents with information.

The meeting organised by our partner of many years – the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS) – was joined by representatives of the Ministry of Development Funds and Regional Policy, and of both embassies concerned. The event was held as part of the “Local Development” Programme.

Madeleine Nordengen of the WergelandApenes Public Relations Agency based in Oslo spoke of storytelling as an instrument of staying in touch with local residents. Nobody needed convincing that communication is a useful tool in achieving strategic, economic and political goals. We are daily confronted with dozens of advertisements, commercials and messages – carriers of information, ideas, and emotions. Good storytelling does more than tell the story: it should also inspire, educate, entertain and convince. It has its own structure, characters and goals – and, primarily, clearly identified recipients. A sound choice of properly arranged words is of key importance.

Ann-Kristin Loodtz, editor and manager of the press section at the Bergen Municipal Authority presented participants with rules of simple and direct communication. Since 2022 and the newly introduced Norwegian Language Law, public institutions in Norway are required to use clear and correct language, adapted to end-user capacities. Pursuant to the Norwegian Local Government Law, municipalities and counties are obliged to remain active in notifying recipients of their operations. “Conditions of optimum public access to municipal and county administration ought to be secured,” Ann-Kristin Loodtz said. “Good communication is based on comprehensible vocabulary, clear structure and transparent imagery, allowing recipients representing a specific target group to identify any information they need, comprehend it, and apply it in practice as required. In order to write well, one needs to get to know one’s recipients and see things from their vantage point. Sixty percent of information is read off such media as smartphones – which is why images, fonts and their size have to be accounted for as a priority”.

Our speaker’s Ten Textual Commandments have been listed below:

  1. Specify your main purpose/goal before proceeding to detail.
  2. Keep your structure clear and stick to the topic.
  3. Speak about one thing at a time. Use headlines. Avoid repetitions.
  4. Remember full stops.
  5. When writing, make your language active and vivid.
  6. Keep your phrasing friendly and comprehensible for the majority of potential recipients.
  7. Be clear about what you want the reader to do.
  8. Explain difficult words – or avoid them altogether.
  9. Avoid shortcuts and abbreviations.
  10. Always check what you have written.

On Communication Channels: Magnus Hoem Iversen of the University of Bergen, specialising i.a. in social media studies. Why social media? Because everybody is there.

Facebook continues to hold the lead among all social media.

According to Magnus Iversen, our media image differs from our perceived media image – we are not nearly as fascinating as we believe ourselves to be. Moreover, people do not necessarily know us as well as we believe they do. Others do not find our work as exciting as we might wish it to be; what we believe to be significant is not always significant to our recipients.

This is why it is our job to make whatever we do, write about and want to be noticed stand out from the slew of other news and messages generated by others. We have to bear in mind what we want to say as authors of specific messages – and what our recipients want to hear. How do we find people in the media jungle? How do we reach them? Here is what the Norwegian expert advises us to do:

  • Address your friends or acquaintances, or an imagined audience. Is what you are saying something you would appreciate yourself?
  • Write ABOUT PEOPLE, FOR PEOPLE. Do not turn into an advertising brochure for your work or project. Keep it short (or very long).
  • Write as if you would for a fourteen-year-old – or imagine that you are explaining something to a friend in a coffee shop.
  • Use photographs and film footage, with a focus on people.

When writing, it is worth our while to ask the following questions: What do I want to achieve? Can the piece be shorter, or more clear? Can I refer to emotions? If not, can I make my message useful or amusing? Can my piece be shared, “liked”, or “reacted to”? Did I give my recipients something to do? Is this a good moment to publish? What is the correct moment to come forward with the message or news?

The interesting social media presentation was summarised by a statement that regardless of how new technologies might be, human motives are old. As humans, we desire information, entertainment, knowledge of people and the surrounding world, self-expression, and showing our bonds with others – to others.

Professor Marija Slavkovik of the University of Bergen spoke vividly and dynamically of the current condition of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) development, of its advantages and potential practical use. Regrettably, A.I. carries certain threats and inaccuracies arising from the dominance of English-language data in the machine learning process.

On day two of the Bergen session, representatives of Polish and Norwegian local governments attended a workshop delivered by Association of Polish Cities strategic advisor Łukasz Dąbrówka and Sindre Hervig, communications co-ordinator for European Economic Area and Norway Funds. The workshop was designed to allow participants to design auteur concepts of presenting their own activities and projects, all of which reconfirmed how important it is to exchange experience and learn from one another. Owing to the above, local governments (as well as non-governmental organisations and local residents – during exchanges and study visits) can take advantage of the experience of others, making work organisation, public service quality, and ways of working and co-operating with assorted stakeholder groups visibly better.

Katarzyna Paczyńska

Hanna Leki