Now you have your research in hand, you are ready for step 4: to develop your campaign. If a behavior change program is to be effective, careful consideration needs to be given to strategy development. Too often behavior change programs are based on hunches rather than solid information regarding the barriers and benefits to a behavior. Develop a strategy to remove the most important, threshold barriers, one (or a short list of barriers) that, if overcome, would free the priority audience to adopt the behavior and to highlight the most motivational benefits.
Here are some questions to answer before starting:
- What behavior are you addressing (what is the specific action you want your audience to take?)
- What is preventing your audience from adopting that behavior (threshold barrier)?
- What help does your audience need to adopt the behavior? Will the tools you choose provide the help your audience needs?
A. Design your Strategy
As you design your strategy, you must address these priorities:
- What: What help does your priority audience need? What incentive, prompt, or nudge does your priority audience need in order to adopt the behavior? What motivation do they need to overcome their threshold barrier?
If your audience does not have what they need in order to adopt the behavior, no amount of information will effect change.
Example: Someone may remember and be better equipped to pick up their dog’s waste if they have a bag holder that fits on the dog’s leash, or if pet waste stations with bags and a waste can are located at hot spots such as dog parks or popular walking routes. As another example, many people acquire a rain barrel but never install it – about one-third of rain barrel owners – due to lack of comfort with cutting downspouts or properly siting the rain barrel. In this case, providing an installation service would help reduce the barrier of installation.
- Where/When: Where will your campaign help them access the help they need?
Ideally, that would happen at the place that is most conveniently for them, or at the moment they are making the decision whether to adopt the behavior. If the audience needs help remembering to do something, they may need a prompt, but this prompt must be placed close in place and time to where the behavior happens.
Example: If you want people to stop idling their car engines while picking up kids from elementary school, you may need a prompt that is posted in the pickup lane so the audience can see it when and where they need to take the action.
- How: How will you reach your priority audience? What will you say? How will you say it? Who is your messenger or what is the distribution method? When and how frequently will your tool be distributed to the priority audience? How can you ensure that your priority audience receives the tool? Most importantly, will your tools remove the threshold barrier? How long will your tools be in circulation before you measure behavior change?
Example: Places that sell rain barrels or programs which promote rain barrels could distribute a list of rain barrel installation services or even arrange installation at the point of sale. If the cost of installation is a barrier, a reduced cost may be negotiated for a number of sales in the same community, or a volunteer group could be trained to install rain barrels and connected with those who purchase rain barrels.
B. Select and Design Tools to Implement Your Strategy
The tools must be tailored to the barriers and benefits you identified. For example, if lack of motivation is a barrier, you might consider the use of incentives. Be sure to choose tools to address your threshold barrier or key benefits identified in Step 4. Here are social science tools you may choose:
A public affirmation of a specific action that others can view. Getting people to commit to one particular action can often lead to larger behavioral changes. Research has shown that when people commit to an action either personally or publicly, they are more likely to follow through on that behavior into the future. This ties into people’s innate desire to appear trustworthy to their peers and consistent with their own internal commitments. To help utilize commitment strategies as a way to foster sustainable behavior, use tactics including verbal, group, or public pledges.
Providing information about the level of success or need for improvement in response to a particular behavior. Typically, feedback provides an individual with measures of a physical characteristic, such as consumption of electricity, gallons of water consumed, or miles/gallon.
How To Skills
Information and/or training on how to carry out environmentally responsible behaviors.
A short, simple reminder to the audience to engage in the behavior.
Demonstrating the importance of a behavior to people, either by describing the behavior as socially acceptable and common or socially unacceptable and uncommon.
Spreading behavior adoption through communication within an existing network of trusted relationships.
Providing structures, systems or services that make engaging in the behavior less difficult or easier. Convenience strategies will reduce the time, trouble or effort needed to adopt the behavior. Convenience can come in the form of improved products, services and environments in which people are making decisions.
Incentives (Extrinsic and Intrinsic Rewards)
Incentives can work wonders in boosting individuals’ motivation to adopt new behaviors. Incentives can encourage people to perform current actions more effectively, or to begin an activity in which they otherwise would not engage. Incentives are most effective when presented at the time the behavior should occur; for example, charging for the use of plastic shopping bags at checkout brings attention to the cost of using disposable bags and increases motivation to bring reusable bags.
Determining the right tools to overcome barriers:
- Lack of Motivation
- Commitment, Social Norms, Incentives
- Forget to Act
- Structural Barriers
- Lack of Knowledge
- Communication, Social Diffusion
- Lack of Social Pressure
- Social Norms
Remember, building awareness is not a tool or strategy for behavior change. Often your tools need to carry a message. To achieve behavior change through communication, first understand the behaviors and attitudes of your intended audience. Next, ensure your message is vivid, personal, concrete, specific and easy to remember. The messenger needs to be credible to the priority audience and the message should be delivered in person whenever possible. Consider promoting the positive feelings people will experience as a result of engaging in this behavior (this behavior is fun, exciting or rewarding). Pilot testing messages and images can also be helpful. The Journal of Environmental Communication can be a resource for messaging.
C. Test Your Tools and Pilot Your Campaign
As you design your strategy, you must address these priorities:
- Test your tools and strategies with your priority audience.
This step is crucial and can be done through a formal focus group or an informal conversation with members of your priority audience. Through this step, be sure to evaluate if it is possible for the priority audience to make the behavior change. If the strategy receives positive reviews, you are ready to pilot. If not, you will want to make further refinements. Once you have refined your strategies and tools, you may be ready to pilot your campaign.
- Pilot your campaign.
In the pilot, test the effectiveness of the strategy with a limited number of people. Essentially, you want to know, before committing to using the strategy throughout a community, that it will work effectively. If the pilot is successful, you can be much more confident of success when you broadly implement the strategy. If the pilot is unsuccessful, then you need to make further revisions, and pilot again before broad-scale implementation and evaluation.
Think of piloting as a “test run” or opportunity to work out the bugs before committing to carrying out a strategy broadly. Although piloting is important, it takes a lot of time and resources. Here are some abbreviated tips for any piloting you do:
- Try to use a minimum of two groups to conduct your pilot when possible and make sure the changes you observe are a result of your intervention, not coincidental.
- Make sure to accurately measure the behavior change outcomes when evaluating the success of a pilot.
- Carefully examine numbers and records that denote a change in behavior.
- Confirm that you are actually able to change a behavior before you implement it across your community.
- Revise the campaign as necessary.