Appendix A: Developing Effective Communication
Are You on Track to Know Your Audience?
No matter how you use the Index, remember that it’s just one step in the process of developing effective communication products. It cannot take the place of formative research or pretesting with your intended audience. To ensure that your communication effort is a success, consider the audience, message, and channel.
- Did you identify your intended audience(s)?
Always consider the audience and what they need or want. Explore these resources to help you define the audience for a communication product.
- CDCynergy: 3.3 Finalize Intended Audiences
- Pink Book—Making Health Communication Programs Work [4 MB]
- Health Literacy Online: Learn about Your Users and Their Goals
- Did you conduct audience research?
Get to know your audience – don’t guess or assume. Review existing data or gather new data through formative research. During this phase, explore your intended audience’s knowledge and attitudes about the health topic. Start with the following tools from CDC’s Gateway to Health Communication and Social Marketing Practice.
- Audience Insights
- Market Research Databases
The Office of Communications’ (OC) Strategic and Proactive Communication Branch provides access to market research databases. Contact the branch or submit a request through Create-it for access to the databases.
Explore these resources for more information on formative research methods.
- Did you identify your behavioral objective(s) and key messages?
What do you want your intended audience to do? Define the behavioral objective(s) of the material based on behavioral and communication theory (see CDCynergy: 3.5 Examine and Decide on Communication-Relevant Theories and Models).
- Address barriers and motivators to change
- Determine the key information the reader needs to achieve the behavioral objective(s)
- Did you determine how your material will be formatted and distributed so that it reaches your audience?
If the audience isn’t exposed to the material or isn’t familiar with or doesn’t use the format you’ve chosen, then you’ve missed the mark. Choose the best format for your audience and the message (written, visual, audio, video). If the material will be available online, follow usability guidelines.
Identify dissemination channels, such as social media, community organizations, websites, and activities that match the audience.
- Did you build in time and resources to pretest the material with your intended audience and revise based on feedback?
This step can be done multiple times, if needed. Remember, even the most robust communication guidelines cannot substitute for pretesting with your intended audience.
Decide how many people you need to pretest the materials with. Depending on the audience and material, you may be able to test with less than 9 individuals, which does not require Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approval.
If you need to pretest with 10 or more individuals, the OC’s Strategic and Proactive Communication Branch has a generic clearance, the Health Message Testing System.
You can also apply for a “fast-track” clearance if you are testing customer satisfaction. If you plan on doing many rounds of pretesting and other formative research, you may want to apply for your own OMB clearance. Contact your CIO’s clearance officer for more information on fast-track and other OMB clearance options.
Explore these resources.