Communicating the integral messaging of public health initiatives can be a complicated feat. The messaging can be sensitive, always important, and oftentimes complex. Audiences are sometimes broad or very narrow. The key individuals you want to reach, especially those from vulnerable and underserved communities, can be hard to get in front of your messaging if your media strategy is not attuned appropriately. When planning your next public health campaign, consider integrating these four recommendations to best reach the most vulnerable and underserved communities.  

Hyper-target your media  

When planning a marketing campaign, the channels, messaging, and languages used should reflect the areas, communities, and people you’re communicating with. We’re lucky to have a myriad of tools to hyper-target your intended audiences. 

It’s important to reach your audience where they are, so make sure to target key geographic areas. Some channels let you focus on specific zip codes, while others require you to target a larger area. In the planning stages, identify any vulnerable populations or underserved communities that can benefit from your messaging. Then make sure to include them in your targeting efforts on as many channels as possible.  

Utilize unique tactics   

Check your bias and blind spots on mainstream media channels and consider using a mix of communications channels and tactics that mirror the idiosyncratic consumption habits of your audience. Tactics like cable TV, streaming TV, social media, and digital display may not be the best way to reach your specific audience. Consider including print and out-of-home placements, including grassroots and street team activations, along with digital channels to reach key individuals and communities effectively. 

Out-of-home tactics can include printed bus shelters, bus sides, billboards in key locations, or even pizza box flyers and bar coasters. Mobile truck billboards, for example, can be parked in heavily trafficked areas such as the local grocery store and can be moved throughout the flight to reach a variety of locations and spaces.  

Avoid jargon  

Be as concise and direct as possible in all public health communications. Some messaging (Covid-19 in its early stages or shopping for health insurance for example) can be very confusing and overwhelming. Long, complicated messages filled with jargon will not resonate with audiences, especially those who may have lower levels of health literacy. Effective health communications will ensure the messaging used is as concise and easy to follow as possible.  

Limit your use of industry terms so messaging can resonate with all consumers. It’s also important to remember that, for some, English may not be a primary language. Strive to produce campaign assets in all relevant languages spoken in your area to ensure comprehension. 

Be a resource for all  

Public health communications can be a tricky avenue to navigate. Communicators trying to reach these vulnerable and underserved communities should pay close attention to the language and tone used in messaging. Public health communications should be positioned as a tool to add to one’s toolbox. You want to be a resource and partner for everyone in your community.  

In public health messaging, the wrong tone can come across as demeaning or invalidating. Unfortunately, many still use outdated and offensive descriptors to describe audiences in vulnerable communities. Feeling talked at or talked down to will not be received well by any audience. Be cognizant of how you communicate already sensitive messaging to those you are trying to reach.    

Reaching vulnerable and underserved communities is a vital part of any public health communications strategy. Incorporate these ideas to better communicate an important public health message and make your campaigns more effective. This will help ensure your hard work is being heard and understood by those who are too often overlooked.