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Developing Nutrition Month Campaigns

OHPE Bulletin #38.1 January 23, 1998

A. And The Twelve Steps Are...
B. Creative Strategies For Nutrition Month
C. Decide Who You Want To Reach And Get To Know Them (Step 3)
D. Figure Out The Best Ways To Reach Your Audience (Step 6)
E. Get Going On Your Message (Step 8)
F. Evaluate What You've Done (Step 12)

THCU recently worked with the Dietitians of Canada to produce "Make Nutrition Come Alive for Your and Your Community"-a campaign planner designed to help dietitians with community activities during Nutrition Month in March.

The booklet provides a step-by-step process to developing communication activities for healthy eating, based on the campaign materials and messages created by Dietitians of Canada. The process itself is based on THCU's 12 Steps to Developing Communication Campaigns, and while some of the tips and strategies are specific to Nutrition Month, we feel much of it is useful for health promoters in a variety of situations. So here, for your edification, are some excerpts from this nifty resource.


While we won't detail all 12 steps involved in developing a communication campaign for Nutrition Month, or any other month, in this Bulletin, here is the entire list:

Step 1: Getting Started,
Step 2: Developing Health Promotion Strategy,
Step 3: Analyze and Segment Audience,
Step 4: Inventory Communication Resources,
Step 5: Set Communication Objectives,
Step 6: Identify Vehicles and Channels,
Step 7: Sequence Activities,
Step 8: Develop Messages,
Step 9: Develop Identity,
Step 10: Develop Materials,
Step 11: Implement Communication Campaign,
Step 12: Evaluate Communication Campaign.


Some ideas that communities have had success with in the past include:
- work with local radio stations to create a 'dial-a-dietitian' during Nutrition Month
- hold a kick-off breakfast at a central location to get the media interested at the beginning of the month
- promote events early and widely
- provide recipes and coupons as incentives
- hold a draw for a cash amount of groceries or provide the winner and three friends with a personal grocery store tour
- have a live website demonstration or hold live food preparation demonstrations
- get local celebrities as spokespersons; involve them in community events and media activities
- create top 10 lists for healthy eating based on the booklet and fact sheets
- publish success stories about real people who've made changes to their eating habits

Hoping to Change People's Eating on a Shoestring?

Many communication activities don't have to cost big bucks. Try these tips to keep your profile high and your costs low:

- insert the booklet or get parts of it reproduced in your local newspaper (ask if they'll do it as a public service announcement)

- win your way into the media's heart through their stomachs! Plan a 'healthy breakfast' event at the local newspaper, radio or TV station and use materials for background information

- work with local advocates in your community to help you promote the messages of Nutrition Month.


Before starting any kind of communication activity, it's important to have a clear picture of whom we want to reach. Often, because of good intention, limited time and resources, we try to reach everyone. But, let's face it, there is considerable diversity in the general population-and a generic message that is not directed to any specific group may be seen by all, but heard or 'received' by few or none. Dividing a large audience into smaller, homogeneous segments makes our work easier and, in the end, more effective. With a better understanding of these smaller groups, we can better predict behaviour and develop credible, appealing messages. Once we've selected our subgroup(s) (e.g., women with young children, older adults, lower income families, etc.), we can collect demographic and behavioural characteristics as well as values, attitudes and beliefs (psychographics) of each group.

Different Ways to Segment Audiences

a. By Gender
Given that over 80% of the primary shoppers in most Canadian families are women, one way to segment the general population is by gender. Some demographics of women shoppers: about half work outside the home;
60% are 18-49 years of age; 40% are 50 and over.

b. By Behaviour
We could also focus on people in the population who are not eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. They tend to be: younger, employed full-time in a job, not necessarily in a career, married with children, rarely planning or cooking ahead of time, not working with their family to eat better.

c. By Where People Are At (Based on the Stages of Change)
Another way to segment audiences is according to their readiness for change. Within the stages of change, two groups you might want to focus on are contemplators (people thinking about changing their eating) and preparers (people ready to make changes). Here's a compilation of demographic, behavioural and psychographic characteristics of these groups:

- mostly married, white females aged 25-44
- 1-2 children at home
- most work full time: 40% see work as a career
- less health oriented
- less happy with life in general-wish for a different life
- less adventurous
- have high levels of perceived stress
- see a change in diet as important for quality of life and energy (benefits)
- more likely to shop at big box stores, eat fast food, and go to all-you-can-eat buffets
- see selves as homebodies; prefer quiet evenings at home; don't go to clubs, sports events
- religion is important
- less likely to see themselves as a winner, leader, attractive, successful, clever
- news not as important as entertainment (e.g., National Enquirer, Reader's Digest, Family Channel).


