Media campaigns are quite commonly viewed as an “easy” prevention intervention.  However, research has shown that unless done properly, based on communications and prevention science, media campaigns may be not only ineffective but also quite costly.  The evidence base for media campaigns is weak; however, the research literature shows that well-designed campaigns can result in positive outcomes.  The characteristics of these successful campaigns include: having a strong theoretical basis; focus on changing cultural norms about substance use; educate about the consequences of substance use; and suggest strategies to resist use.  Furthermore, it has been found that by targeting parents, well-designed, and executed media campaigns have an independent effect on children.  In other words, media campaigns that address parents do have an impact on children.

What also is important is how the media campaign is structured.  Messages should be delivered that have been tested first on representatives of the target population through focus groups or small, controlled pilot studies.  Media campaigns that connect with and support other substance use prevention programming enhance the campaign’s impact.  Furthermore, attached to the campaign should be on-going systematic evaluations so that messaging can be adjusted to achieve its intended impact.

Finally, effective campaigns take time to precisely define the target population and through monitoring are aware that that population is being reached.

What was found that doesn’t work in media campaigns?  Exaggerated or unrealistic threats or scare techniques as well as poorly thought out and poorly designed campaigns and campaigns that have limited resources.  You can learn much more about designing and implementing effective media campaigns in the Track on Media-Based Prevention Interventions.

Click on the links below to choose from a variety of evidence-based programs;

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