A communications campaign can be used effectively to inform an audience about an issue, to change perceptions about something, and to encourage behaviour change or action. Beginning the process with clarity on what you want to achieve and who you want to reach is essential to ensure any resource invested in a campaign pays off. Organisations regularly employ campaigns to inform and engage staff or customers, the key is to get the early thinking right and let the rest fall into place.
Step One – be clear on what you’re trying to achieve
Set out, right at the start, the things you want to get out of your campaign. What’s the bottom line change that you want to make happen? And which people or audience are you trying to reach? Perhaps your campaign is about encouraging staff to think about recycling; perhaps it’s more about informing people of a consultation you want them to participate in. Perhaps, it’s more about building awareness of an issue or cause? A good example of this can be seen with Hearing Awareness Month. As part of a wider awareness campaign, they are trying to develop a conversation around the issue of hearing loss and any perceived stigma attached to the condition. To work, your objectives need to be as specific as possible, so make them SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound).
Step Two – brief everyone that needs to know
Once you’ve got your campaign objectives in place, you then need to run them past decision makers and any other stakeholders that have a say. The last thing you want is for someone to start moving the goalposts once your campaign is already underway. Consult the people that count early and make and changes upfront for a smoother process.
Step Three – understand your audience
You’ve already identified who it is you’re trying to reach with this campaign, now you need to think hard about the best ways to get your message over to them. What does your audience, read? What do they listen to? Do they have access to a computer and the internet? What internet speeds are they using? Are there any accessibility issues to think about, for example larger font sizes or options for Braille versions of documents? Do you need to think about translating into a different language?
If, as with most awareness campaigns, you’re trying to reach multiple audiences with different habits and preferences you need to segment your approach. A once size fits all campaign rarely hits the mark – you need to use different communication tactics and channels that are tailored to your different audience segments.
Step Four – build a memorable campaign
You need an identity for your campaign so that it becomes immediately recognisable to your audiences. People need to see your logo and design style and automatically understand what your poster/newsletter/website is all about. The key is consistency, alongside a catchy, memorable and engaging message. A good example of this is the NHS’s Change4Life campaign which had a distinctive style that appealed to its audiences.
Step Five – evaluate and respond
You need to think about how you’ll measure impact and what success looks like before you launch. This is why having specific objectives is so fundamental. Tangible results might include web hits, social media likes or follows, emails read and responded to, or behaviour changed. Evaluate as you go, not just at the end, and if something isn’t working take action to change it.