Message Development and Testing

What you say and how you say it matters. Using one word or visual over another can have a tremendous impact on whether or not people listen to you, believe your message, engage with your organization, and/or inspire themselves and each other to create positive change. Knowing this, JVA has combined the expertise of our evaluation and marketing teams to help our clients understand how to make smart choices with their messaging, through our proven  message development and testing practices.

Message Development: How do I know what will resonate?

To gain insight into the knowledge, perceptions and experiences of an organization’s stakeholders or the broader community, JVA employs three primary methods for gathering feedback:

By Dayne Topkin via Unsplash

  • Focus groups—designed to be highly participatory to create a trusting atmosphere and draw out honest responses from the participants
  • Interviews—created to set a safe, one-on-one environment for sharing truthful and in-depth information
  • Surveys—administered purposefully in a variety of settings (phone, in-person canvassing, online) and from myriad demographics to collect a wide variety of perspectives

How do you include the voices of those who may often go unheard? JVA is committed to employing a culturally responsive approach in all that we do and to transcreating materials for our clients’ audiences so that participants have the opportunity to share their opinions in a way that is accessible and meaningful. JVA also has bilingual staff (English-Spanish) and close connections with community partners to offer language options for each of the above feedback methods. Over our 30-year history, JVA has developed a keen understanding of community engagement, resulting in a fine-tuned and comprehensive set of approaches, including ones designed with harder-to-reach populations in mind.

What does participant recruitment look like? JVA employs multiple forms of outreach to engage and recruit focus group, interview and survey participants. These methods can include options such as social media, partner engagement and distributing printed flyers to areas frequented by the target audience. All outreach and recruitment methods are designed to ensure we are hearing and learning from the audiences that will provide the best insights into language, visuals and strategies that will ultimately communicate your desired message.

Message Testing: How do I check what I think will work?

Building off insights gathered during the message development process or using your already created messaging, our team is skilled at gathering the feedback needed to better understand the strength and effectiveness of your messaging. We are also able to develop recommendations for communication strategy, positioning, materials and outlets. This includes identification of best avenues for:

  • Paid media (pay-for-placement or promotion of services)
  • Earned media (exposure earned through word of mouth)
  • Owned media (content and communication the organization fully controls)
  • Partner promotion (cross-promotion to extend visibility)

Messaging Products: How do I put what works into play?

Considering each of these platforms, methods and desired audiences, JVA can create an individualized “toolkit” with specific examples and ready-to-go products, all geared toward your organization’s audience(s).

These toolkits could include:

  • Introductory tools (FAQs, talking points, research summary and key messages)
  • Direct communication copy (welcome, follow-up and campaign-specific letters)
  • Collateral pieces (brochures, flyers)
  • Social media messaging (sample text and images across multiple platforms)
  • Media options (audio and visual public service announcements, press releases)
  • Presentation aids (PowerPoint templates, speaking points)
  • Training curriculum (in person or online, facilitator agendas, supporting handouts)
  • Advocacy and policy positions (identified topics and language that are most relevant to policymakers)

The Bottom Line: If you’re looking to better understand and connect with your community and stakeholders, look to JVA.

Through message development, our team will help you discover:

  • Current beliefs and knowledge about who you are
  • Perceptions about what you offer, including perceived challenges/barriers and values/strengths
  • Experiences with your services and resources
  • Preferred communication methods of your stakeholders

And through message testing, we can create:

  • Specific language to use for each specific audience
  • Targeted platforms for sharing your messaging
  • Coordinated timelines for message distribution

Contact us today to learn how to best reach your audience through message development and testing!


What do JVA’s final products look like?

We’re glad you asked! Here are some sample engagements:

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) partnered with JVA to:

  • Better develop messaging and delivery practices, specifically for 15 public health messages designed for pregnant women and caregivers of children under the age of 5. Here’s what we learned.
  • Improve outreach within the state and develop strategies for improving the delivery and use of Nutrition Services Branch (NSB) programs, such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). Here’s what we learned.

The Colorado Child Care Tax Credit (CCTC) initiative also engaged JVA to better understand and develop messaging strategies for two primary audiences: childcare providers and individual and business donors. Resulting from what we learned would be effective, JVA created audience-specific toolkits: