Pretesting is a way to ensure that once you begin using your materials, they will have the desired impact that your team so carefully thought through.

Generally, communications committees review and revise materials as they are being developed to ensure they are technically correct and audience-appropriate. Pretesting refers to engaging primary and secondary audiences to give feedback on a particular communications product by using focus groups and group-guided discussions.

These are some product elements that will benefit from pretesting:

Print Audio Video


Raw text

Revised text


Text and illustrations (posters, booklets)


Key concepts and phrases
Imagery and story lines
Story board
Rough cut of video


While focus groups and group-guided discussions remain the primary method for pretesting, one-on-one in-depth interviews are also helpful. The general rule of thumb is that each piece of material should be pretested and revised at least once.

A Few Tips

1) Don't try to test for what people like. Your pretesting process will be endless if you try to accommodate everybody's preferences. Pretesting should measure whether the knowledge, perceptions or feelings you wish to evoke through materials have been met. It will be important to clarify the parameters of pretesting with all stakeholders before you begin so that expectations are clear.

2) Agree on a format and general approach, and then have two or three separate groups/individuals conduct tests. (Afterwards, you will compare results in order to establish how to improve the material.)

3) Make sure you include members of the target audience – both primary and secondary participants – but do not combine the categories. Make the groups as similar as possible (e.g. do not put husbands and wives in the same group). Keep the groups as small as possible (average 8-10 people).

4) Keep questions open ended, and probe for responses. You may well have respondents say that they don't know and want you to tell them the answer. Give them time to think, and to hold the material. Do not provide any answers or ask suggestive questions. Instead promote dialogue and encourage them to share their views.

5) Test the phrases (words, text) separately from the pictures. Each should be tested alone, revised, and then put together into a complete artifact. Be sure to take good notes throughout so you have a reference. Keep in mind the literacy levels of your target audience.


Learn more

Explore the other two learning modules in this 3-step tutorial to design evidence-driven communication strategies to help vaccinate every child. 

Define your target audience and barriers to change, then develop messages and choose channels to reach your audience.

You cannot do everything and your ability to prioritize your interventions and target behaviours is paramount. One simple way to do this is to evaluate importance of the behavior and its changeability.