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4.3 How does someone start developing a communications plan?

Communications planning consists of eight interrelated steps. These steps are essential to the development of a well thought-out strategy that can be implemented in any setting and circumstances. The framework consists of:

STEP 1: Assessing the science

Most often the basis for health communication is scientific knowledge and epidemiological analysis, as described in section 5.1. For rabies prevention and control, it is critical to know what animal reservoirs are resulting in the most human disease burden and define your prevention and control point.

For example, if human rabies cases in your country are primarily caused by exposure to rabid dogs, you should target your efforts towards preventing dog exposures. If your locale has more wildlife exposures, you should focus your messaging towards these efforts.

STEP 2: Defining the purpose of the communication

Interventions and programmes can be initiated once sufficient evidence is available to specify the improvement in the public health situation that a population will experience if they undergo a behaviour change. Informing means providing facts to the target population in order to assist in making an informed decision. Persuading involves convincing individuals or communities to change their behaviour in order to support healthy living.

STEP 3: Identifying and understanding the audience(s)

The purpose of communication is always audience-specific, and it must clearly define what it expects people to do in response to the message. Identifying and understanding the intended audience is vital. Messages can rarely target everyone, and people can understand a message in different ways. It is therefore very important to consider audience segmentation.

Knowledge, Attitude and Practice (KAP) studies can be useful in assessing people’s perceptions about rabies and their level of knowledge about the disease. These studies can serve as the basis for tailoring the messages. Click here for examples of KAP studies on rabies and other diseases.

STEP 4: Developing and testing messages

Developing tailored communications materials can increase the likelihood that the prevention recommendation will be followed. Once messages and materials have been created, they should be tested on the target audience. This is critical to ensure that the messages are successfully understood and effective. Click here for a list of areas to take into consideration in pre-testing messages and materials, and for an example of an intercept interview used to pre-test rabies prevention materials.

STEP 5: Choosing media and channels for the message

Assess the current resources in your locale based on the most utilized media channels of your target audience. These are the formats or outlets most utilised and trusted by your target population. They could be posters, fact sheets, mass media, face-to-face lectures, publications, email, videos, etc. Search for the most efficient outlet that meets your needs. For example, paper-based materials may not be the most efficient in some localities. In these cases, focus on other media such as radio.

STEP 6: Determining the best timing for delivering the message

The timing for delivering your messages needs to be determined on a case-by-case basis. Some times of year may be more suitable for conducting proactive rabies outreach (in the form of a campaign), while at other times of year you may need to rely on rapid communications during outbreaks (e.g. mass exposures) or greater exposure rates (e.g. where there are more rabies exposures in certain months). Rabies prevention and control messaging can be usefully incorporated into the broader World Rabies Day initiatives in September.

However, rabies exposures may be more prevalent in the summer months in some places, warranting rapid communication during times when you have larger or mass exposures. It is important to identify the most appropriate time for your locale, bearing in mind that this may be more than once a year.

STEP 7: Implementing the communications plan

A number of points should be taken into consideration regarding programme implementation, including the timing of the launch, hosting an event, media outreach, the timing of the release and maintaining the communication campaign long-term.

STEP 8: Evaluating the effort and its impact

Evaluation of your programme is critical to demonstrate success, look for areas of improvement and justify funding for future years. Evaluation is usually the first step to be eliminated in health communication programmes because of funding restrictions. Resources in this document and through the World Rabies Day initiative can assist you in designing appropriate evaluation.


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Version 1 - Last updated November 2012