How storytelling has opened up KDF to Kenyans

Recruits undergo physical exercises at Gusii stadium during Kisii Central Kenya Defense Forces recruitment. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

A few decades ago while growing up within the environs of military barracks in Nanyuki town I remember my deep admiration of the disciplined forces. The military formations in Nanyuki — the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF), the Army and Airforce as well as the British Army training units — have a special place in the hearts of the Nanyuki folk and beyond.

Many of my schoolmates, now in their 40s will recall our first visit to Nairobi aboard a military Buffalo plane with brimming nostalgia. The free rides were among activities that took place during the much-loved air force days at the Laikipia Airbase.

Of course, the visit to Nairobi would be aerial only as we never got to land. That, however, didn’t blunt the fun since the officers on board would proudly point out to us features such as Mt Kenya, the majestic KICC and Uhuru Park grounds before turning and heading back home.

Memories of my yesteryear encounter with the Kenya Defence Forces crept back this week as I pondered on how this important institution has come of age over the years. KDF has made efforts to make their communications more effective and responsive to their target audiences.

As a corporate communications practitioner, I am awed by the evolution of KDF from the closed institution it was in the 1980s and 1990s to what it has gradually metamorphosed into. The KDF we knew back then had hardly entertained public engagement.

Indeed, we viewed it as a stiff-necked institution averse to opening up to the public. Save for the Airforce Days that somehow ended in the mid-90s, community engagements weren’t publicised or highlighted as openly as they are currently.

Today, KDF is one of the most active public institutions even on Twitter and Facebook with constant updates. This will auger well with KDF’s image building if the men and women in uniform allow media interviews as part of their public communications.

KDF has just commenced its national recruitment exercise, and this time round, the public engagements feature contemporary storytelling approach. Storytelling is a crucial pillar, particularly in development and branding. It helps the audience relate to information being shared.

On their YouTube page, KDF has an exciting video documentary titled “A KDF Soldier”. The docu tells a relatable story on the current recruitment exercise. KDF has one of the most informative YouTube channels with professionally produced documentaries, but I digress.

The recruitment documentary takes the audience through the steps that recruits go through once picked for training. For those who grew up enjoying Police Academy VHS videos, this one evokes memories but refreshes the pride of KDF’s training and professional practices.

The video will make you appreciate the academic and related depth of KDF training with the Commandant and instructors’ teams explaining various phenomena including career development, marksmanship, drill and duty, fieldcraft and physical fitness lessons all which the recruits undertake to become professional soldiers.

Use of storytelling is an effective avenue for connecting and winning the trust of audiences. It is delivered in various forms including audio-visual media, print outputs, digital channels including websites and social media platforms and, of course, good old dramatised skits.

Storytelling should encompass use of familiar and understandable languages (including sheng where necessary) and audio-visual tools that present information with illustrations, images, infographics and videos. For organisations right across the entire spectrum of sectors, the time to adopt modern communication approaches such as storytelling and infographics is now. 


-The writer is a partner at Oxygène MCL. [email protected]