Within this phase, concepts, materials and messages are developed, tested, revised and retested before final production to ensure that an activity will not only be understood and relevant to its audience but will also evoke emotion that can motivate positive behaviour change and/or social action. The development of social and behaviour change, as well as advocacy messages and strategies, is a continuous learning and development process.


Creating communication activities combines science and art. Scientific evidence is used in message and material development as the basis for analysis (Refer to: STEP 1 – ANALYSIS). Art comes to play when materials are created to evoke emotion, motivate the audience and fit the communication strategy.

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Remember, materials do not stand alone; they are created to complement and reinforce the effectiveness of other project activities, both technical and communication focused.

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Here are the pros and cons of designing content in-house versus hiring a creative agency:

  In-house External
(e.g. creative agency, production
company consultant)
  • Builds in-house capacity to create content and increased ability to make additional versions of content at low cost.
  • More ownership over content.
  • Greater opportunities to implement changes and manage creative direction.
  • Lower costs.
  • Greater familiarity with the issue, organization, branding and style considerations (reduced need for introductions/orientation time and materials for external partner)
  • Provide specialized skills and equipment  (video equipment, video or design software, etc.)
  • They can provide a new perspective on the Creative Brief, and help to further refine and
  • expand concepts as well as offer suggestions not yet considered.
  • They can help in conceptualizing a whole intervention with a set of mutually supportive activities and materials rather than stand- alone materials.
  • Professional creative and/or production agencies often have a greater understanding of current communication trends and
  • associated distribution specifications.
  • Usually not as high quality.
  • Time consuming if staff need to build their capacity to learn new technical skills.
  • Lack of contacts with distribution outlets.
  • Lack of awareness of the most up-to-date trends and influencers.
  • Likely lack of technical expertise for producing diverse formats (such as
  • animation).
  • The donor and/or organizational management has to support investing in fixed assets (such as video editing software, equipment, etc.).
  • Expensive
  • Time consuming finding an affordable and high-quality service.
  • Capacity necessary to oversee the creative agency can vary largely depending on the relevant
  • experience levels and agency understanding of the creative brief for the desired content.
  • Availability of creative agency is out of one’s control, so it might be difficult to sometimes schedule meetings.
  • Creative agencies are often managing multiple projects at one time so any delay from either party can incur greater delays.
  • Contracts with creative agencies usually include a finite number of opportunities for receiving inputs and revisions.


Here are some recommended steps in selecting and working with a creative agency:

  1. Identify creative agencies that have experience with the kind of content that is desired.
  2. Develop a detailed request for proposal which includes: description of work, timeline and deliverables, request for creative submission, budget and selection/evaluation criteria.
  3. Meet potential agencies and discuss scope of work.
  4. Select creative agency and have initial kick-off meeting to discuss material and activity. Provide background knowledge on the issue the campaign wishes to address and highlight
  5. the desired behaviour change for the target audience.
  6. Designate a team member who will be the point of contact, and ensure the creative team understands the scope of work and expectations.


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TIP: If hiring a creative agency…

…It is good to work with a local creative agency as they are the best equipped to produce locally relevant and entertaining content for your audience.

Many creative agencies lack awareness or understanding of development issues. Therefore it is important to invest in the time for them to not only understand the issue but to also appreciate its relevancy to their own lives, where relevant. Like all of us, the more they care, the more they will invest their time and energy in the project at hand.

Also, many creative agencies are not familiar with the C4D framework, so it is important to ensure they understand the value of allowing ample time for participatory processes.
Remember to set up regular meetings for check-ins to ensure everyone is on the same page and direction.



These messages are already created in rough form in the creative brief, but the final messages should be further refined with representatives of the target audience.

A slogan (typical statement message) can be useful for rallying support, but ultimately clear action messages have a greater impact because they tell people concretely what they can do.


