Why is Communication Important?
Raising awareness of the impact of child injuries and effective strategies for injury prevention is an important goal of the NAP. Communication is essential to this process.
Communication strategies can be used to accomplish many objectives. For example, they can increase awareness of injury prevalence, relevance, and preventability. They can also increase awareness of and desire for solutions that prevent injuries and of the resources needed to implement solutions. Communication strategies can also influence perceptions of the benefits and help overcome barriers to implementing effective interventions, eventually increasing their use. Achieving these various objectives at the local, state, and national level can help reduce child injuries.
Delivering actionable, persuasive communication strategies to those who can affect change is crucial for reaching these objectives. At the core, communication strategies need to target the primary audiences of children, teenagers and their families (and their schools and communities), who need to adopt, implement, and maintain effective injury prevention practices. Communication strategies that reach those who influence these primary audiences and those who can influence broader structural change are equally vital. Injury prevention communication needs to reach leaders and decision makers with consistent, compelling, and accurate messages.
Finally, essential steps need to be incorporated throughout the communication planning process. Target audiences need to be clearly identified, and messages need to be tailored specifically to them. Formative research should be conducted to gain a better understanding of the audience’s injury related-attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors, and their information and communication needs. This audience research will guide decisions about all aspects of communication planning, including messages, channels, spokespersons, and timing. Establishing clear goals and measurable objectives for the communication strategy will help articulate what the intended effort will achieve and help to evaluate its impact. Behavioral and communication science principles and best practices should be employed throughout the planning, implementation, and evaluation process.24
Communication Goals and Actions
Goal: Develop and use targeted, compelling, and consistent child injury prevention messages.
Increasing awareness is one of the easiest communication objectives to achieve and it can sometimes be accomplished using multiple messages simultaneously. For example, through one communication intervention, awareness can be increased about the burden of injuries, risk factors, and the appropriateness of public health approaches to reduce injury.
Depending on the attitudes, beliefs, values, and needs of the intended audience, the message can be tailored to ensure it is relevant, appropriate, and compelling. Success is more likely when the target audience is involved in shaping the message.
One effective way to achieve widespread awareness is through diffusion of messages that are simple, easy to recall, and attention getting. At the awareness-building stage, it is important to gain and keep audience interest. This can be challenging in the current media environment where health messages have strong competition for time and space.
CDC’s publication, Adding Power to Our Voices: Framing Guide for Communicating about Injuryis designed to help organizations speak with a consistent voice to build the social and political will needed to save lives and reduce injuries. The framing guide’s premise is that the collective voice of many injury and violence professionals across several disciplines is much louder than that of an individual or single organization. The information and tools provided in this guide can be used to build messages for press releases, speeches, annual reports, and research articles to improve communications.
- Create or implement local and national campaigns on child safety (such as CDC’s Protect the Ones You Love initiative).
- Create a bank of messages by topics and themes that are relevant to the public and timed to events and seasons (e.g., holiday shopping and toy safety at the end of the year). Stories can then be used to bring key messages to life.
- Establish Web-based, comprehensive communication tool kits for child injury topics. The tool kits can include links to ready-to-use messaging and materials (including various languages and reading levels, and pieces tailored for hard-to-reach or at-risk populations), research studies, contact information for experts, sources for local and national statistics, issue briefs, and links to government agencies and other organizations.
- Develop and implement a coordinated message strategy across all child injury topics (one resource for this is Adding Power to Our Voices: Framing Guide for Communicating about Injury(See box).
Goal: Use relevant, audience-specific communication channels and sources to deliver child injury prevention messages.
How an injury message is delivered (channel) and from whom or where it comes (source) can influence whether the message reaches the target audience and if they pay attention to it.
Examples of different channels include interpersonal, small group, organizational, community, and mass reach media (such as magazines, newspapers, radio, television, and the internet/social media). Using multiple channels increases the chance of reaching more of the target audience. It can also make it more likely that the target audience will be exposed to the message multiple times, increasing the chance that they will absorb and act on it.
When selecting the source of a message, consider which person or group has influence with your audience and will attract the most of their attention and interest. Depending on the target audience, the best sources may include celebrities and public figures, medical experts and scientists, colleges and universities, and government agencies. Spokespersons with credibility or high status can improve the effectiveness and chances that messages will be heard and believed.
- Find local young people and parents who have been injured, or had a near-miss experience, who are willing to speak out publicly about the importance of injury prevention.
- Create a network (at local, state, and/or national levels) of available professional spokespeople (such as pediatricians, trauma surgeons, emergency personnel, lawyers, judges, educators) and victim and safety advocates who are trained to deliver compelling, evidence-based messages to the media.
- Use local businesses that value safety for injury prevention events and distribution sites (e.g., smoke alarms available at fire houses or child safety seat checks at local auto dealers).
The CDC Injury Center Success Stories Portal is an online collection of real stories about injury prevention successes. The portal is an innovative collection of stories detailing the work supported by CDC’s Inju
The portal includes:
- Free, easy-to-use software that helps you develop your story
- Helpful guidance as you collect essential details to include in your success story
- Examples of model programs that have been effective
- Enables you to create a polished, professionally designed product
- Hosts a growing archive of success stories that you can search and share
- Encourage children’s hospitals and other health care facilities to use their communication channels (e.g., the phone system’s on-hold message or televisions in waiting areas) to share safety information.
- Sponsor local injury prevention events to raise awareness about a specific cause (e.g., a bike-a-thon to raise money to provide children with helmets).
- Identify opportunities for media coverage in unexpected places (e.g., a national automotive writer can cover car seat use or ways to keep teenagers from driving while texting, or a sports program or channel can reach out to teens about recreational safety).
Goal: Strengthen and engage local, state, and national partnerships and coalitions to support the implementation of communication strategies.
National strategies to build support for child injury prevention must have strong coordinated efforts by many partners. One strategy for accomplishing this is to create a broad alliance of safety coalitions that are willing to connect their cause to the larger child injury problem and to use coordinated messages. Additional strength can come from leveraging the reach of non-injury organizations and networks focused on children, teenagers, and families who can deliver injury prevention messages.
The injury prevention message will be strongest if it comes from many partners simultaneously or in a coordinated way. Inconsistent or competitive messages among groups can result in disjointed action, confusion, or no action at all. Partners can work together to correct any inaccurate or inconsistent child injury messages in the media.
- Create a task force (at local, state, and/or national levels) of nongovernmental organizations, decision makers, researchers, public health agencies, safety experts, and other stakeholders to share knowledge, expertise, and resources.
- Generate a collaborative plan for refining, prioritizing, and implementing communication recommendations in the NAP at the state or local level.
- Develop a shared system to track and publicize progress made in adopting, implementing, or enforcing recommendations in the NAP. These can be used in partner briefings.
- Identify and partner with organizations for which safety is already part of their mission and highlight their efforts as examples others should follow.
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