Create an Effective Message - Coastal Inundation

Create an Effective Message

Finding the proper message is important in communication. Education alone is not always effective in changing peoples’ behaviors. Knowing the audience and taking time to identify motivations and barriers to change will be beneficial in creating the message.

Below are some tips that can help develop messages geared for behavior change.

Know the Audience — Understanding the target audience is important. Qualitative and quantitative research can be helpful in learning how the target audience understands the hazard and how the message will be received. Learn the audience members’ perceptions, attitudes, and past experiences, such as previous hurricanes, that influence their opinions. Learn what the community values. For more information on hearing the perspective of the community, visit the “Highlight Local Knowledge” section.

Identify the Barriers — Be aware that there may be hidden barriers within the community that could prevent implementing protection from inundation. Conducting surveys, community discussions, and focus groups can help identify those barriers. Two helpful publications are Introduction to Survey Design and Delivery and Introduction to Conducting Focus Groups.

Determine the Benefits — People need to know the benefits of changing a certain behavior. Knowing simply that they need to make a change is not always enough. Conducting surveys, community discussions, and focus groups can help identify what the community perceives as beneficial. Two helpful publications are Introduction to Survey Design and Delivery and Introduction to Conducting Focus Groups.

Craft the Message — The message must be to the point. Complex information needs to be explained using understandable terms and concepts and should provide ways for the target audience to interact with authorities. The message must tell or show why the proposed action is necessary—for the individual and for society. Surveys can help determine if the audience needs details on what to do, how to do it, or why it is important.

Test the Message — Before spending valuable time and resources on a message, test it with a sample set of the target audience to be sure it works in the intended way.

Communicate the Information — The message should be presented many times and in many ways, including print, broadcast, and electronic media. The message should include visualizations such as Coastal County Snapshots — Flood Exposure, which provides an overview of county risks, or those created with CanVis visualization software. Visit the “Visualize” section to see more examples.

Find a Credible Spokesperson — The spokesperson needs to be believable, trustworthy, and recognizable to be taken seriously. Some examples are mayors, church leaders, or business leaders.

Evaluate the Message — Evaluation can determine how well the message is working so that changes can be made to increase the success of the next effort. Two classes that can help with this task are Project Design and Evaluation and Planning for Meaningful Evaluation.

Re-Engage with Stakeholders — It is important to meet periodically with stakeholders and decision makers to keep them informed of all stages of the decision-making process.