Section 6 FAQ's
Tools and resources on messaging
● Coordinated, consistent, and accurate messages are critical to providing effective communication response, enabling multiple stakeholders to speak and engage the public and communities with one clear voice across all channels of communication. Technical information alone, even if in simple, understandable language, is unlikely to prompt significant behavior change. In addition to providing essential health information that is actionable, it is important that messages and the interventions through which they are delivered are designed:
○ with respect for the community values
○ to communicate care and concern
○ take into account the local context, culture, and potential stigma associated with the emergency; and
○ be used as part of a responsive, two-way exchange with those at risk.
● The series of tools presented in this section can help you use the information in this guide to adapt and create messaging appropriate to different interventions and target audiences relevant to your context.
 This package of tools were developed with contributions from the OFDA-funded READY Initiative where Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs serves as a consortium member. They should be used in alignment with WHO’s RCCE technical guidance for Covid-19
Tool: The Do’s and Don’ts of Effective Risk Communication Message Development
What is a message map?
● A message map is a roadmap for displaying detailed, organized responses to anticipated questions or concerns. Well-constructed and accessible message maps are useful tools during an emergency that, if shared with partners and stakeholders, can support harmonized messages.
● Message maps are developed for each intended audience segment. There are generally three levels to a message map:
How to develop a message map
● Message maps are generally designed following seven recommended steps. For the case of emergencies, an additional step has been adapted to ensure timely updates to the map. It is recommended that partners and stakeholders convene and create message maps together to ensure harmonization from the outset.
Developing message maps
● Directions: Complete this worksheet together with stakeholders to promote a broad exchange and analysis. Wherever possible, access evidence-based data to complete this worksheet.
Brainstorm with your team to name all possible audiences that are in some way affected by the emergency. Consider some of the following categories of stakeholders to prompt your thinking; however, you may wish to add other categories specific to your context.
● To help you identify possible concerns or questions an audience may have relating to the emergency, consider the various aspects that may be impacted by the outbreak or that impact the way the individual responds to the outbreak.
○ Coordination with various sectors – contact tracers, burial teams, psychosocial teams, case management, as well as social mobilizers, hotline operators or social scientists – often helps identify these.
○ For each audience, list possible concerns or questions relating to the following areas: access to information, ethnicity, gender, health, susceptibility, economics/income generating activities, religion, trust, safety/security, livestock, other.
● Review the questions/concerns in the table above and select the ones that you believe to be most pertinent. For each selected audience and question/concern, use the tables below to develop:
○ Three key messages that answer that question/concern
○ Three supporting facts for each key message, addressing what people need to know and do, why they should do it (benefits and risks), and how they should do it.
○ Be sure to align your messages and facts with the most updated information on the outbreak as provided by the WHO, MOH or other reliable sources of information.
(You will need to repeat this process for each audience)
● Messages will need to be contextualized to ensure they are culturally and linguistically relevant, and consider current behaviors, practices, attitudes, concerns, stigma, and rumors and misinformation.
● As messaging strategies evolve and become tailored to different audiences, also consider the following information in relation to the audience. Where possible, use recent research/evidence to inform your messages:
○ What are their general risk perceptions, emotions and fears associated with the outbreak?
○ What is their level of knowledge about causes, symptoms and transmission?
○ What are their common beliefs, attitudes and concerns about these causes, symptoms and transmission?
○ What rumors or misinformation are prevalent and need to be addressed?
○ What are the dominant social and cultural norms around behaviors and practices linked to the outbreak?
○ What are the dominant current behaviors?
○ What are the key barriers and facilitators to the desired behavior?
These data can then be analyzed as such. This is an illustrative example.
● Social mobilizers, community workers and volunteers have an important role in providing timely and actionable information and promoting community dialogues with trusted community leaders to identify key knowledge gaps and address fears and anxiety. It is important to consider the following.
○ Engage families and communities in a dialogue to share information and understand key concerns and questions, rather than telling people what to do. Asking people what they know, want and need, and involving them in designing and delivering COVID-19 related activities improves the effectiveness of our community interventions and sustains necessary changes.
○ Recruit and support peers and leaders to deliver messages: People are more likely to pay attention to information from people they already know, trust and whom they feel are concerned about their wellbeing
○ Encourage awareness and action: communication and community engagement typically contains information targeted to communities and should be action oriented, including:
■ an instruction to follow (e.g. if you get sick, seek medical care at hospital x),
■ a behavior to adapt (e.g. wash your hands frequently to protect yourself and others from getting sick…) and information they can share with friends and family (such as where and when to access services, e.g. treatment is free of charge and available at health facilities).
● Some messages will not be appropriate for every channel of communication. Messages should be created with consideration of audience needs and intervention activity.
● Understanding the behaviors, knowledge, aspirations, and feelings of an audience can help identify messages and activities that resonate and motivate behavior change. It also informs the selection of approaches and delivery channels to which audiences are more likely to respond for the desired changes to occur.
What is a communication channel?
● A communication channel is a medium or method used to deliver a message to the intended audience. A variety of communication channels exist, and examples include:
○ Mass media, such as television, radio (including community radio) and newspapers
○ Community engagement, also known as social mobilization with two-way participation that fosters community ownership, such as community dialogues, listening groups or action planning
● Print media, such as posters, flyers and leaflets
● Social and digital media, such as mobile phones, applications and social media
● Inter-Personal Communication, such as door-to-door visits, phone lines and discussion groups
● Different channels are appropriate for different audiences, and the choice of channel will depend on the audience being targeted, the messages being delivered and the context of the emergency. Using a variety of channels or a channel mix, is recommended so that messages can be reinforced through multiple sources.
Tool: choosing the appropriate communication channel
Pretesting 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 quick methods of pre-testing, such as rapid listening groups with different people nearby, can provide useful insight into how a behavior is understood or a message is perceived.
○ Pre-testing helps ensure that your messages and materials have been contextualized properly.
○ 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. See the tool on the following page for recommendations on what aspects of messages and materials to pretest.