Once you have your key messages, you will need to find ways to get them to the eyes, ears and awareness of your target audience. A message not delivered is having no impact.
Products, tools and channels
Advocacy and communications professionals have a range of approaches – often called ‘products’, ‘tools’ and ‘channels’ – from which they select the best way to get their messages to the audience.
Very important is to take time to think about how and where your target audience consumes information:
- Do they read the newspaper?
- Regularly visit certain websites (including importantly yours)?
- Will they read a brochure put in their hands, or more likely to toss it aside?
Creating communications products
You can develop a variety of communications products (or ‘tools’ in advocacy and communications jargon) to get your message across to your target audiences and beyond. It is always good to reinforce your message by providing materials that meet the informational needs of various audiences, but think first what is most appropriate and impactful before you commit to the work and cost of developing your products.
Communications tools and products can include a range of printed or visual material such as:
- Factsheets, information sheets and ‘frequently asked questions’ (FAQs)
- Brochures and posters
- Infographics and charts
- Pictures and videos
- Success stories and case studies
They also include a wide and growing range of digital and telecommunications products, such as web pages, social media tools (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc), SMS/text messages, as we will discuss in more detail below.
Identifying the right opportunities and ways to get your message out
You can share your message in many ways: from personal communication, to community meetings, to electronic and online communications, to special events. There are usually many opportunities to get your message to your target audience. You just need to always think about who are you targeting and the best way to reach them. Here are some ideas and opportunities to consider:
Never underestimate the power of one-to-one communication, such as a direct meeting with the decision-maker. And remember, many advocacy opportunities can be brief encounters in a hallway or an elevator (advocates call this their ‘elevator pitch’) so you need to be sure your messengers are prepared to deliver your message concisely and directly to your target audience.
Community meetings are a great way to galvanise support for increased attention on immunisation or create a “collective call to action”. Bringing together members of your community can create a coalition and the power of many voices is strong.
Electronic and online communications
In today’s world, so much of our communication is digital, electronic and online. This is a fantastic opportunity for advocates to get their messages out, and it can be done without a lot of resource costs. While some regions have lower internet speeds and poor access, the picture is changing rapidly.
From your desktop, you can reach the world.
- Websites: A great place to showcase the full scope of your vision and goals. Websites can be linked to a number of other channels and are often referenced in media blasts/articles. Keep your website up to date, however.
- Blogs: They have become a powerful way to share your message with a small community or the world. Your blog can be on your organisation’s or a partner’s website, with news outlets or have your blog placed on global health platforms. A number of global advocacy organisations, such as ONE.org and RESULTS.org as well as Gavi (Vaccines Work website) seek out and publish good blogs from all over the world.
- Emails and Newsletters: Communicating electronically is becoming a norm everywhere. If your networks often use this mode of communication, make sure to take advantage of it – electronic communication is a quick way to get your message across.
- Social Media: Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are an easy way to get short, quick messages out to a large group of people. These channels are appropriate if your target audience is an avid user.
- SMS/Texting: It has become a huge communications channel and tool, being used in many countries to convey messages to the public and communities.
The media is a one of the most influential advocacy vehicles. It helps with educating, informing and influencing audiences. As you implement your advocacy strategy, we strongly recommend that you plan to work with the media and develop a specific media strategy, as it is one of the most powerful communication channels to disseminate your message to a large audience. We have a section below specifically on how to work with the media, but in addition, consider these media outlets:
- Radio, TV, print media, including entertainment messaging (for example on soap operas)
- Advertisements and public service announcements
Developing a well-planned special event, such as a meeting of experts or a conference focused on immunisation, is another important tactic. This is also closely linked to efforts around campaigns and leveraging a vaccine introduction, national or global immunisation days or weeks – see below for details.
TWEETS FROM 2013 WORLD PNEUMONIA DAY CAMPAIGN
- Let’s get together and #fightpneumonia people the #1 killer of children under 5 worldwide, responsible for 17% of all child deaths#WPD2013”
- “This #WPD2013, let’s promote immunisation, nutrition and better hygiene and #fightpneumonia, to secure our kids’ futures!”
What are some special events you can create or leverage to promote vaccines and immunisation?
