Assessing the Situation

What you Need to Know 

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Recently listening to TEDxCSU Talk on behavior change led by Professor Jeni Cross from Colorado University, I was immediately struck by how we routinely rush the planning stage of a behavior change communication (BCC) intervention. Taking time to understand where we are, where we want to go, and what will enable us to reach our goal is essential in devising a successful nutrition communication campaign. Resonating with this topic is the second webinar in Sight and Life’s Webinar Series “Assessing the Situation: What you Need to Know.” It is a valuable and timely reminder on the importance of understanding your target audience during the BCC planning process. 

During this enlightening dialogue Professor Cross spoke candidly about the existing myths regarding behavior change. For example, does education change behavior? What we know about education is how the information is presented, rather than the information itself, creates behavior change. Making learning tangible, personalized, and incorporating social interaction provides the greatest impact in behavior change.  

Another misconception is that one needs to change attitudes to change behaviors. Attitudes do not predict behavior! A more effective strategy is to connect to people’s values to set behavior expectations. The last myth is that people know the triggers that motivate them. Professor Cross argues this is not the case, as social norms have, by far, the greatest influence on human behavior. For instance, if you see someone select a healthy option at lunch, then you are more likely to follow suit. Understanding these constructs in human behavior is important because they are the core of developing successful nutrition communication campaigns.  Watch the TEDxCSU Talk below: 

Keep this principle thought in mind as you embark on the next steps in the BCC process presented in Sight and Life’s second webinar in the BCC Webinar Series. 

The Journey to Understanding your Audience 

Here are the questions to ask as you embark on step 2 and 3 in the BCC process:   
– What is it that I really need to know about my audience and the environment in which they live? 
– What works and does not? 
– How do I get to the core of what matters to my target audience? 

Webinar 2 walks through the typical knowledge needs required for a BCC intervention in nutrition, examines how to get the most out of each knowledge source and suggests approaches that enable a deep understanding of the target audience.  

BCC Process Step 2. The Desk Review 

Before beginning the desk review, be sure to answer the question, what is the purpose of this information and how do you plan to use it?  

The desk review encompasses three elements: 
– Exploring the broader context
– Reviewing the effectiveness of past experiences
– Understanding program context (reaching your target audience) 

In summary, elements 1 through 3 of the desk review help define the scope of your communication strategy. These identify the broad parameters and constraints to use when designing and delivering the intervention while also supporting the critical decisions when creating a communication strategy.  

BCC Process Step 3. Client Research 

The next step in the BCC process involves acquiring valuable insights from the target audience and communities you seek to change. We are again reminded of the BCC principle; know your audience!  

BCC, Nutritional Status, conceptual Model, behavior communicationDuring webinar 2 we share three key components in client research which support the gathering of comprehensive information on the target audience and factors that influence behaviors and practices; the inquiry framework (what do you need to know about the behaviors), applicable research methods (how to extract that information), and insight generation (moving from understanding behavior to finding deep, shared truths). 
BCC, Nutritional Status, conceptual Model, behavior communication
Consider the questions posed at the start of this blog: what do I need to know about my audience and the environment in which they live, what works or does not, and how do I get to the core of what matters to my target audience? Steps 2 and 3 help you answer these questions.  

Key Takeaways from Webinar 2 

– The BCC principle ‘know your audience’ lies at the core of developing successful nutrition communication campaigns.  
– Defining your knowledge needs, or simply what you need to know, is the first critical consideration.  
– Step 2 in the BCC process is about assessment, analysis, and synthesis of information to effectively answer questions on the broader context, the drivers and constraints for the target behavior and communication efforts previously employed to change the desired behavior.
– Client research, step 3 in the BCC process, involves gaining valuable insights from the target audience and communities that you seek to change. 

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