This step involves choosing the best ways to reach the audience you've selected--ones that are most trusted and appealing to them. We call these channels--the way a message is sent (radio, TV, Internet, face-to-face or through schools, the workplace, etc.) and vehicles -- specific ways to deliver messages through channels (public service announcements, paid ads, presentations, etc.). Communication research shows a combination of media activities, events, and interpersonal communication is most effective for changing knowledge, attitudes and behaviour. Try to include all three elements when selecting channels and vehicles for Nutrition Month.

Knowing people's preferred sources of information is extremely helpful. This information is regularly collected by the National Institute of Nutrition (please see following page). Some important highlights and ways to apply them:

- Product labels are an important source of information for those with higher education. For this reason, you may want to develop an activity that helps people interpret these labels.

- Friends, relatives and colleagues have become more important as a source since trends in 1994. You might want to look for ways to direct activities to these people or find ways to include them.

- Finally, if you were interested in reaching lower income groups, you might consider placing the booklet or consumer fact sheets in physicians' waiting rooms.

Each channel and vehicle has its pros and cons-particularly in terms of cost and reach. For example, outdoor advertising has good exposure (e.g., things like billboards, bus shelter posters, ads on the sides of buses) but can get expensive. This is when it helps to know what's available in the community and who's willing to lend a hand to do something free or sponsor an activity.

a. Using Workplaces as a Way to Reach Your Audience-Specific Activities for Workplaces
- develop paycheck stuffers on healthy eating
- arrange with the employee health nurse to have information distributed to all employees
- a live Website demonstration in the worksite cafeteria
- inserts for the workplace newsletter and an offer to write a lead article about Nutrition Month
- work with cafeteria managers to offer weekly healthy menu choices during the month and after March.


You know what you want to achieve, you understand your audience, you know the best and most feasible ways to reach them. Now comes the fun part-creating messages to pull your audience in and bring their attention to the activities and information available during Nutrition Month. These messages should be appealing, and crafted in the audience's 'language'. They should fit with and build on Nutrition Month's key campaign messages. Consider these tips for developing messages that attract the attention of your audience:

Remember--People are Busy
- offer quick tips for buying and preparing food
- talk to your audience when they have time and can really listen-not when they are tired and harassed
- provide information geared to today's fast paced lifestyle

Make Healthy Eating Fun, Not Work
- use entertaining ways to get your audience's attention (e.g., success stories like Weight Watchers)
- use positive emotional messages not fear (threats and scare tactics are less effective methods than humour, entertainment and emotion in attracting people's attention)
- for contemplators, focus on the benefits and barriers to healthy eating since this group has less experience with the behaviour (they believe eating better will keep energy levels up; may reduce chronic disease BUT it's hard to eat well; takes planning and is boring)

Emphasize the Information People Want
- don't rely on nutritional brochures (print material) alone
- help people interpret nutrition information about the foods they buy-specifically information on food labelling, which foods are healthy and which aren't and how to understand nutrition claims made by manufacturers.

Keep Messages Simple and Practical
- avoid statistics at all costs
- use nonscientific layperson terms
- provide practical information


We'll never know what to do in the future if we haven't figured out our successes and challenges in the past. Here are some easy ways to evaluate your activities:

- intercept interviews in grocery stores (to measure awareness of the campaign and use of materials)
- content analysis to measure number of public 'exposures' to the campaign (e.g., radio interviews, PSAs, newspaper coverage)
- telephone follow-up with consumers to measure awareness of the campaign; use of materials, etc.
- program records including the number of materials distributed and events held follow-up interviews with those who contributed to the campaign at grocery stores, schools, workplaces, etc.

Please see OHPE 38.2 for additional resources.

For more information on Nutrition Month please contact Lise Smedmor at Dietitians of Canada, 416-596-0857x318, fax 416- 596-0603,,

For more information on THCU including assistance with developing communication campaigns, evaluation, policy change and program planning, please contact Lorraine Telford, 416-978-1188, fax 416-971-2443 or email or visit the website at