A Roadmap for Developing Effective Tobacco Education Materials

When created and used thoughtfully, tobacco education materials can play a key role in meeting your policy and communication goals.

Tobacco education materials can:

  • educate and empower policymakers and their staffs;
  • move communities to action;
  • build coalitions;
  • help recruit volunteers and advocates;
  • facilitate implementation of new policies;
  • ensure strong compliance and enforcement;
  • link smokers to cessation services;
  • “brand” your project or campaign;
  • convey a sense of professionalism and stability; and
  • demonstrate your project's cultural and linguistic sensitivity and spirit of inclusion.

Following is an overview of 10 steps to help guide you through the development and production of your tobacco education materials.

Step 1. Defining your goals

What target population do you need to reach, and with what specific messages? What do you want your materials to accomplish? Answering these basic questions will make the rest of the process more focused and productive. In addition, determining how quickly you need your materials as well as your available budget for development and production will help you figure out what materials you can realistically develop on time and on budget. See Defining Your Goals: Setting the Stage for Your Project's Success.

Step 2. Identifying gaps

Before you begin developing new materials, find out if any existing materials meet your needs. First search the Tobacco Education Clearinghouse of California catalog. Other potential resources include organizations in your community doing similar work, such as health agencies. If no existing materials meet your needs, you have the opportunity to fill a critical gap in the field. See Identifying Gaps: Finding or Creating the Materials to Reach Your Audience.

Step 3. Researching your audience

This key step informs all the other steps in the process of producing your materials and ensuring their effectiveness. It's important to be as specific as possible in identifying and targeting your audience, keeping in mind the great diversity among subgroups of populations. Literature reviews and case studies/best practices on effective health communications can help you get started. You may want to conduct surveys and focus groups, and it's important to be aware of cultural influences relating to tobacco use. See Knowing Your Audience: How to Research Your Target Population.

Step 4. Tailoring the message

A one-size-fits-all approach to tobacco education materials usually results in materials that speak to no one effectively. In order to effectively motivate your target audiences, you will need to be sure your messages are culturally appropriate, from a trustworthy source, translated correctly, easily understandable and relevant to those you are trying to reach. The medium as well as the message should be appropriate for reaching your target population. See Getting the Message Across: How to Tailor Your Materials for Your Audience.

Step 5. Making your materials accessible

You'll need to consider issues of general literacy as well as literacy on health, tobacco and public policy. Materials developed for policymakers require a much different approach than those developed for broad communication at the community level. Your target audience may have both limited English and low literacy. Cultural taboos or traditions may affect how a population relates to tobacco use. In addition, symbols and colors can hold great significance to targeted communities and can be used to greatly enhance, or greatly diminish, the impact of your materials. See Making Your Materials Accessible: Cultural, Translation and Reading Level Considerations.

Step 6. Using compelling and appropriate images

Strong visuals are one of the most effective tools you have in creating memorable materials that will influence your target audience. A number of potential resources are available to you—from professional photographers and artists in your community who might be persuaded to donate their services, to affordable stock photo websites with thousands of options. Be sure to consider cultural values and beliefs, and get feedback from your target audience on appropriateness of imagery during the development stage of your project. See Using Compelling and Appropriate Images: A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words.

Step 7. Creating attractive, readable materials

Effective use of spacing, fonts, charts and color can enhance your materials and make them more impactful and readable. Your materials should be easy to skim and still get across your key messages. And of course you need to take cultural issues into considerations at this stage of your materials development as well. See Creating Attractive, Readable Materials: Effective Layout and Design Techniques.

Step 8. Testing your materials

Besides being required by the California Tobacco Control Program, testing your creative ideas before production can save a lot of time and money, and is essential to ensuring your project effectively motivates your target audience. You can conduct your testing in the form of focus groups, one-on-one interviews or surveys among members of the intended audience as well as with content experts. Use your test results to refine and enhance your materials—then test again. See Testing Your Materials: Refine Your Approach Through Audience Testing.

9. Printing your materials

First determine whether you have the capability of printing your materials in-house. If you will be using an outside vendor, have a clear, realistic budget in place, then get multiple bids so you can compare costs. If possible, your creative team should build a relationship with your printer to ensure understanding of your needs and to discuss the most cost-effective options for your materials. See Printing Your Materials: Choices, Costs and Quality.

10. Disseminating your materials

Developing and producing great materials is useless if you don’t have effective ways to get those materials into the hands of your intended target audiences. Traditional channels include community events, community organizations and businesses, local government offices, street outreach and targeted mailings. Materials also can be disseminated through ads and announcements in local media, via blogs and social media sites, websites, and sent via action alerts, email blasts and text messages. See Disseminating Your Materials: Ensure Your Message Reaches Your Intended Audience.

Roadmap Steps Worksheet

To help you think about each Roadmap Step, we have developed a two-page Roadmap Steps Worksheet that quickly summarizes the steps outlined above. This tool provides you with a place to jot down your ideas, while thinking about what will make an effective material that is culturally tailored for your intended audience. In it, you will find help identifying your target audience, determining your message, determining the proper appearance and layout, as well as other important steps involved in creating your materials. To assist in your understanding of how to use the worksheet, we have also included an example of how we filled out this worksheet to develop a culturally tailored material.

TEAM Lab Roadmap Steps Worksheet

TEAM Lab Roadmap Steps Worksheet Example

Roadmap Steps