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Dialogues with Dexis | Combatting Disinformation: Knowing Your Audience

Combatting Disinformation: Knowing Your Audience

On November 9, 2021, Dexis partners and Moderator Vera Zakem shared tools and tactics for audience segmentation in complex environments to stem disinformation.

Disinformation – the intentional spread of falsehoods and half-truths – impacts countries and societies worldwide. Malign actors exploit the vulnerabilities, beliefs, and emotions of their targeted population to make content go viral.

In the second engagement of our three-part webinar series, expert panelists provide key insights from the fields of peacebuilding, behavior change communications, and social marketing to curate multifaceted solutions to the spread of disinformation by understanding your target population and audience.

Behavior Scientist and Head of Communication for Development at UNICEF Ghana, Anastasiya Nurzhynska, details a methodical approach for identifying the relevant messenger in contesting negative narratives around the Covid-19 vaccination roll-out in Ghana. Emphasizing the importance of rapid audience research methods and offline focus groups, Nurzhynska shares why context matters in choosing the right platforms to engage audience in vaccine uptake.

Countering disinformation in countries experiencing crises presents its own unique challenges, and Dexis’ Peace and Stabilization Advisor, Dereje Mengistu, aids our understanding by providing experiences from Dexis’ Promoting Religious and Ethnic Tolerances in Ethiopia (PRETE) program. Faced with political, religious, and ethnic diversity, Dereje shares the power that youth leaders have in their communities when equipped with tools to understand AI-fueled disinformation and the importance of student-university networks in raising awareness.

Will Elliott, Senior Account Executive at the Bravo Group, shares a private sector approach to ensure all partners, whether fact checking organizations in Bolivia or government clients, use data to inform their communication tactic. Will urges, “We’re only as good as our data,” urging organizations to prioritize communications channels used most often by their target audience.

The domestic or foreign actors behind disinformation campaigns know their target populations and have become incredibly adept in developing nuanced messaging that resonates with each audience. For organizations to successfully counter disinformation efforts, they need to equally master which populations to reach and how best to engage them.

Dialogues with Dexis brings together diverse practitioners in conflict prevention, stabilization, and global security to discuss emerging trends and new innovations.


Speaker Bios

Will Elliott, Senior Account Executive, Bravo Group

With a highly collaborative approach and a strategic communications background, Will builds strong relationships with client partners to solve their most complex challenges. Will has traveled nationally and internationally to develop and execute communications strategies on behalf of clients. Driven by curiosity and a desire to solve problems, his approach is highly collaborative as he helps clients find their authentic voice to drive progress. Prior to joining Bravo Group, Will was an award-winning broadcast photojournalist and documentarian. He attended Widener University, where he studied communications with a concentration in broadcasting.

Dereje Seyoum Mengistu, Peace and Stabilization Advisor, Dexis Consulting Group

Dereje Mengistu is a peace and security, governance, and development programming specialist with more than 10 years of experience working with several international organizations in Ethiopia. As Dexis Team Lead for the Promoting Religious and Ethnic Tolerance in Ethiopia program, he led activities to counter hate-speech with diverse youth populations. Before joining Dexis, Dereje worked as Stabilization Advisor for the Horn of Africa at the Royal Danish Embassy in Addis Ababa. Dereje has a Master’s in governance and development from the University of Antwerp.

Anastasiya Nurzhynska, M.Sc., Ph.D., Behavior Scientist, Head of Communication for Development Unit at UNICEF Ghana

Anastasiya Nurzhynska is a communication professional for social and behavior change with 15 years of experience directing campaigns and interventions for international organizations (e.g., EU, UNDP, UNICEF, British Council, World Bank), governments, and nonprofits in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Ghana, France, Kyrgyzstan, Kosovo, Moldova, Ukraine, Zambia. Anastasiya is a skilled university lecturer, trainer, and author of online courses and manuals on communication and behavior science. Anastasiya received an Executive Master’s in Behavioural Science from the London School of Economics, a PhD in Education of Communication Professionals from Borys Hrinchenko Kyiv University, and a Master’s in Legal Journalism from Odesa National Academy of Law.

Vera Zakem, CEO, Zakem Global Strategies

Vera Zakem is an accomplished leader, working with governments, industry, and nonprofit organizations to achieve impact at the intersection of technology, global policy, growth, democracy and human rights, and social impact. She is a recognized expert on disinformation and resilience, democracy and human rights, cybersecurity, corporate social responsibility, and responsible innovation in the U.S. and Europe. In addition to founding Zakem Global Strategies, Vera is also a Senior Technology and Policy Advisor at the Institute for Security and Technology. She is also a member of the Task Force to Strengthen Democracy and Counter Authoritarianism globally. Vera previously led strategy and research at Twitter, leading and scaling initiatives to serve the public conversation. Vera has been featured in the New York Times, BBC, CNN, Foreign Policy, War on the Rocks, NPR, Medium, and Working Mother Magazine. She has conducted a radio tour across 20 stations in America, educating listeners about how to identify and combat disinformation.