On August 3, 2018

City of St. Louis Department of Health Teen Message Testing Research

Pretesting messages targeted to teens and young adults about anti-gun violence and safe driving is part of our current pro bono (volunteer) work for the City of St. Louis.

Our partnership with the City Department of Health is in response to its recently achieved national public health accreditation recommendation to begin evaluating public information messages with target audiences BEFORE launching information campaigns.

Pretesting draft messaging and visuals will increase the likelihood that campaigns are not only noticed and remembered, but also will impact (affect, change) target audience behavior.

Insights: One high school student focus group at the Grand Center Arts Academy in April pretested some anti-gun violence videos by Saint Louis Story Stitchers directed toward youth.

Discussion revealed:

The importance to teens of tapping into emotion by telling a story, as a poem possibly. They want to be treated as adults; the message does not necessarily need to be delivered in rap song format.


Make it a story line…. like this is why you need to do this, so you don’t end up like him.

I connected to it because of family deaths due to gun violence.

I don’t want that to be my sister or brother.

Seeing this or something similar on Instagram or Facebook, we can share it. Pass on the message. I think it could go viral.

One participant brought and shared a poem she previously wrote about community and gun violence which was received with head nodding by other group members:

Gunshots fire off as fast as the speed of light
Seconds away from the doorway
Bang! Bang! His face drops.
Brothers and sisters threatening to kill each other
Nobody’s working together
The flag red, white and blue is supposed to represent unity
But all I see is red, white and blue lights flashing in my community.

Insights: An earlier focus group with St. Louis Public School seniors last December about safe driving revealed:
Unsafe driving is familiar to City teens and a problem that needs to be addressed and communicated about publicly:

Car rage is something in our life.

I know a lot of people who have been in car accidents, lost their lives, and I’m scared of cars and scared to drive.

Safe driving messages would make you aware of what you’re doing and how you could prevent problems.

Traffic accidents happen because people don’t know the rules like the right speed.

The safe driving message needs to be delivered in a warm, personal tone, with emotion, enthusiasm and energy for teens to pay attention to it.

It needs to have some persuasiveness to it, not monotone.

Something more personal like you’re talking to me, like a female DJ on our favorite radio stations talk to us.

The message also needs to be short and to the point, for example, in their words:

We share the responsibility for the safety of all cars and pedestrians.

Let us make sure that all of our children, grandparents and loved ones get home safely every day on every trip. That’s important because everyone wants to know that their loved ones are okay.

Drive as if you’re driving like your loved ones are in the car with you.

We look forward to doing more communications pretesting and finding free or discounted media time and creative services assistance from other local marketing and advertising firms to get these credible, important messages out to the broadest community of young adults in our metro area.
Gun violence and unsafe driving affect us all.

  • By Sandy Dye  0 Comments   


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