University of Arizona social norms media campaign addresses misperceptions
about college student alcohol use (as well as other college health
issues such as tobacco use and sexual behaviors) through a series
of social normative advertisements, posters and newsletters appearing
regularly throughout the academic year. Below is a brief step-by-step
account of how these media are created and produced by UA Campus
Note: Higher education professionals who are just beginning
to consider the viability and practicality of a social norms media
campaign for their campuses are encouraged to read the following
Your Campus Ready for a Social Norms Marketing Campaign?
on Social Norms: www.socialnormslink.com
and analyze data, and select at least five or six preliminary campaign
messages designed to correct key misperceptions in your target population.
The social norms
approach for alcohol use involves presenting accurate majority (normative)
information that addresses campus drinking misperceptions. Use a
standardized survey, or develop a survey, that allows you to measure
behavior, protection, attitudes and beliefs regarding alcohol use.
Analyze the data in such a way that you will be able to create positive
messages about alcohol-related behaviors, beliefs and attitudes
that represent the majority of the target population.
Create a variety
of different messages so that materials do not become stale, and
so the target population gets the information from several different
angles. For example, a campus-wide misperception that most students
are frequent heavy drinkers can be corrected not only by messages
about how much and often the majority of students drink, but also
by where students draw the line between drinking and school responsibilities,
drinking and driving, and – if they drink – what they
do to stay safe or lower their level of intoxication.
the campaign format, placement and overall design.
staff rely heavily on student input when making decisions about
format and placement of the UA social norms media campaign. UA surveys
ask students where they typically get their information, and in
what form they prefer to receive it.
you have collected about where the target population gets its information
– which channels are most/least believable – consider
it in light of what your budget will support, and what will provide
adequate “dosage” of the messages on a regular basis.
The UA social norms media campaign uses ¼ page advertisements
that are placed weekly in the Arizona Daily Wildcat (campus newspaper);
11x17 inch posters that are hung regularly in residence halls, classrooms
and student service buildings; and single page newsletters about
college health issues that are published and distributed directly
to students’ mailboxes on a monthly basis.
is heavily influenced by continual review of magazines, design books
and stock photography to see how commercial advertisers design for
a college population. It is also influenced by student feedback
gathered in previous years about what they liked and didn’t
like about past media campaigns.
pilot materials and begin market-testing.
production involves developing 3-4 pilot designs of ads/posters/
newsletters that could potentially be used in your campaign. If
you plan to have photos of students featured on your ads/posters,
it will also involve conducting a photo shoot and selecting images
to be used in the media campaign. At the UA, we ensure that every
poster or ad contains these five standard elements: a normative
message, a photo of students in a familiar campus location, a credible
data source, drink equivalency information, and a recognizable logo.
your pilot materials, use a variety of techniques such as one-on-one
interviews, small focus group interviews, and paper and pencil opinion
polls. Ask questions that will give you student feedback about visibility
and credibility of the messages, understandability and impact of
the messages, and their reactions to the design and layout of the
Make sure to
market-test your pilot materials with as many of the major sub-groups
represented in your target population as possible. For example,
a campus social norms alcohol campaign should test materials with
those who are under 21 and over 21; freshmen, sophomores, juniors
and seniors; men and women; drinkers and non-drinkers; commuter
students and residential students; members of a social fraternity
and non-members; etcetera. Campaign materials should also be tested
with secondary targets – those who may be carriers of the
misperception, and/or who may be exposed to the campaign (e.g.,
campus administrators, campus visitors, parents).
market-test feedback, and produce and distribute finished materials.
the target population should guide the direction of the campaign,
and the production and placement of all materials. Small changes
in the way a message is worded, or how the data is referenced, or
how a poster is designed can make a big difference in the credibility,
visibility and interpretation of the information.
is incorporated into your campaign and you have a final media product,
you are ready for distribution. Regular and frequent exposure of
the campus to the media campaign is, perhaps, the greatest contributor
to overall success of a social norms media campaign. Try to use
as many vehicles as possible to deliver your campaign messages –
campus newspapers, classroom bulletin boards, student mailboxes,
residence hall cable television channels, presentations, the student
focus group and key informant interviews, you will be able to stay
alert as to whether your social norms messages and supporting materials
are being seen, are perceived to be credible and plausible, and
are correcting key misperceptions. Expect that believability of
the messages will be low in the beginning, but should increase over
to and document anecdotes about what people are saying about the
campaign. Watch for outside influences that may alter the meaning
of the norms messages, or may cast suspicion on the campaign or
campaign sponsors. Be ready to make adjustments in message placement
and scheduling as issues arise.
detailed information about the University of Arizona’s Alcohol
Abuse Prevention Program, call (520) 621-5700 for a copy of the
booklet, A Practical Guide
to Alcohol Abuse Prevention: A Campus Case Study in Implementing
Social Norms and Environmental Management Approaches, or download
a copy (.pdf format) from the guidebook section of this website.