[BOX yellow] Action messages should be…

  • Direct
  • Short
  • Positive
  • Relevant
  • Do-able


Negative messages (such as information about risks and/or consequences) can be used, but they should be balanced with positives (such as alternative services). Overly negative campaigns will erode trust from your target audience;9 it can leave them feeling alienated or discouraged, rather than motivated.10 Positive messaging can contribute to:

  • Supporting the target audience in believing they can make a difference/do something.
  • Encouraging the target audience to model and reinforce positive/safe behaviours.
  • Facilitating community ownership of the positive change being promoted.

Images matter too. Consider the impact of images of people in shackles and chains versus a picture of a smiling migrant worker. For example, some counter-trafficking campaigns use images of abused women as a way to warn female migrants about the dangers of migration and sexual exploitation, but also as a way to encourage them to make informed choices about working and travelling abroad. However, research shows that the use of negative images like these could have contradictory effects and contribute to the objectification of women, which can limit women in imagining themselves as active agents.11 Similarly with demand audiences (such as employers of domestic workers), using images that cast a negative light on their current behaviours will make them feel as though they are being vilified, which is less likely to result in positive behaviour change. Image content needs to strike an emotional chord with the audience for them to care and share.

Human trafficking is a terrible crime but people should feel empowered to be able to do something about it – not hopeless. Balanced messages (positive and negative) and positive images are more effective to inspire feelings of empowerment.

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To appeal to an audience, they need to be able to identify in some way with the key characters of the story. The more similar a character (including physical and emotional characteristics) the easier it is for your target audience to relate.




Storytelling is a powerful way to communicate important information. A story can activate parts of the brain so that a listener can turn the story into their own idea and experiences. Be creative! Use testimonials, animated images, stories and more.

IOM had a campaign where they used positive testimonials and an image of a suitcase to highlight the positive contributions that migrants are bringing to their destination country. See images from the campaign below:




Materials used for pre-testing can include scripts, storyboards, short animations, print content drafts, live drama performance and a rough cut of the media content (depending on the budget). Pre-testing should be carried out through consultations, focus group discussions, semi-structured interviews and/or other qualitative methods. As often as possible, partners (such as local media and production
partners) and targeted audiences should be involved in this testing process to ensure ownership. Results from the pre-testing will inform any necessary revisions. If budget allows, a second test can be conducted of the revised materials to ensure revisions were properly done before final production.

[BOX yellow] TIP: Pre-testing

Pre-testing can be done through focus group discussions with a suggested number of 10-12 people per group.

Mixed groups might not be conducive for pre-testing, as some individuals are likely to feel constrained in airing their views. Therefore, to the extent possible, the facilitator should organize groups around shared characteristics (such as migrant domestic workers of the same nationality, community leaders, age group, employers of the same sex and nationality, etc.). If needed, follow-up interviews can also be conducted with specific individuals to gain deeper insight into a specific issue.


Pre-testing is done to ensure that communication materials achieve their objectives. It is best to develop the materials working with members of the relevant target audience. However, whether materials are developed with the target audience or not, it’s still important to test them with their intended audiences. Pre-testing with colleagues familiar with the subject matter does not qualify as pre-testing as it will provide unrealiable information on the impact of the materials. Pre-tests ensure that messages and materials meet the following five elements:

  1. Comprehension – is the message clearly explained and easy to understand?
  2. Attractive – is the message attractive enough to hold attention and be remembered?
  3. Acceptable – does the message contain anything that is culturally offensive, annoying or false?
  4. Involving – does the audience feel that the message/material speaks to them and is about them?
  5. Persuasive – does the message convince the audience to take the recommended action?

Pre-testing helps to enhance relevance, test messaging and identify any mistakes, errors or miscommunication. For an example of a facilitation guide for pre-testing activities, please see Annex IV.


Once draft materials are developed, ask representatives of the target audience for their input on messages and materials. This can be done in a number of ways such as inviting them to creative brainstorm meetings, focus group discussions, community meetings, role plays, screening rough cuts of videos or radio programmes followed by feedback sessions, etc.






    Have you:

    • Developed evidence-based content?
    • Developed actionable and relevant messages?
    • Pre-tested draft materials and messages with their intended target audiences?

    Download useful resources for Step 3: Development & Testing