Clarifying Your Objectives For Promotion

In any promotional effort, you have to be very clear about what you are trying to achieve, and the messages of your promotional campaign have to focus on these objectives. This page discusses three goals that your promotional efforts need to accomplish:

  • Increase the knowledge of health care consumers
  • Change the beliefs and attitudes of health care consumers
  • Affect the behaviors of health care consumers

Focusing on just one of these elements will not be enough. All three ingredients are essential to getting the response you want from consumers and other audiences.

Increase the Knowledge of Health Care Consumers

Knowledge is important for its own sake, but also as a foundation for addressing attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Your audience needs to know:

  • The report exists.
  • The purpose of the report.
  • What the report contains.
  • Who could use and who can benefit from the report.
  • Where to find the report.
  • When and how to use the report.
  • Who developed the report.

This list should not be viewed as the only pieces of information you would want to convey, but they are an important starting point.

Take advantage of every opportunity to enhance knowledge by condensing information into a few key words or phrases. For example:

  • Report title: Use the title to convey the report’s focus, particularly the kind of health care the report addresses and the community, state, or other geographic region covered.
  • Home page: Use a tag line, introductory text, and design elements to communicate additional pieces of information as concisely as possible.
  • URL: For a Web-based report, create a site address (URL) that incorporates part or all of the report title.

Change the Beliefs and Attitudes of Health Care Consumers

Changing beliefs and attitudes is a great deal more difficult than providing new information. Nevertheless, unless certain key attitudes and beliefs are addressed, people are unlikely to feel a need to look at a comparative quality report, or think that it is something they could actually understand and use.

Some of these attitudes and beliefs are discussed in the context of the key messages that should be included in the first page of a Web-based report. (Learn more about key messages in Communicating Key Information Upfront.) That first page should be designed to reinforce the messages of your promotional campaign, so it is no accident they are so similar.

However, the advice about key messages focuses on positive statements you would want to make. This discussion focuses on the attitudes and beliefs you need to change to attract a substantial number of people in your community and motivate them to use your report. Examples of common beliefs include the following:

  • All health care professionals and facilities provide high-quality care.
  • I’m satisfied with my doctor so I don’t need this report.
  • Even if some health professionals and facilities here in town don’t provide quality care, I know that my personal physician (or the hospital I use, or the nursing home where my mother resides) is first-rate.
  • You can’t really measure health care quality.
  • The supposed experts may think my physician isn’t great, but I have a good relationship with him and I trust that he does the best he can for me.
  • People like me would never be able to understand what professionals are talking about when they discuss health care quality.
  • I don’t make health care choices anyway, so I have no reason to look at this report.
  • I have health insurance that gives me access to high-quality care.
  • Quality information like this is just another form of advertising.

By being aware of both the positive and negative attitudes and beliefs that can influence how an audience will respond to your report, you will be better equipped to craft creative messages—for example, by expressing the negative attitude and then providing an argument against it.

Affect the Behaviors of Health Care Consumers

Ultimately, your promotional campaign will not be successful unless it influences specific behaviors. Here are the important behaviors for a promotional campaign to focus on:

  • Accessing the report.
  • Spending at least a few minutes looking at the report.
  • Using the information in the report to help me decide if I am getting good care from my current provider.
  • Using the information in the report to figure out what I can do to improve my own health.
  • Using the information in the report to select a new provider.
  • Telling family, friends, and work colleagues about the report.
  • Discussing the report with health care professionals, or even with employers and policy makers.

Access Versus Use

The first two behaviors on this list are absolutely critical, because unless people find your report and spend those few minutes looking at it, they cannot really use it. So driving these behaviors has to be a primary goal of your campaign.

However, people will be more likely to find and look at a quality report if they believe it can help them do something else that is important to them. So you have to keep the last three “use” behaviors in mind as you design your promotional efforts. You may have other specific uses that you want to encourage, but these three are likely to be relevant to almost any report for a consumer audience. Learn about helping consumers use your report in Supporting Consumers in Using the Information.

Behaviors of Other Audiences

This guidance assumes that consumers, or some subset of them, are your primary audience. But you may also have other uses you want to drive in other audiences. For example, you might want to:

  • Encourage the providers you are rating to use the reports to identify where they need to make improvements in quality.
  • Encourage purchasers to make their decisions based on this information as well as other considerations.

Your broader promotional campaign can address these needs as well. However, a single promotional activity rarely works with multiple audiences. You need to focus on one audience for each promotional effort (although your messages should be consistent across audiences).

Learn about establishing objectives in What Are Your Objectives?

Learn about evaluating your progress towards achieving these objectives in Assess Your Reporting Project.


Also in "Promote Your Report"

Page last reviewed July 2016
Page originally created February 2015
Internet Citation: Clarifying Your Objectives For Promotion. Content last reviewed July 2016. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/professionals/quality-patient-safety/talkingquality/disseminate/promote/clarify.html