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Developing Messages about Humanitarian and Development Assistance Version Presented at 4/26/04 Meeting Lake Snell Perry & Associates Introduction Lake Snell Perry & Associates reviewed polling data and message testing studies occurring from 2002 to 2004.

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developing messages about humanitarian and development assistance

Developing Messages about Humanitarian and Development Assistance

Version Presented at 4/26/04 Meeting

Lake Snell Perry & Associates

introduction
Introduction
  • Lake Snell Perry & Associates reviewed polling data and message testing studies occurring from 2002 to 2004.
  • The goal is to learn how to create effective messages that can have broad appeal and that motivate Americans to actively support humanitarian and development assistance.
  • This presentation is largely based on research with “attentive Americans” who are likely voters – not necessarily “average” Americans.

Lake Snell Perry & Associates

context
Context
  • Studies show that the economy and jobs are the public’s top concerns, while the War in Iraq and terrorism/security are their leading global concerns.
  • Americans feel less secure today. Women are particularly effected.
  • Concern about America’s image in the world – we are perceived as a bully.
  • Believe the US should help poor countries, but concerned about cost and effectiveness.
  • Perceive charitable organizations are most effective at providing assistance.

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reality check
Reality Check
  • Americans have a domestic focus – economy, jobs – global issues other than Iraq and terrorism are much less relevant.
  • There is a “Take Care of Home First” mentality among the majority.
  • Most do not want the US to be the only global leader – prefer partnering with other countries.
  • Most think US government gives much more in humanitarian and development assistance than it actually does.
  • Many are not sure assistance has been successful. They worry about corruption – most doubt assistance makes it to the people in need.
  • Growing wary of fundraising campaigns that play on guilt.
  • Most feel they are too busy to get involved in another cause.

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also a time of opportunity
Also a Time of Opportunity
  • Many trends are coming together. Many understand the US cannot ignore what goes on in the world. More Americans paying attention to global issues.
  • Americans are worried about the US image problem. Security concerns could provide an entry.
  • Also compelled by moral, compassionate, and faith-based reasons to help developing countries and people in need, particularly children.
  • Most also see that humanitarian/development assistance serves our self-interest by making the world more stable and self-sufficient, calming resentments toward the US, improving global health, and protecting the environment.
  • Many feel it is possible to make a difference on many global issues – most do not feel powerless.

Lake Snell Perry & Associates

messengers trusted global actors
Messengers/Trusted Global Actors
  • Public looks to a wide range of actors on global issues:
  • Several messengers are seen as credible.
  • Not all of these work for every audience and every issue.

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audiences for messages
Audiences for Messages
  • Many studies show that the best audiences for messages about humanitarian/ development assistance and global health are:

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positive language
Positive, hopeful language

Focusing on children in a positive way

US involved in partnerships/coalitions

Using the word “together”

Teaching basic skills

Educating/raising awareness about a problem

Action now to prevent a bigger problem later

Acknowledging Americans as a “caring and compassionate people willing to help the world’s poor”

Using words like”effective” and “accountable”

Facts from credible organizations (CDC, WHO, GAO, UNICEF)

Tangible goals to assistance

Noting that the US already has the know-how to solve a problem and all we need to do is get it to developing countries

Telling success stories

Starting with a personal story and then quickly expanding to show how assistance ultimately benefited an entire community or even country

Helping individuals and communities help themselves

Addressing root causes like poverty and hunger

Focusing on people not dollars

Quotes from credible sources (Colin Powell for some, Jimmy Carter for others)

Talking about a mix of short-term and long-term assistance (people understand some problems take longer to address)

Positive Language

Across message testing studies, many approaches and concepts consistently work well. These are:

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negative language
Negative Language

Concepts that do not work well:

  • Using the term “foreign aid” or even just “foreign” – which makes it seem less relevant – better to say humanitarian and development assistance.
  • Strongly asserting that the US has a moral “duty” or “obligation” to help poor countries – i.e., most Americans actually believe this is true but they do not like seeing this statement in messages (it seems scolding)
  • Explaining the US gives less assistance than other countries (not believable) or implying the US does not do its share (counterintuitive). Indeed, there is no value in playing the numbers game. People easily talk themselves out of their concern or surprise at the low amount the US dedicates to humanitarian and development assistance.
  • Programs that appear to impose US values and culture on developing countries – Americans want to be sensitive to cultural norms (e.g., reproductive health, girls/women’s rights).
  • Using images of suffering children is perceived to be manipulative, guilt-inducing.
  • Only asking for a financial donation – better to also mention other ways people can get involved.
  • Over idealistic or dramatic language – such as “ending poverty” which most Americans do not believe is possible.
  • Trying to shame Americans – implying they are passive while people in developing countries suffer and die – does not work. The reason: Americans perceive themselves to be a generous and caring people, not passive. Also, many people are already doing something through their churches, schools, and by making donations to global causes.

Lake Snell Perry & Associates

message construct
Message Construct
  • The most effective messages tend to have these components:
    • Description of the problem with credible facts that reflects people’s top values (e.g. helping children, enhancing stability, improving health)
    • Solution to problem and US role in that
    • Actions steps someone can take to help solve the problem
  • Messages seem to get a positive bump if they mention children, have a goal of self-sufficiency, use education as the means to solving the problem, show that NGOs are working on this problem in coalitions or partnerships, and identify a range of action steps for individuals.

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operational values education and self sufficiency
Operational Values – Education and Self-Sufficiency
  • If possible, messages regardless of topic (e.g.,hunger and poverty, AIDS orphans, improving health) should include elements of education and self-sufficiency.
  • Messages about helping people in developing countries help themselves always score better because self-sufficiency is the desired goal of all foreign assistance. It is the driving American value when it comes to humanitarian and development assistance.
  • Education that is culturally sensitive is how Americans prefer to help poor countries – sharing our know how and technology with others. The contrast is just giving money or food to developing countries which most Americans do not support (unless it is for disaster relief purposes)

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powerful themes for messages
Powerful Themes for Messages
  • The following themes tend to get broad based support and open the door to a range of interventions – both short-term and long-term that the public will support:
    • Helping children
    • Reducing hunger
    • Increasing global stability (thereby making the US safer)
    • Reducing poverty
    • Improving global health
    • Improving education/schools
    • Increasing self-sufficiency

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other top themes
Other Top Themes
  • These themes also score well in polls but may not lead to such broad based support because: they are new and the public still needs to learn about them; the public tends to see them as more narrow or requiring short-term interventions; the public prefers a broader scope to foreign assistance; or the public lacks urgency.
    • Disaster relief
    • Improving the lives of women and girls
    • Addressing AIDS in Africa
    • Helping AIDS orphans
    • Improving the environment

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some messages need to be targeted
Some Messages Need to be Targeted
  • Some themes work well with targeted audiences but put off others. These need to be treated carefully, but can be effective in the proper circumstances:
    • Reproductive health (conservatives tend to have problems due to abortion concerns)
    • Teaching job skills (some feel we will be exporting jobs)
    • Refugee assistance (some backlash due to immigration concerns)
    • Explicit references to preventing terrorism (many find this link too tenuous – they say that the “9/11 terrorists were wealthy and well-educated” and not the kinds of people that aid targets. However, this may work on Capitol Hill.)

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specific insights into

Specific Insights into:

Enhancing Stability

Helping Children

Reducing Hunger

Improving Global Health

humanitarian development assistance stability
Humanitarian/Development Assistance + Stability
  • Studies show the public’s top global concerns are currently security related. It follows that making the US safer is a top foreign policy goal.
  • Recent studies show that linking humanitarian assistance to stability goals can make messages more powerful. That is, they test better than just “straight” development messages.
  • Of note, few messages we found only focus on security and stability – rather they tend to link security to more traditional goals of assistance (i.e., addressing hunger and poverty)
  • However, the majority is doubtful that “preventing terrorism” can be achieved through humanitarian assistance. Thus, we do not recommend explicit references to terrorism in messages.
  • It is also unclear that stability messages motivate people to take action as much as goals like “improving children’s lives” and “self-sufficiency.”

