Step 5: Use Research Results to Design and Pretest Strategies, Policies, Interventions, and Communications

As described earlier, the mental models research results identify key areas of alignment and critical gaps between expert and nonexpert stakeholders. With this knowledge, precisely targeted strategies, policies, interventions, and communications

Interview and survey participants’ ratings of potential risks of plastic surgery

Fig. 2.5 Interview and survey participants’ ratings of potential risks of plastic surgery

plans and messages can be designed to address the critical influences on stakeholders’ decision making and, ultimately, behavior related to the topic at hand. Communications should be designed to: reinforce what people know that is correct, close critical knowledge gaps and correct misperceptions, and address specific questions that people expressed during the research. Strategies, plans, and messages should be designed to enable stakeholders—including the decision-makers—to make appropriate decisions and judgments and, where appropriate, take action. In some cases, an intervention is required immediately to address a potentially risky situation or behavior. Consequently, some or all of the desired outcomes are behavioral, that is, focused on measurable actions. Strategies should be designed to use sources and modes of communications in which stakeholders have expressed a preference, and in which they have expressed a level of trust and confidence.

Messages that are developed should be pretested before being implemented more broadly, to ensure they have the intended effect.[1] A number of techniques can be used to test messages and materials, from small-scale read backs, to message- focused mental models research, to self-administered surveys. Methods can incorporate online components and visual testing. Choosing an appropriate technique depends on the nature of the materials, the stakeholder or audience for whom it is intended, and the amount of time and resources available. There is no formula for selecting a pretesting technique, nor is there a perfect technique for pretesting. The method should be selected and shaped to fit the pretesting requirement and the time and resources available.

  • [1] Such testing can also be conducted to evaluate performance of current or past strategies and communications for purposes of identifying improvements to both.
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