Presentation at the First International Summit on Social and Behavior Change Communication (SBCC) 2016

Yasmin Khan
Publication Date
February 9, 2016

Bangladesh Center for Communication Programs (BCCP)

"Message development process is a combination of science and art."

This presentation was the core of a skills building workshop that combine both the science behind designing research-driven and result-oriented messages as well as the art of evoking an emotional response and encouraging and empowering the message's intended audience. Ms. Yasmin Khan, Program Director at the Bangladesh Center for Communication Programs (BCCP), guides a specialised team of multi-disciplinary staff to plan, conceptualise, design, and implement social and behaviour change communication (SBCC) strategies e.g., in the areas of population, health, and nutrition. Here, she shares lessons from her own experience of more than 20 years in the field of strategic communication as well as facilitators' audiovisual and print message examples, along with messages from the commercial sector.

Khan illustrates the message development process, which involves teamwork that starts with an inquiry: Know the programme; know the situation; and know the audience. This process should lead to a document which in turn helps inform step 2, developing the design message strategy to be outlined in the creative brief (the blueprint of message development). A number of core questions should be asked at this point for inclusion in the blueprint, such as "What is the core idea you want to give in the message?", "By adopting new behaviour, what benefits will the audience get?", and "What are you asking the audience to do through your message?" Step 3 involves transforming data into a creative piece, pretesting, revising, and finalising the set of messages. Step 4 entails involving the stakeholders to disseminate the messages, orienting and training, sharing credit, tracking changes, and making corrections if needed. Finally, the team should measure and assess impact, disseminate results, and plan for the future.

Khan devotes special attention to pretesting, which she describes as a way to avoid costly error by gathering audience reaction on the message/materials prior to finalisation. The questions are: Does the message attract audience attention and make them participate? Does the audience understand the message clearly? Is the message socially and culturally acceptable by the audience? Does the audience trust the message conveyed? Is the message considered to be personally relevant to the audience? Though Khan cites several reasons people use to avoid pretesting (e.g., "We're the experts! We know what they need.") and several common errors (e.g., asking leading questions such as, "You like this, right?", Khan stresses that pretesting is an investment, not a cost.

One concept Khan interweaves throughout her discussion of the entire process is that of creativity. Presenting several examples of songs, posters, billboards, and other types of message dissemination, she outlines 7 Cs for effective communication: (i) Command attention (stand out in the clutter); (ii) clarify the message, keeping it simple and direct; (iii) Cater to the heart and head; (iv) communicate a benefit (tell people how it helps them - e.g., how keeping the newborn in the warmth of the mother's body keeps the newborn health and strong); (v) create trust (establish believability); (vi) call for Action (ask people to do something); and (vii) consistency counts (repeat the messages).


SBCC Summit website, accessed February 16 2016.