Bottom-Line: “Increasing stability” offers a possibly potent framework for discussing humanitarian assistance, especially if this reference is subtle. However, the research is not definitive. Needs more testing against other powerful messages. Also, there are signs the public has some doubts about whether this goal is achievable.

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helping children
Helping Children
  • Children tend to be the global group Americans care about most. They are seen as “innocent victims” who need our protection.
  • Many also believe if we invest in children now, they are more likely to become self-sufficient adults.
  • The challenge is that focusing on children can appear manipulative. Many have become wary because of old images of starving children, “flies in their eyes,” Sally Struthers, and requests for donations. These images may still work for some in terms of child sponsorship and donations, but may turn-off others from engaging long-term.

Bottom-Line: Messages about helping children get support across all groups. These messages need to be hopeful, simple, include facts, and avoid overly dramatic language. Keep in mind there is some skepticism due to past ads that were seen as guilt-inducing.

Lake Snell Perry & Associates

reducing hunger
Reducing Hunger
  • Hunger messages tend to score better than poverty messages, although these two topics are often linked in messages. It may work better to break out these themes.
  • Addressing hunger consistently comes up near the top of reasons why the US should be involved in humanitarian and development assistance.
  • Poverty and hunger have recently been linked with stability themes – i.e., these are the root causes of desperation and instability in the world. Also often coupled with self-sufficiency goals.
  • The challenge is that the public does not believe it is possible to eliminate hunger – it is not believable. They will shut down when goals of assistance seem unachievable.
  • Links to domestic hunger make messages even more powerful – i.e., that you are seeking to reduce hunger here as well as in poor countries.

Bottom-Line: It is possible to develop strong messages about fighting hunger. This remains a primary goal of humanitarian/development assistance for the public. However, there are challenges. These messages can seem old. Many do not see that progress has been made. Also, do not over promise in messages – many do not believe eliminating hunger is a realistic goal.

Lake Snell Perry & Associates

improving global health
Improving Global Health
  • Health is a positive framework to discuss humanitarian assistance – global health is seen as a value in and of itself. Improving the health of children is particularly important – Americans do not like hearing the large number of children who die from preventable diseases, orphaned by AIDS, etc.
  • Vaccination programs, providing medications, helping communities have clean water, and health education programs are appealing.
  • Messages about fighting AIDS are powerful. However, the public has limited understanding of other infectious diseases such as malaria. It takes a crisis like that seen with SARS to get the public to attend to these issues.
  • The challenge is the public has big gaps in knowledge. Also find infectious diseases like SARS threatening – can be challenging building messages around these themes. Lastly, domestic debate about healthcare and medications can derail the message.

Bottom-Line: A variety of global health messages score well, although messages about children’s health score best. Big gaps in knowledge – media coverage is episodic and fear based – SARS, West Nile, Mad Cow, etc. AIDS dominate public health concerns. Public needs to learn more.

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is it possible to move people to act
Is It Possible to Move People to Act?
  • This is a gap in the polling research – there is a need to show real action as a result of messages and campaigns.
  • However, individual NGOs and others have experienced success in using grassroots efforts and other mobilizing techniques to prompt Americans to take specific actions. This presentation does not include those insights.
  • It is also important to note that calls to action work best when targeted to an energized segment of the population – whether that is frequent church goers or college students, it is best to target.
  • Some studies reviewed show that messages can increase the number of people who say they are likely to take some action.
  • Likelihood to take action is closely tied to efficacy – can US assistance make a difference on a global problem? Can an individual make a difference?
  • Of note, many studies show a strong sense of efficacy among Americans – most feel that certain kinds of assistance can be very effective (disaster relief, basic education, teaching skills).

