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Editor’s note: This report was written in collaboration with Meta.
Direct Relief, in partnership with Data for Good and Government and Social Impact at Meta, recently released the results of an online campaign aimed at promoting the preparation of medications and medical records in the case of an emergency. The team found that messages emphasizing social norming content can be effective at building knowledge of disaster preparedness, takeaways that may assist in the development of future messaging strategies targeting communities commonly impacted by natural disasters.
The campaign, which reached approximately 2.3 million people, targeted adults ages 18+ in areas of the U.S. that are high risk for wildfires and floods.
Informed by previous research, the goal of this campaign was to educate individuals on ways to prepare their medications and their families for a disaster, as most people (53%) expect disasters to get worse where they live but are largely unprepared for these increasingly severe and frequent emergencies.
The research team designed two styles of messaging that were made into videos; one that emphasized the preparation of medical records and medications for disasters as social norms and another that promoted self-efficacy through storytelling. Each video used imagery resembling the disaster most commonly experienced by that respective community, wildfires or flooding.
The social norming video highlighted the social acceptance of following medical preparedness practices, such as uploading medical records online. The storytelling video listed additional ways to medically prepare for a disaster, including making a plan for accessing critical medications and speaking with your doctor to ensure your family is collectively prepared. Both videos emphasized the importance of preparing for natural disasters and provided the same recommendations.
Finally, all videos linked to a resource page that provided information and links to additional sources addressing emergency preparedness.
Storytelling – Wildfire Ad Creative Example:
Storytelling – Flooding Ad Creative Example:
Social Norming – Wildfire Ad Creative Example:
Social Norming – Flooding Ad Creative Example:
Altogether, the campaign reached approximately 2.3 million people and led to approximately 216K clicks to the emergency preparedness resource page. To understand how well the two different approaches performed with the target audience, the research team conducted a brand lift survey (BLS) comparing people who saw the ads (the test group) and those who did not (the control group) on a range of questions related to disaster preparedness (See Table 1).
Results of the post-campaign survey revealed that the messages were highly successful, especially achieving high increases for the question on getting people to encourage their friends to upload their medical records online and make a plan for access to medications. Performance in flooding and wildfire counties was similar in terms of both campaign metrics and BLS results. However, the social norming content was particularly successful and outperformed the storytelling messages in campaign metrics like reach and click through rates.
The percentages of the control group that provided the desired response to the survey questions were quite low, particularly for the knowledge and action intent questions. This suggests that there is a lot of room for digital ad campaigns to help change minds and provide information on this subject.
Influencing Emergency Preparedness Moving Forward
A number of insights from this campaign may prove useful for future emergency preparedness outreach. The results of this experiment suggest that future campaigns should consider the following approaches:
Reuse this content, particularly the social norming messages: These creatives, and particularly the social norming messages, were extremely successful in achieving statistical lift. Future research using these messages should be done with emphasis in social norming.
Leverage behavioral science: The social norming approach, informed by behavioral science, was particularly successful by campaign metrics. In future campaigns other behavioral science backed approaches like future forecasting, or positive deviance may be interesting to consider testing.
Consider focusing on one outcome: This campaign emphasized two actions; making a plan for medication and uploading medical records. Future research should focus emphasizing one of the two actions in future campaigns.
Educate and emphasize importance of taking action: Outcomes of this research indicate that many people are not inclined to take action and/or aren’t aware of the best way to prepare. It would be prudent for future research and messages to be informed and guided by these outcomes.
“This campaign demonstrates how the reach of Meta’s platforms can enable results for the social impact sector,” said Lu’chen Foster, the Director for Global Partners and Programs at Meta’s Government and Social Impact team. “We appreciate the opportunity to work with partners like Direct Relief to connect vulnerable communities with credible disaster preparedness information that drives action and makes a measurable difference in their ability to prepare for climate-induced crises.”
“The best disaster response rests upon effective preparedness of families and communities before events happen. Results from this study are highly significant in terms of the kinds of messages most likely to promote meaningful improvements in readiness to confront the health consequences of disasters. For Direct Relief and other response organizations, these results also point towards the many ways that social platforms can play helpful roles in building a strong culture of preparedness throughout vulnerable areas of the country.” – Andrew Schroeder, VP of Research and Analysis, Direct Relief