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Questions to consider when crafting the message

Last edited: January 03, 2012

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  • How does the target audience see the campaign issue and goal? In what aspects does their understanding differ from that promoted by the campaign? How does the issue need to be presented so that the audience considers the campaign goal legitimate and desirable?
  • How can the audience be motivated to respond to the call for action? Using personal narratives drawn from real cases, i.e. adding an element that appeals to people’s emotions, has proven an effective way to engage people, both in behavior-change and advocacy campaigns.


Example: The Democratic Association of Moroccan Women (ADFM) has produced a series of public service announcements (PSA) on national TV to raise awareness for new provisions in the Islamic Family Law (moudawana) protecting women’s rights. Each PSA presents a situation faced by an “ordinary” Moroccan family which illustrates one of the new moudawana provisions and how it can be applied. For example, the PSA on the marriageable age shows a couple discussing their teenage daughter’s marriage. The wife convinces the husband to abandon his plan of “marrying off” their daughter before she reaches the age of 18, explaining to him that such practice is outlawed by the amended moudawana. An evaluation concluded that the PSAs which were closest to the viewers’ own life experience effectively raised awareness on the law (Anaruz/LMS-CSA, 2007).

Read about the tools used in the media campaign (in French).


  • On what theory of change is the campaign based? Effective behaviour-change campaigns are based on theories of change, which focus on different drivers of behaviour-change. For example, if the campaign is based on the stages of change theory, messages should encourage people to reflect on their thinking and behaviour, and to devise their own ways of ending VAW in their lives. In a health belief model, it is appropriate to show the risks and dangers VAW presents to the target audience, and propose a precise action for the target audience by which they can prevent these risks. Thus, campaigns that encourage survivors of domestic violence (DV) to seek help commonly show the likely health-related consequences of DV – depression, medical problems and death – and invite survivors to call a help line. For more guidance see Theories of Change in Campaigning in Campaign Planning.
  • How can the message promote gender justice in a way that engages the audience? How can it avoid reproducing stereotypes about the roles of women and men? Community interventions, for instance, that target gender inequality and stereotyping in daily life, can help to show that equal, non-violent relationships between men and women result in healthier and happier families and communities. A successful way of gaining male support for greater gender justice is to involve men as partners and part of the solution in preventing VAW (instead of casting men only as perpetrators). For more information on engaging men and boys, see the Men and Boys module.


Example: This is not an invitation to rape me’ is a campaign started in 2008 by Rape Crisis Scotland to challenge persistent prejudicial attitudes by the public that women who have been raped “ask for it” if they dress in a manner considered ‘provocative’, if they have been drinking, or if they engage in some level of intimacy with their attacker before being assaulted. The clear campaign slogan also addresses the prevailing myth that only rape by a stranger counts as ‘real rape’ despite the fact that the vast majority of attacks are carried out by someone known to the victim. The campaign message was reinforced with a variety of publicity materials including posters, postcards and a downloadable briefing pack for activists and individuals interested in learning more about the campaign issue. In 2010, Rape Crisis Scotland ran a related ad campaign called ‘Not Ever’ with a public service announcement that questions existing social attitudes that say "don't get raped" as opposed to "don't rape". 

The ‘This is not an invitation to rape me’ campaign was originally started in New York in 1994, by two friends, Charles Hall and Eric McClellan in response to the attempted rape of their female friend who would not press charges for fear of the harsh judicial process and the public humiliation associated with accusing someone of rape. They developed posters, stickers, public service announcements and an art installation, to attack the perception, that when a woman is raped, she asked for it, deserved it or wanted it. The campaign was then adopted by Peace Over Violence in Los Angeles, where it was run for 14 years and shared with other organisations in the country and abroad.


  • If the audience is highly diverse, what message is likely to speak to everyone? As a rule, the bigger the audience, the simpler the overarching message should be. Refine and vary sub-messages that are drawn from and connect back to the overarching message so as to speak effectively to different segments of your audience. For instance, if the overarching message is “Break the Silence on Domestic Violence”, a sub-message targeted specifically at victims of abuse could urge them to call a helpline, while another targeted at neighbours in a community could urge them to report incidents they hear or witness.
  • Is the message being presented in the right way? Since words can be perceived differently by different people depending on the context, it is important to consider how a worded message is actually being presented. A message might for example, use language that resonates with a young audience, yet offends an older one. Or a message might suggest one thing to one group and something else to another. Like in the point above, an overarching message can have sub-messages that are presented in different ways.
  • Can the message be conveyed to its target audience within 20 seconds? Evidence suggests that longer messages are less effective.
  • Do all key message points fit well into the overall communications strategy? Whether or not there is just one overarching message, or several sub-messages, all of this messaging must serve the campaign’s purpose and its goals. To avoid confusion or conflicting messages, and ensure coherence, decide on the core set of message points that must be part of all communications, and consistently apply these in all campaign planning, materials and activities.