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is it possible to move people to act23
Is It Possible to Move People to Act?
  • In the D.A.T.A. focus groups in April 2004 messages that challenged Americans to “do more” and “not stay on the sidelines while others suffer” fell flat. It is important to note that many Americans may resist assertions that they are passive.
  • Indeed, it is likely that many Americans already help poor countries through their churches, charitable donations, school projects, and other efforts. They are doing something.
  • The challenge may be that they consider these efforts to be personal, private, and faith-related – not political. There is a need to link these private actions to the political realm. They need to see that the problems are so large they require a greater commitment by the American government in addition to what individuals are doing.
  • Thus, while Americans may have a strong sense of personal efficacy when in comes to those private, individual acts of charity, their sense of their political efficacy on these issues may be underdeveloped.

Lake Snell Perry & Associates

better safer world
Better Safer World

Better Safer World (Sep/Dec 2003) found on a number of measures Des Moines respondents said they were morelikely to take action after an ad campaign/grassroots efforts. This project did a before poll in September and a poll after the ad campaign/grassroots efforts in December.

Percent “very likely” to take action.

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slide25

Following are the detailed responses from that poll:Now I am going to read you a list of actions that some people might take to help make a difference in developing countries and for each one please tell me how likely it is that you would personally take that action.

Better Safer World

  • Urge Congress and other elected officials to fully fund the President's initiative to combat AIDS around the world.
  • Urge Presidential candidates to sign a pledge to do more to fight world hunger.
  • Donate $25 to help drill a well to provide clean drinking water and better health for a community in a developing country.
  • Log on to a web site to learn what others are doing and get ideas for what you and your family can do in helping to build a better safer world.
  • Sign a petition supporting efforts to fight world hunger and poverty.
  • Make a personal contribution to an effective non-governmental organization working to fight poverty and hunger in developing countries

Post Survey% change in “Very Likely”

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slide26

Better Safer World

The poll found that not only were Des Moines respondents more likely to take action, they were also more likely to think actions matter. In particular, there was an increase in their feelings about the efficacy of contacting Congress and the Presidential candidates.

Percent who think “very likely” action will help people.

Lake Snell Perry & Associates

slide27

Following are the detailed responses from that poll:Now I am going to read you a list of actions that some people might take to help make a difference in developing countries and for each one please tell me how likely it is that this action would help people in poor and developing countries,- very likely, somewhat likely, not very likely, or not at all likely

Better Safer World

  • Urge Presidential candidates to sign a pledge to do more to fight world hunger.
  • Urge Congress and other elected officials to fully fund the President's initiative to combat AIDS around the world.
  • Make a personal contribution to an effective non-governmental organization working to fight poverty and hunger in developing countries
  • Donate $25 to help drill a well to provide clean drinking water and better health for a community in a developing country.
  • Sign a petition supporting efforts to fight world hunger and poverty.
  • Log on to a web site to learn what others are doing and get ideas for what you and your family can do in helping to build a better safer world.

Post Survey% of Change

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slide28

In a three-month period the Better Safer World website went from a brand new website to a site averaging 630 page views a day and about 57 unique visitors per day. This is an indicator that the public can be driven to a website on humanitarian/development assistance through the use of PR, advertising, news coverage, and on the ground activities.

Better Safer World

  • Page views
  • Average # of page views per day
  • Average number of page views per unique visitor
  • Total number of unique visitors
  • Visitors with one visit
  • Visitors with more than one visit

58,023

630

11

4,433

3,599

834

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slide29

Other Insights Into Action and Efficacy

  • InterAction (Dec 2003) found that voters acknowledge that some of their goals for foreign assistance may not be achievable. While preventing terrorism is their top foreign assistance goal (80%), they believe that foreign assistance can be more effective achieving other kinds of goals like disaster relief, teaching basic skills, promoting education, and feeding the hungry.
  • WGBH (Jan 2004) found that most people disagree that the “world’s health problems are too difficult to solve” (65% disagree). The survey also found that 53% disagree that what they do in their own life does not impact what happens to other people around the world, while 45% agree with this statement.
  • Better Safer World (Dec 2003) found that most people disagree with the notion that there is nothing they can do to help poor and developing countries (70% disagree in pre-campaign poll; 77% disagree in post-campaign poll) – the ad campaign and grassroots efforts actually increased the sense of efficacy on these issues for Des Moines residents.

