The MEE Difference
Expertise with Hard-to-Reach Audiences
MEE has engaged in a wide array of public health communications projects related to hard-to-reach audiences. Often, public information and education efforts provide only a prevention message, which tells an individual to “do this” or “stop that.” However, we believe that campaigns are viewed as more credible, authentic and truly “meeting people where they are” when messages are created in several categories. By presenting prevention, retention and recovery messages together we are able to simultaneously meet the needs of the target audience.
“By and For” Campaign Development Approach
MEE has a philosophy of developing messages and media by and for the targeted populations. Many tend to oversimplify the communication challenges involved, particularly in reaching urban and lower-income populations. MEE understands that simply being a member of a particular culture is not enough to ensure the effective development and delivery of health messages. To validate message content and delivery, MEE obtains direct input from the target audience(s), through our insightful qualitative research that enables us to understand both the arguments and the effective counter-arguments that need to be reflected in our messaging. After that, in order to address their needs as defined and determined by them, we involve them in the creative process of developing the messages, the program and the media. As a result, MEE-developed campaigns connect with the target audience in a culturally-relevant and persuasive way.
A Mix of Traditional & Non-Traditional Communication Approaches
Just as important as uncovering the message content, MEE’s research also provides the blueprint for message delivery strategies. MEE’s array of strategies include traditional media and non-traditional activities such as promotional activities with radio stations; peer-to-peer outreach; partnerships with key community-based organizations and community action/street teams. We know that these non-traditional strategies work, especially with hard-to-reach communities and have been proven to be culturally-relevant and cost-effective. By including unconventional or non-mainstream communication strategies MEE is able to generate critical word-of-mouth.
Understanding Oral Communications Culture
Another unique feature of a MEE social marketing campaign is our comprehensive understanding of the oral communications culture of people of color, particularly African Americans and Latinos. Understanding and incorporating the cultural influences, social values and attitudes of our audiences enables us to get a conversation started about our messages at the deepest grassroots level. That process of engaging in give-and-take discussions and debates is essential to the eventual adoption and acceptance of campaign messages. In understanding that these groups may process information differently from the mainstream, MEE has repeatedly designed campaigns that generate “word-of-mouth.”
Stakeholder outreach and partnership development is a core element of MEE’s behavior-change approach. Gaining authentic access to a community’s gatekeepers is the first step. MEE is very accustomed to collaborating with nonprofits and community-based organizations when planning and implementing social marketing and multimedia outreach campaigns. Key individuals and organizations are valuable resources that MEE leverages to disseminate information and promote pro-social messages. Thought leaders are found, for example, among community elders, faith-based organizations and even among small and large retailers. The challenge is to harness those resources in a culturally-relevant manner, bringing them together in ways that multiply their reach, penetration and effectiveness, so that they provide mutual support. MEE has developed its Keys to the Community model as a step-by-step approach to gaining and sustaining trust among stakeholders who can “make or break” a campaign.
Since they already know and work with and service many of the parents we need to reach, CBOs play an important role as a grassroots message channel. They often have already-developed access points to the audience, which means MEE’s clients are able to “accelerate” their community mobilization efforts because these CBOs will provide an insider’s credibility within the community. MEE understands that these CBOs may not be experts in the ins-and-outs of public health, but they will be experts in the dynamics and key players in their community. These CBOs also provide a substantial “multiplier effect” when used as a communications channel. By educating and informing opinion leaders at CBOs, these organizations can, in turn engage and persuade the more skeptical members of a community.