Understanding Audiences to Develop Effective Prevention Messaging

Goals, Evaluation, Activities … these are important building blocks of a strategic communications plan. But there are two other elements that should “stand out”: Audience and Messaging.

That’s because knowing your audience and drafting messaging specific to their circumstances and needs can make or break your efforts.

Vanguard works with the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and its affiliate sites who are implementing a lifestyle change program that is part of the National Diabetes Prevention Program, an initiative of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Enrollment in the evidence-based lifestyle change program, geared to those at risk for type 2 diabetes, is successful because of an investment in determining each site’s audience and designing messages that would inspire people to undertake behavior change.

In communications, particularly communications regarding preventing diseases like diabetes, audience is everything. Knowing who they are and what they care about, who they trust and what they want will help you design a plan that can educate, persuade and motivate them to action. As you develop a strategic communications plan, ask yourself questions like: How are they affected by the issue at stake? Who or what influences them? What do you want them to do? Keep in mind that narrowing your audience is key to success; ideally, you would have no more than three key audiences so you can focus your plan and customize the strategies to reach them.

Now, what do you say to your audience? Messages are the foundation of all your communications materials. They must build trust and establish credibility, or your audience will tune you out. If they resonate and are authentic, your audiences will use them to inform their decisions and actions. For example, we’re raising awareness of prediabetes through effective messaging, inspiring many to enroll in the program and learn that type 2 diabetes can be delayed, or even prevented, by making small changes in daily routines.

While drafting your messages, be sure to be culturally competent, show the importance or magnitude of the issue, and support each message with facts. Whenever possible, share these messages with your target audience to uncover red flags or confusion about the messages or words themselves.

Remember to keep your audience at the heart of your plan and develop messaging that reflects where they are and where you want them to go. Then you’ll never go wrong!