Changing Behaviors with Communication

  • Rubban Shakeel

Imagine embarking on a thrilling adventure, driving down a bumpy, unpaved road, with the sole purpose of reaching a small village nestled beneath barren mountains. This community of 100 individuals has been completely oblivious to a global pandemic that has gripped the world. They haven't had the privilege of education, access to telecommunication, or the internet, and they're naturally skeptical of outsiders who come to "teach" them about their own lives. 

As an expert on the pandemic, you're faced with the daunting task of finding a way to communicate with them and make them aware of the potential dangers to their health.

That sounds like a real challenge, right? Well, you have no idea!

Luckily, back in 1792, the concept of Health Education (HE) was introduced, and it gained traction in the 1980s as a way to spread crucial disease prevention information. This paved the way for Information, Education, and Communication (IEC) in the 1990s, which was embraced by the World Health Organization (Nancy, 2021). Later evolving into Behavior Change Communication (BCC).

BCC, also known as Communication for Development or Social and Behavior Change Communication, revolves around strategies that aim to alter a target audience's attitudes. The ultimate goal is to promote healthier practices and create inclusive and equitable societies.

BCC is most commonly used in WASH (Water And Sanitation Hygiene) programs to foster healthier habits within communities. However, a more recent concept called Social and Behavior Change Communication (SBCC) adds the crucial element of advocacy, focusing on developing policies and frameworks for broader societal impact, rather than just individuals or small communities.

But how do we do it? Let's return to our village scenario, where we face three significant challenges:

  • Lack of education
  • Limited or no access to information sources
  • Skepticism towards outsiders (yes, that means you!)

Does this mean you should just run away and give up? Not so fast! We have BCC on our side!

BCC offers multiple models that can be employed to disseminate messages, but let's talk about my personal favorite: the four-step wonder.

Step 1: Awareness

Hey, there's a deadly virus out there, and you might want to listen to what I have to say.

Awareness involves informing people about the issue, its potential harm, and preventive measures.

As a first step, you are required to develop key messages, preferably on the 3x3 model, which in this case would be:

Proof PointProof PointProof Point

An example using the above model would be:

X is an air-borne virus that causes respiratory ailments due to its XY DNA and can be fatal to humans as it targets the lungs. Wear a mask to prevent from catching the virus, as per WHO guidelines

As a personal golden rule, I would not advice more than 3 key messages, to avoid a saturation of content. The more crisp your message, the more understandable it will be to the audience. 

You utilize any medium you have to disseminate key messages and ensure it reaches all members of the community so they are aware of the information that you are trying to inform them of.

Step 2: Reinforcement

Hey, remember the virus? It hasn't disappeared and it could get worse.

Reinforcement involves hammering the message with a fresh set of key messages based on the initial awareness stage. This ensures that the audience doesn't feel like they're receiving the same information repeatedly, while still reinforcing the essential facts. 

To make reinforcement more effective, it's crucial to provide on-ground data and evidence. For instance, sharing statistics about the virus's fatality rate alongside the high efficacy of vaccines can motivate individuals to take preventive measures and prepare them for the next stage of our BCC model.

Step 3: Commitment

Hey, are you with us? Let's get vaccinated!

The commitment stage aims to achieve micro-conversions within the community. It involves motivating individuals to commit to actions such as getting vaccinated or becoming ambassadors who spread awareness to neighboring communities. The strategies for encouraging commitment should be tailored to the specific community you're targeting, considering their cultural context and values. It could involve community leaders speaking about the importance of vaccination, organizing community-driven awareness events, or establishing support groups where individuals can share their vaccination experiences and address concerns.

Step 4: Reward

Hey, since you've been amazing, here's a reward for you.

Finally, the reward stage focuses on acknowledging and appreciating the target audience for their active participation in the campaign. You encourage ongoing engagement and reinforce positive behavior change by providing rewards, even small ones like "I got vaccinated" stickers or reward coupons for local grocery stores. 

This not only sustains the campaign's impact but also increases the likelihood of individuals sharing the message with neighboring communities. The ultimate goal is for the campaign to become self-sustaining, with the community taking the lead and actively spreading awareness.

It is important to remember that implementing a successful BCC campaign takes time. Months, even years, of dedicated effort may be required to effect meaningful behavior change and nurture healthier habits within a community. 

However, the results are undeniably worth the investment when you witness a community embracing hygienic practices for their well-being and that of future generations.

Pro Tip

To measure the effectiveness of your campaign, consider conducting a baseline survey before starting and following it up with a post-campaign survey to compare results. These surveys will provide quantifiable evidence of the impact of your BCC efforts and serve as valuable tools for future campaigns.

Connect with us! 

If you require further assistance with communication strategies or marketing efforts, don't hesitate to reach out to us. We're here to help you make a positive impact in your community through the power of communication.

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