Creating an opportunity to showcase the importance of routine immunisation helps to bolster the importance of your message and advance your advocacy effort. In the immunisation space, there are a number of opportunities, including:
Vaccine introductions and campaigns:
New vaccines being introduced in your country and specific vaccine campaigns and supplementary immunisation activities (SIAs) are key moments to highlight both the importance of that vaccine and routine immunisation as well. Many countries are marking new vaccine introductions through high level launch ceremonies that can constitute great advocacy opportunities.
They can be used to make sure to get the word out about immunisation more broadly. Make sure to have pamphlets and other “take-away” materials available so that parents can share within their networks. See the Gavi website for dates of national vaccine rollouts.
National or global immunisation days or weeks:
The public comes to recognise these days as important, and they can also be leveraged to make sure to get the word out about immunisation farther than just to those who’ve brought their children to be vaccinated.
For example: World/Africa Immunisation Week (April), World Pneumonia Day (November 12), etc.
Reminder – Developing partnerships, communications material and products, and planning events is part and parcel of your implementation plan.
Link with broader child health events:
Think outside the immunisation space and join forces to help broader child health improvement strategies. You can insert your messages in the event too.
The best way to find out about child health events, meetings and conferences is through your networks and partners. Some examples of many: World Vision’s Global Week of Action; World Toilet Day.
Working with the Media
Important: If you do not have the answer to a question or if the question is sensitive – say, for example related to adverse events following immunisation, DO NOT ANSWER! Just say that the questions will be submitted and answered by the appropriate authority or expert. Never get drawn into talking about a subject or area you are not comfortable or knowledgeable about.
Working with reporters, journalists and the media is an important way to get your messages out, build support and make sure there is awareness of the issues you are advocating for.
It’s important to remember that the media’s focus is on bringing interesting news to its reader viewers or listeners. So think about what’s interesting to a wider audience when you approach the media – who does this affect, how is it important to the public, and how can you help them tell an engaging story?
While media relations is a wide field of communications work, here are some basic guidelines to help you reach out and be successful.
What are the basic rules and conventions of media relations?
- Take the time to build a relationship with specific reporters/journalists of interest – target particularly the ones writing on health issues. Start building a media contacts database.
- They need to know who you are and that you can be a great source of information on vaccines and immunisation.
- Reach out to many journalists – pitch your story widely.
- Make sure to provide background information to your journalist to avoid mistakes.
Work to make journalists aware of immunisation issues
- Press and media briefings are great venues for educating reporters and journalists about vaccines and immunisation and also for sharing with them clear briefing material. It is also a great opportunity to expand your network of contacts and build new strong relationships.
- You can hold media briefings, site visits, journalism tours, training sessions, for example.
Be proactive: seize and create opportunities
- Working with the media requires planning. Don’t wait until the very last minute to reach out to your media contacts about an event, a blog or a press conference as they may not be available. Use media advisories to alert journalists in advance.
- For example, international days such as World Pneumonia Day, World/Africa Vaccination Week, and vaccine campaigns are known and planned well in advance.
- When you organise an event think about inviting and ideally also briefing the press/media.
- Keep an eye on what issues are currently in the news – can you attach your issue to what the media is already focused on and get their attention?
Prepare media releases, press conferences, op-eds, interviews, etc.
- These are perfect channels to get your message out and should be considered for putting across your immunisation message.
- For interviews, make sure to have the evidence and the key messages handy and don’t forget to practice what you want to say.
- However – don’t bother journalists with press releases and press conferences unless you have some real news (especially breaking news).
- Catch their interest and share stories that are news worthy and unique.
Think about packaging and delivering your material – photos, videos/films, stories, etc.
- Make sure to provide a nice “packaging” for your material – preparing handouts or a ‘media kit’ with your press release and some background information is critical for journalists to do their job.
- Sometimes, photos or videos can be much more powerful tools than words to get your message across.
- If you have testimonies, success stories, and illustrative stories to share, it is always a plus. As we mentioned with developing key messages, journalists also work to appeal to the head and the heart.
Target the right media for the right target audience
- Think about which media will be best channel for communicating your immunisation message. You need to think about the most accessible and popular channel for your target audience: for example, radio for communities, the leading newspaper for decision-makers.
- Written/printed media may not be the best communication channel to reach rural communities with low literacy level – you may prefer using the community-based radio or television.
See how leveraging events and champions helped raise awareness of immunisation in India.
See how media campaigns and champions helped raise awareness of immunisation in India.
See how social media played a role in advocating for vaccines in India.