Health With a Capital H
The Road to Health Communication: A Two-Way Street
October 20, 2011
Contributed by Shelley Caplan, Director
You’ve produced a new video as part of a campaign addressing an important health issue. You’ve poured your blood, sweat, and tears into every detail: gone through rounds and rounds of revisions during the past several months, made certain the script adheres to the science, checked spelling, grammar, and punctuation in the captioning. At long last, you are ready to launch the video online. All requirements have been met. But have they?
Ever wonder what really happens once a new health education product is “out there” in the public? Will the intended audience truly find it useful or will something in your new product fail to resonate with the people you are trying to reach? Will people even know the video exists? If people do find it useful, will they like it enough to share it with others on YouTube or in their flurry of Facebook updates every day?
Iterative Audience Research
The practice of gathering audience feedback—directly from your target demographic—at iterative stages of product development is known as Iterative Audience Research. From the earliest stages of brainstorming to applying the final touches, to determining the most effective communications channels, audience research ensures that the final product is “relatable” and increases its chances for success.
For example, IQ Solutions explores teen-oriented marketing materials and public awareness campaigns we are developing for the National Institutes of Health with a diverse group of teens each month.
Our Teen Advisory Group (TAG)* is comprised of teens of different ages, ethnicities, and locations across the country. They share their attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions surrounding the issues we are tackling, and how they might see themselves using the end products. Oftentimes, the insights gleaned from TAG are subtle yet significant.
For example, see the two illustrations below, created for an initiative to educate teens on the dangers of abusing prescription drugs like OxyContin or Adderall. In general, teens thought this series of images was “cool.” However, they thought the statistic was too long. Teens suggested using a different term than “non-medically” and removing the phrase “in other words” because, to them, “it isn’t catchy.”
Most teens preferred the image on the left with the girl in the crowd because it shows that the person abusing prescription drugs could be in one of their social groups, and, prescription drugs are easily accessible (in a medicine cabinet at home, for example). Teens said that the image on the right makes it seem like the person abusing prescription drugs is an outsider, and that is not the case in their schools.
Using this feedback, we refined the materials. We felt confident that—while there are no guarantees—this important message had a better chance of reaching teens.
We’d like to hear about experiences with iterative audience research. Do you test your health education products with their intended audiences—before, during, and after development? Is it worth the extra effort? Let us know in comments.