Pretest Messages and Materials
Messages and materials, however clear and eye catching they may appear, always need to be pretested. Pretesting involves measuring the reaction of a selected group of individuals representing the intended audience, to draft materials, concepts or messages before they are produced in final form and disseminated.
Unfortunately, the importance of pretesting is often ignored due to time or budget constraints, or due to the belief that the information and materials are suitable for serving their intended purpose. In emergencies, foregoing pretesting may be even more common as key information needs to be conveyed quickly and in a timely manner.
Pretesting, however, is an essential component of all communication messages and materials and ensures that what is designed is really suitable for the intended audiences. Even during the most critical of times, we recommend that programmers try to get hold of key audience members to ensure that messages serve the purpose for which they are intended. The table below highlights a range of important aspects that can be pretested, providing some sample questions of how to assess each one.
|Aspect to be Pretested
|Whether the message/material commands attention
|Whether the information is understood as intended
|Whether the material is culturally and socially acceptable
|Whether the information is of interest to the intended audience
|Call to action
|Whether the audience understands the call to action
|Whether the key benefit is persuasive and appealing to the intended audience
|If and how the material needs to be improved
As demonstrated by the aspects in the table above, pretesting serves to assess a range of important aspects that can maximize the effectiveness of messages and materials. Pretesting is therefore a crucial step in the development of a SBCC strategy, even in an emergency situation.
To support the effective pretesting, a list of useful tips is included below. Additional information on pretesting.
- Always plan to pretest messages and materials.
- Conduct an initial pretest with technical experts and gatekeepers to ensure the information is factually correct and acceptable.
- Conduct the second pretest with representative members of the audience intended for the messages/materials in question.
- Avoid providing background information and explaining the material at the start of the pretest.
- Use open-ended questions (questions that cannot be answered with yes or no).
- Avoid leading questions.
- Ask the creative developers of the materials to pretest them as they may be biased and interpret answers incorrectly.