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us foreign assistance budget
US Foreign Assistance Budget
  • Here is what the polls say:
    • WGBH poll (Jan 2004) found that 73% are very much in favor (25%) or somewhat in favor (48%) of the US giving economic assistance to help other countries (when that question was asked in 2000, that number was only 55% -- there has been an 18% increase in favorability).
    • InterAction (Dec 2003) found that even after hearing messages about the importance for assistance, 51% support keeping humanitarian assistance at the same levels, while 21% want to increase it while 24% want to decrease it.
    • In the Peter Hart poll for CARE (Mar 2002), 41% believe the US spends too much money on foreign assistance for problems overseas and to help people in other countries, while 32% feel we spend the right amount and 16% feel we spend too little.
    • PIPA found (in 2001) that the public’s desire to decrease humanitarian and development assistance over the past five years had decreased to a minority position (40%). These polls show strong support for the principle of giving humanitarian and development assistance but a continuation of the public’s overestimation of the budget causes them to want to reduce it.
    • Better World Campaign (McInturff/Drake Aug 2002) found that telling people the actual amount the US gives in international assistance makes a big difference in their attitudes about it. In their survey, of those NOT told the actual foreign assistance budget, 50% wanted to keep the budget the same, 33% wanted to decrease it, and 13% wanted to increase it. However, of those TOLD that the US gives less than 1% on international assistance, 44% wanted to keep it the same, only 12% wanted to cut the budget, and now 37% wanted to increase it. Thus, the number of those calling for cuts in the budget decreases when they learn the actual amount we give.

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us foreign assistance budget32
US Foreign Assistance Budget
  • The Peter Hart survey for CARE (Mar 2002) found it was possible to create an effective message for increasing the foreign assistance budget:
  • In response, 79% say they support this proposed increase in foreign assistance (40% strongly support and 39% somewhat support)
  • “Last week President Bush announced a proposal for the US to increase its support for developing countries around the world by 10 billion dollars over the next three years. The money would be used for such things as improving education for students, helping businesses find new markets for goods, developing new ways to grow more food, and fighting AIDS. This assistance would go only to poor countries that adopt sound economic policies and root out corruption in their countries.”

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fighting terrorism
Fighting Terrorism
  • Here is what the polls say:
    • March 17, 2004 Gallup poll found “Terrorism” is fourth top issue facing the country today (after economy, jobs, and War in Iraq) and continues to be at the top of the national agenda.
    • InterAction (Dec 2003) found “preventing terrorism” to be the top goal of foreign assistance (selected by 80% of respondents). However, fewer believe that humanitarian and development assistance can succeed in achieving this goal (64% feel the US can succeed with this goal, far below other goals like assisting people dealing with natural disasters, 85%).
    • Peter Hart’s survey for CARE (Mar 2002) found that 80% of voters agree with the statement, “Although poverty does not lead directly to terrorist activities, when governments fail to meet the most basic needs of their people, poor nations can become havens for terrorists.”
    • Greenberg/Public Opinion Strategies’ poll for Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (WorldView 2003) reports that 81% found the following message to be convincing, “Recent events prove the need to work with other countries to combat terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.”

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next steps
Next Steps?
  • Need to learn what messages break through the clutter.
  • Need to delineate clear links between various types of calls to action and the outcomes.
  • Need to broaden the discussion, use complementary messages, and sustain communications (not episodic).
  • Need to go beyond asking for donations and pushing a legislative agenda (although both are important) and invite Americans to take other actions too.
  • Consider undertaking a coordinated campaign.

Lake Snell Perry & Associates