With regard to public health information campaigns, there is a school of thought that bigger is certainly better – the more people see it, the more people will understand the issue and act accordingly. We’re used to seeing television advertising and billboards encouraging us to eat more fruit and veg, or highlighting that specific symptoms should be reported to a GP urgently. But are these big campaigns actually effective?
A recent study looked at barriers and drivers to accessing a GP, particularly with regard to reporting symptoms which may be an early sign of cancer. Bearing in mind the need for earlier diagnosis, both from a survival and a cost perspective, getting people to understand what symptoms warrant attention and encouraging GP visits with those symptoms, is critical.
What the study showed, however, was that symptom awareness did not equal action. More importantly from a communications perspective though, was that barriers to action varied by ethnic group. We often target populations on an age-related demographic basis (e.g. Millennials versus Baby Boomers), this study suggested that cultural and ethnic factors are more predictive of behaviour.
This data suggests that communications campaigns therefore need to be much more closely targeted to specific population groups, using messaging that is compelling and works to overcome identified barriers. Technology can facilitate this – programmatic targeting finds the people you want to reach, ensuring messaging is delivered effectively and efficiently, and, more importantly, is absolutely appropriate.
At WE, we know that effective targeting starts with listening, from generating robust insight that tells us where our target audience is, what channels they are receptive to and, more importantly, who they are as people – it’s person, not disease-centric, because we believe that people are more than just a diagnosis, and they’re certainly not ‘patients’.
Additionally, this people-first approach is more likely to be measurable, to deliver against defined, meaningful targets. Smarter communications delivers outcomes, and thankfully we’ve all moved away from measuring programmes on the basis of output alone, e.g. the dreaded AVE. As communications experts, it’s incumbent on us to counsel our clients on the intrinsic value of smart targeting and to integrate communications across the paid, owned and earned spaces, for the most effective result.