An article recently published in the Journal of Health Communication brings to light a number of different issues surrounding how health communication messages are pre-tested. The article, The Perceived Effectiveness of Persuasive Messages: Questions of Structure, Referent and Bias, examines specific aspects of how to quantitatively measure and test the persuasive efficacy (what we at PSI call “likeability”) of a message prior to campaign implementation. The article highlights elements of a pretesting strategy that we should consider for our own social marketing campaigns and messages.
At PSI, our pretesting methodologies are usually qualitative, not quantitative, primarily focus on what people like/don’t like or understand/don’t understand about a specific set of messages, and don’t always take into consideration the theoretical meaning or observed properties of likeability. In fact, we can’t demonstrate correlations between likeability during the pre-testing phase and recall, intention, or action in the evaluation phase. Imagine if we knew that a message scored above a certain level on a likeability scale and achieved x level of reach that we could predict y% behavior change. This could have a tremendous impact on how we design our interventions. PSI is starting to conceptualize such a model, but this article can shed light on how we can integrate some of these ideas into our current methodologies.