Your messages are the voice of the change you are trying to make. You will need to decide what to say, how to say it, who should say it, and how to spread the message to those who need to hear it.
As a first step, think through each of your target audiences in turn and what your communication objective is for each audience. What behavior are you trying to change? What (or who) will influence whether the audience is responsive? What's the best approach to connecting with your audience?
Developing your message is a five-step process:
- Identify the areas in which/about which messages need to be developed in order to promote the impact on behaviour.
- Decide on your approach, the type of appeal, and the tone of the message. Typically, approaches fall into the following categories: informing, entertaining, persuading, educating, and an appeal to action. These approaches are not mutually exclusive – they will often overlap. When considering your message approach, also get a sense of the most appropriate tone. Positive, Neutral, or Negative? Rational? Emotional? Individual? Generic? Funny? Serious? Direct? Indirect? When thinking of tone and appeal, consider the messenger as well. If the need is for reliable vaccination information to young, rural mothers, then having a sports celebrity deliver a humorous message about vaccine safety on television is unlikely to be the best strategy.
- Choose the format (which media, what type of materials, what format). For choosing the format of your messages, consider what tactic(s) best suit saying what you want to say to those to whom you wish to say it. See the Integrated Action section for more.
- Draft and test the messages and concepts with experts for accuracy and with the target community for resonance.
- Revise your message based on review and consultation
- The following table will help you get your thoughts in order. Keep in mind that actual messaging will depend on your own audience research.
|Factors that will influence adoption
|Appeal / Tone
Finally, as you develop your messages, keep in mind that effective messages:
Are specific and targeted
Have a behavioural focus
Can be adapted to multiple communication channels (Interpersonal, mass media, earned media etc.)
Are technically correct and true
Have an emotional appeal
Based on the needs of your audience identified through your research, messages may:
Reinforce the positive
Address misconceptions or attitudinal concerns
Provide details about where and when services can be taken advantage of
Appeal to community norms and values
Slogans like, "We are all intertwined" provide emphasis, theme, continuity and a succinct cue to remind our audience of the campaign. Messages like "Vaccinate your child because even if one child is unvaccinated, all our children are at risk" highlight what we want people to do and why. They are consistent with campaign theme, in this case the interconnectedness of communities and families, but provide more detail and a call to action.
Remember, messages are not slogans. "Every child, every time" or "Just do It" are not messages, but they are campaign slogans around which messaging can be built.
Explore the other two learning modules in this 3-step tutorial to design evidence-driven communication strategies to help vaccinate every child.
Integrate communications tactics and understand their strengths and weaknesses, then evaluate performance.