To create a successful behavior change campaign, it is important to identify the audience segments within the general population that are most prone to respond to your campaign. To do this, you will need to identify your priority audience and measure the behavior baseline.
A. Identify Your Priority Audience
You can have the most influence by focusing your resources on the segments of the general population that are most likely to change. Within your geographic area, there may be many audiences who engage in and influence your selected behavior. Begin by identifying all the major groups of people who could engage in the behavior. Potential audiences may be grouped based on one or more variables including demographics, geography, values and lifestyles, affinity groups and/or current related behaviors or characteristics (e.g., homeowners with large lawns).
Start by making a list of all the groups of people who have influence on the behavior. These people directly influence, or create the conditions for, your priority audience to take the action you want them to take. For example, if you want homeowners to plant native plants, but local nurseries do not stock native plants, the local nursery owners are an audience that affects the ability of your priority audience (homeowners) to adopt the behavior. You may have to address the behavior of the nursery owners before you can implement your behavior change campaign with homeowners. If you want landscaping companies to stop planting invasive plants, it may be prudent to pursue a new regulation limiting the sale and or planting of particularly noxious invasive plants; this would require working with policymakers.
Evaluate your priority audiences against the following criteria:
Note: Both opportunity and likelihood are the same measures you considered in Step 1 to choose your behavior. Now you are looking at your community more deeply to examine opportunity and likelihood within population segments.
How likely are they to engage in your behavior? It is important to remember that you should not conduct a behavior change campaign with a priority audience that does not want to change their behavior. Instead, focus on the portion of your priority population that is interested in changing their behavior, but just needs some help.
Among those who have not yet adopted the behavior, how likely are they to adopt the behavior? The larger the percentage who are likely to adopt this behavior, the greater the chance you will be successful in changing the behavior.
How large is this audience segment as a portion of the entire population? The larger the size, the greater effect your behavior change may have. Likewise, if your priority audience is very small, consider if it is more efficient to reach out to them through individual relationships or one-on-one interactions, rather than investing in a full-scale behavior change campaign.
B. Measure the Behavior Baseline Within Your Priority Audience
Once you have identified a behavior and priority audience, you need to measure how much your particular audience is currently engaging in the behavior, also known as a baseline measurement. This is very important because will measure again at the end of the campaign to track the degree of behavior change.
It is possible to field one survey that both measures the behavior baseline and helps you prioritize an audience. To do this as stated above, you would measure the general population, and include demographic and sociographic questions so that you can segment your results by several different audience groups. Be sure to include “likelihood” questions so that you can compare your audience groups by both their opportunity and likelihood.
The Chesapeake Bay Program has collected survey data measuring 19 specific residential stewardship behaviors. If you want more up to date data, are working in more localized geography, need to explore the attitudes of a midstream or influencer audience or need to measure a behavior that was not measured by the Chesapeake Bay Program, you will need to conduct your own baseline survey. You can replicate the Chesapeake Bay Program’s survey on a local basis by accessing BaySurvey.org and conducting the survey in your local area. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org prior to beginning for assistance and to gain access to any data you collect through BaySurvey.org. If you have questions or hesitation about your ability to design this research, please consult a professional to help you. Your colleagues who have conducted behavior change campaigns may know of professionals they can recommend or your funder may have a list of technical assistance providers. As you read case studies, when you come across an effective campaign or approach, take note of any professionals who were involved.
The baseline data is quantitative (numeric) and usually measured through a survey or through observation. Whatever technique you use, it should be duplicated to get a comparable measurement at the end of your campaign. For example, the weight of pet waste in a pet waste bin or the number of plastic water bottles on the side of a road are quantitative observations that can be collected at the beginning and end of campaigns to measure change over time. You can also measure your priority audience’s self-reporting of a particular behavior through a survey.
Here are some ways you could measure your behavior baseline:
Conduct a survey on a random sample of your priority audience about their engagement in the behavior. This survey will evaluate what they do, not why they do it. Write the survey using closed-ended questions and aim for the survey to be as brief as possible. Survey questions should be short, conversational, and no jargon! The survey may be conducted online through an emailed link, by telephone, in-person using tablets, or even on paper – or a combination of those methods. Don’t hesitate to reach out for a little help from survey software or a survey professional.
Care should be taken to create a sense of objectivity so that you collect accurate data. The wording of questions should be balanced and neutral. Interviewers should not react to what people say if interviewing in-person (often a hard thing to do!) and survey participants should be assured that every answer they give is acceptable. These are some ways to avoid people giving you the answers they think you want to hear, often referred to as “social desirability bias”.
For additional help in creating and conducting a survey, visit Harvard University’s Questionnaire Design Tip Sheet. Consider having your survey and methodology reviewed by a survey professional.
Observe behaviors in real time. Discreetly observe people engaging in the behavior you wish to influence. For example, one group identified a littering hot spot and observed from a park bench the instance of littering at that hot spot. The same measurement was repeated in the same spot at the end of the campaign. In another example, practitioners counted the number of yard flags indicating application of toxic pesticides to determine a baseline of pesticide application by a lawn company in a given area. Care must be given to design the behavior observations to control for externalities and to compare exactly the same people engaging in the behavior. In the example of the pesticide flags, the same properties should be observed during the same time period at the same time of the year. As with survey design, consider consulting a data collection expert when designing your observation measurements.
Observe the prevalence of the pollutant. For example, one could observe and count the quantity, volume or weight of the pollutant (pet waste or plastic water bottles) in a given area before and after a campaign. Care should be taken to control for external variables. For example, do not do a litter count on a windy day or just after a rainstorm when the litter could have been moved to a new location by the wind or rain.
Use the baseline data to set specific, measurable and realistic campaign goals. For example, if 20% of your priority audience regularly uses reusable shopping bags at the grocery store, your campaign goal may be to increase that number to 50%. Be as specific as you can about your goal and be sure you consider how you will collect the data to evaluate your goal at the end of the campaign.