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Skills for Educators

All Skills for Educators

How to Implement a Social Marketing Poster Campaign

by Nadia Shamsuddin and Robert Becker

One of the more traditional ways of implementing social norms interventions is through social norm marketing campaigns. While the campaigns can include t-shirts, buttons, bumper stickers, mugs, and the like, one of the most widely used mediums is posters. The development of the campaign materials are what often gets the stakeholders excited about the intervention, yet programmers must give careful consideration to social norms theory and application before embarking on the development process. For more information about theory and application, review the Topic in Brief on Changing Social Norms.

Included in this Educator Skill are the following:


  1. Collect data to decipher misperceptions about sexuality-related norms. Research must be conducted to collect data about program participants' misperceptions. For example, in a teen pregnancy prevention program, the misperception might be that "everyone is doing it" whereas the data might reveal that 75% of program participants believe that sex is for adults. The misperception of "everyone is doing it" or "sex is okay for kids my age" might be a misperception to focus on within a campaign. For more information on how to collect data refer reader to "Tips for Educator" in this month's Topic in Brief.
  2. Decide which misperceptions you want to address in your program. There may be several misperceptions that come out of the data that your program may choose to address. In addition to misperceptions about when it is OK to have sex, there may be misperceptions about program participants' attitudes toward their risk for sexually transmitted diseases or attitudes about the acceptability of sexual harassment. By working closely with school or program administrators, parents, and/or community members, program planners can select misperceptions that are deemed most appropriate and pressing to address.
  3. Develop messages to address the misperception. Misperception data must be translated into messages that are considered both highly credible and linguistically appropriate for the audience. Program planners can draft several versions of messages to test with the target audience or let the messages be developed through focus grouping with program participants. In the latter case, program planners can work with program participants on key themes that might be incorporated into a message.
  4. Conduct focus groups with program participants to develop message. After messages have been drafted or key message themes identified, it is important to conduct focus groups with program participants to learn how to cater the campaign message in a way that resonates with the audience. As mentioned earlier, the messages must be credible and comprehendible to be effective. This may also be the time to gain input from participants about the design, layout, and — look and feel — of potential campaign posters.

    Parental consent may be needed for program participants involved in the focus group process — providing incentives for participants can help entice participation. Groups of eight to ten participants allow for the freedom to openly share opinions and comments about the message. When working with adolescent participants, it is important to set up an environment where they feel comfortable sharing individual opinions as opposed to conforming with responses from the group. To address this, focus group facilitators can ask participants to respond in writing to the campaign messages and then share their ideas verbally. (See Focus Group Guide for strategies for eliciting feedback from participants on the message and design of the posters).
  5. Refine messages, develop draft posters, and conduct a review by program administrators. Utilizing the focus group input, program planners can refine messages and develop drafts of potential campaign posters. If resources allow, working with a design firm can help facilitate the creation of a polished product. If not, programs can utilize traditional word processing, desktop publishing, or presentation software to develop draft posters. Once drafts have been created, it is important to have them reviewed and approved by program administrators, community members, parents, or any other stakeholder who may be called upon to support the campaign message.
  6. Conduct second round of focus groups on poster design and layout. After drafts have been created and approved, a second round of focus groups with program participants can help provide important feedback on how the message resonates with the audience. Here focus group facilitators will want to gain feedback to make sure the messages are understood and believable and that the appearance of images, colors, fonts, and design are acceptable. Facilitators might also want to solicit input on where the posters should be displayed for greatest visibility.
  7. Place posters in strategic program locations. Utilizing feedback from the focus groups, posters can be placed at strategic locations within a school, program facility, and/or at key locations within a community. A good idea is to ask the focus group participants to help place the posters up as a way of instilling a sense of investment into the campaign. These participants can be encouraged to act as "campaign representatives" who will discuss the campaign with their peers and friends.
  8. Monitor the poster placements. Program planners and participants should routinely monitor the posters to ensure they are still up and have not been defaced. Posters that have been torn down should be replaced. Depending on the goal of the campaign, posters might be kept up for a period of two weeks (if multiple posters are created) or longer.
  9. Conduct third round of focus groups and/or data collection to evaluate impact. After the campaigns are complete, additional research and focus groups can be conducted to evaluate both the campaign process and impact. Research can be conducted with program participants, program administrators and/or community members, and parents.

    About the Authors
    Nadia Shamsuddin, M.A., Director of School Initiatives for PPNYC, is responsible for the coordination of public school sexuality education
    programming in the South Bronx and Lower East Side of Manhattan. Prior to joining PPNYC, Ms. Shamsuddin developed and implemented multifaceted after-school programming for a number of public schools in the Bronx.

    Robert M. Becker, M.S., is the Associate Vice President of Education and Training at PPNYC. He has been involved in the field of sexuality and sexual health for more than 10 years and has helped write curricula that address the sexual and reproductive health needs of adolescents.