Seth M. Noar
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Health communication campaigns have long been a tool used to influence the health of the public in countries around the world. Campaigns are an organized set of communication activities to produce health effects or outcomes in a relatively large number of individuals, typically within a specified period of time. Traditionally, campaigns were thought to only be capable of raising awareness and perhaps improving the attitudes and social norms of a particular audience. More recent work, however, has provided evidence that properly designed and implemented campaigns can impact health behaviors (e.g., Hornik 2002; Snyder et al. 2004; Noar 2006; → Health Communication).
Perhaps the most valuable lessons being learned in the campaign literature are the conditions under which campaigns tend to be most effective. These can be referred to as principles of effective campaign design (Noar 2006; Rogers & Storey 1987). Formative research involves two phases. The first phase focuses on gathering data regarding audience characteristics, the behavior at issue, and message channels (→ Audience Research). The second phase is focused on testing initial campaign messages with target audience members in order to gain feedback on the appropriateness and persuasive impact of those messages. No matter what the topic, formative research is thought to be crucial to truly understanding ...