Testing your communications

Communication can be a bit of a leap in the dark. How do you know it’s going to work, out there in the real world? Do you just close your eyes and hope for the best?

That’s where testing comes in.

New Publication Testing Comms Guide

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Testing tells you whether your choice of framing (the emphasis you put on particular concepts) is likely to affect the change you were hoping for.

While working on the Framing Equality Toolkit with ILGA-Europe and LGBTI campaigners from across Europe over the past few years, we found that doing any kind of comms testing was really rare.

Campaign messages are often developed under huge pressure, in a small team, and sent straight out into the world. These messages are based on assumptions rather than evidence of how an audience will react and they are therefore likely to be hit-or-miss.

When messages miss, they can leave a lasting negative impression on how people think about your issue. This can set you back in time and resources, and make it harder to realise your vision.

And when you do test, it can be a useful learning experience for both the short- and longer-term about how people understand your issue and what kind of framing works.

Our aim, then, is to make testing common practice on any budget.

The guide focuses on three methodologies: surveys, focus groups and interviews, and follows the steps illustrated in the example above.

  1. Know what you are looking for: form the right research questions and hypotheses before you begin.
  2. Choose your methodology: decide whether focus groups, interviews or surveys are the best match for your research question.
  3. Prepare your messages to test: follow some basic principles to get your messages ready to test and compare.
  4. Find the right sample: find out about different types of samples and how you can recruit them.
  5. Look for what works: know how to make sense of your results.

You don’t need any expertise to understand this guide.

We hope that this guide will help you work with researchers or agencies to test your messages; or even to have a go at trialling some low-cost methodologies yourself.

Using testing to improve campaigns: an example

Using the process in this guide, we worked closely with an LGBTI organisation in Slovenia called Legebitra. Together we organised some low cost focus groups to test their messages about LGBTI discrimination, and we used the results to develop the final campaign. Testing helped Legebitra to find effective and humorous ways of appealing to shared identities and emphasising the common ground between LGBTI people and non-LGBTI people.

This campaign is already proving successful in Slovenia, with the film getting 50,000 views in the first few days of its release.

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If you want to talk about testing, please get in touch!