Easing the Pain of Pretesting

We all know that content pretesting — whether it’s for a campaign theme, design concepts or key messages — is essential for successful strategic communications efforts. However, this step is frequently missed in the communications planning and implementation process.

Why is this the case? Pretesting takes time and money and when organizations are short on both, it’s very tempting to skimp on or skip this step altogether.

However, pretesting doesn’t have to be as involved as you might imagine. If you don’t have the resources for a series of focus groups or a poll with a representative sample, there are still cost-effective ways to gather and analyze quality feedback from key audiences.

  • Consider your audience. Where can you find them? Are there online discussion groups you could ask to be invited to, such as a group for new parents? Use those online groups as listening sessions to gain insights into the needs and drivers for your key audiences.
  • Use free survey tools such as Google Forms that allow you to create and analyze surveys.
  • Check with professional organizations if you’re looking to speak with a professional audience to see if they will work with you to reach and recruit their members through their channels, such as publications, email newsletters and social media communities. They may be interested in the insights from your research.
  • Tap into your partners. They may be able to help you host discussion groups or distribute a survey to gather helpful insights from key audiences.

Another reason people avoid pretesting — especially when it comes to qualitative feedback — is the seemingly overwhelming amount of information received.

When looking at your audience responses, remember that you are looking for consistent comments and red flags, rather than wordsmithing and line edits (e.g., “messages need to be shorter and have a clearer call to action”). Seek out the golden nuggets of information.

A key principle of successful strategic communications is being audience centered. Pretesting is a valuable step in the strategic communications planning process that does not need to be as expensive or complicated as you might think!