Finding clarity in reporting on public health campaign effectiveness
Effective public health campaigns have the power to create positive change. They can be the catalyst to help shift perceptions, raise awareness, and even change behaviors. But, as many of our public health partners know, measuring outcomes like behavior change can be challenging. After all, we’re not asking people to buy the shiniest, fastest phone they’ve eagerly been waiting for. Sales numbers are easy to collect and analyze. No, we’re asking our audience to change their thinking and behavior—often, behaviors deeply engrained by trauma, socioeconomics, and other factors. It can take years—and a lot of resources—to measure the impact of public health interventions, like a new policy or statewide prevention campaign. That may work for leaders setting long-term goals, but it’s not great for public health marketers with social feeds to fill and media dollars to utilize before a grant’s fiscal end date.
For over 37 years, KW2 has worked diligently to address the challenge of effective public health campaign reporting. Over the years, we’ve contributed to a wealth of state-wide and national life-changing and life-saving communication efforts. In our work for dozens and dozens of public health campaigns, from debunking myths and reducing stigma surrounding HIV and COVID-19 to reducing teen nicotine addiction, we’ve consistently delivered measurable results and insights our clients could act on.
Public health campaign budgets have to work hard. Funding can be tight, so providing measurable and meaningful results is especially important. This allows our clients to understand their impact, optimize their efforts, and help ensure future funding and programs that impact community health.
So, how do we find clarity in the complex?
Public health campaigns are typically designed to reach a very specific community or at-risk population. So, it’s crucial for any successful campaign that we tap into the environment of our intended audience. This means we must be partners first. We are active collaborators, from our clients and key stakeholders to community leaders, organizations, support services, and individuals with lived experiences. These networks help us better understand how barriers like health equity, stigma, and other factors impact community health and attitudes—and can be the bridge to connect with those we are trying to reach.
So why is being an active collaborator so important? When budgets allow, our relationships can help us gain valuable insights through various in-depth research methods, such as interviews, focus groups, and surveys. From here, we can work to develop a consensus on campaign objectives and goals, strategies, tactics, and messaging from everyone involved. We understand the world of public health casts a wide net of important partners and stakeholders, so it’s vital to keep all the key players informed and engaged through every step. Research also lets us set important benchmarks and evaluate our efforts before, during, and after the campaign—all key actions to delivering clear results to our clients.
Traditional media outlets are designed to promote products and reach middle-to-upper class people with disposable income. Conversely, public health campaigns often seek out those who are harder to reach (like minority populations, rural residents, or people who earn less) because they lack easy access to the resources and channels most marketers rely on to get their message out. Just take social media campaigns, for example. To address the gaps in most ad targeting algorithms, KW2’s media experts get to know where the audience lives, how they use social media, and when they typically access information. This extra layer of thinking helps us overcome traditional media biases and is another important process in reaching the right people and gathering the audience-specific results that matter most.
Beliefs and behaviors may be harder to track than product sales, but one thing’s for sure: repetition matters. The more often people hear a message or easily access helpful information, the more likely shifting their beliefs or behaviors becomes. That’s why tracking audience awareness and engagement before and after a campaign is so important. The results can provide a reasonable and accurate picture of a campaign’s impact. To further measure impact, we often use a mix of proven strategies to track reach and response, including:
Our marketing strategies work with clients to find the right mix of measures for your organization’s short- and long-term goals.
All our public health partners work hard to demonstrate meaningful results from every new campaign they launch. We work hard at every step to give our clients results they can understand. Our clients are likely seasoned policymakers, training and tech experts, or epidemiologists—and may not be communication experts. But whatever their job titles, we know they’re in it to change the world for the better. So, we give them clear data and actionable recommendations that are easy to understand and share with stakeholders, like a one-page snapshot that looks at the following:
These easy-to-digest reports are a valuable tool for our clients when looking back at past campaigns and thinking about what to do next. They can also be used in writing grant proposals or sending up the ladder for future funding—all of which can directly impact state and community programs and initiatives. That’s a big win for everyone.
We’ve seen first-hand the powerful impact of an effective public health campaign. And while we recognize that measuring effectiveness can be challenging, we know that it's possible with the right tools and approach. Selling the world’s shiniest, fastest phone to an eager buyer may be easier. But at KW2, we find fulfillment in work that empowers and improves lives. We wouldn’t trade the good we can do as a public health partner for anything else.