Supported by:
Brown School of Public Health   The Rockefeller Foundation

like a pro

Whether it’s selling a news app, advocating on behalf of a cause, or promoting behaviors that reduce the spread of disease, a successful marketing campaign begins and ends with clear and attainable goals.

running a campaign:
a step-by-step guide


define your campaign goals

At the highest level, campaigns begin with defining what success looks like. People using this toolkit will likely have “Getting more people tested for COVID-19” as a goal. Others may have a more focused goal like “Getting more frontline workers tested for COVID-19” or “Getting more people to understand the benefits of testing.” Spend time with your colleagues, partners, and stakeholders envisioning what success looks like and defining what is realistic to accomplish in the campaign’s timeframe. Choose one or two goals to design your campaign around.


develop “SMART” objectives for meeting your goals

Step two involves defining the benchmarks—or interim steps—required to meet your goals. Thinking about your campaign as a cross-country road trip and your destination as your top-line goal, SMART objectives are the stops along the way. The number of objectives you have depends on all of the sub-stops required to achieve that goal—the more complex or difficult your goal is to achieve, the more objectives (and time and resources) you’ll need to meet the goal. To ensure you meet your goals, objectives should be:

  • Specific: The objective is clear-cut, spelling out “Who,” What,” “Where,” “How,” and “When.”

  • Measurable: The objective can be measured using assessable benchmarks like rate, quantity, quality, frequency, cost, etc.

  • Achievable: The objective is realistic and able to be accomplished given the time frame, resources, and any other situational factors. It’s also important to choose objectives that are directly impacted by your communication and outreach efforts.

  • Relevant: The objective is pertinent and will help to achieve the stated goal(s).

  • Time-Oriented: The objective is bound in a realistic and do-able time-frame.

Examples of SMART objectives:

  • Over the next 2 weeks, increase in-state traffic to the testing locations web page by 300%.

  • Over the next 6 weeks, reach 40% of residents in Essex County with testing messages.

  • Over the next 3 months, contact and share testing information with 50% of Springfield’s retail businesses and restaurants.

  • Within the next 30 days, achieve 5% average engagement rate on Facebook related to testing awareness posts.

  • Over a period of 8 weeks, increase the total number of testing appointments made each consecutive week.


identify your audiences of interest

This step may come before Step 2 as sometimes it’s not possible to define your objectives without knowing who your target audience is. In other cases, the exploration of your goals and objectives is needed to determine your target audience.

In either case, the best messages won’t work if you send them to the wrong people. Therefore, it’s critical to define who you’re trying to reach, where they are, where you can reach them, what they want and need to know, and how you can help them. Here are some starting questions to help you define your audiences of interest:

Who are the people that my campaign needs to reach in order to meet my objectives and goals?

In most cases, you’ll have multiple groups of people, also known as audience segments. For each audience segment:

  • What is their age range?

  • Where do they live and work?

  • What is their education level and income range?

  • Who do they trust (or distrust) when it comes to information about health?

  • What will they see as the biggest benefits to my campaign’s messages?

  • What will they see as the biggest drawbacks or obstacles to my campaign’s messages?

If you are able to, speak directly with members of the audience segments to get first-hand answers to these questions. You can also search for and review reputable, third-party articles and past research on similar audiences and campaigns.


find out which media and messengers your audiences trust

Consider which delivery channels and trusted messengers are most effective with your target audience. This becomes especially important if you are hoping to reach a specific audience that may not pay much attention to mainstream platforms. Facebook for example is similarly popular with white, Black and brown communities, but you may still want to consider a radio ad campaign on a channel that broadcasts in the language of a specific population you are trying to reach. The two tables below give you an overview of which online platforms are most popular with adults in the U.S., and how usage breaks down by specific platforms.

Next to online media, your channels to engage include newsletters, flyers, radio ad campaigns, e-mails, and connecting directly with community leaders and trusted messengers. (Mailers are also an option but costly and at this point considered less effective, unless you are hoping to reach an older demographic you are not otherwise capturing.)

It’s helpful to spell out channels and messengers for specific audiences you are hoping to reach, per the best data and insights you have available.

Our section on Social Media provides more details and tips on finding and engaging specific audiences and trusted messengers.


create your campaign’s key messages

Successful campaign messages should be derived directly from lives and experiences of your audience segments. Effective messages must also reduce perceived barriers, emphasize perceived benefits, and prompt action.

For some people, motivation comes from learning about the payoffs of a given behavior. For others, taking action stems from having their questions answered and their concerns addressed. For most people, activation comes from a blend of both—plus clear and simple steps to follow through on the campaign’s ask.
For each audience segment, spend some time answering these questions:

  • What does my audience need to see, hear, and do to take advantage of my campaign’s benefits?

  • What does my audience need to see, hear, and do to overcome the drawbacks or obstacles of my campaign?

The answers to these questions should serve as the foundation of your campaign messages and can help inform the creative style and tone of your materials.


build a roadmap of your campaign tactics

Thinking back to the roadtrip metaphor, here is where you create a detailed roadmap to guide your progress from one objective to the next. This roadmap, also known as a communications plan, spells out what outreach tactics (e.g., social media posts, newspaper ads, in-store flyers, TV and radio commercials) and key messages will need to be deployed to a given audience to fulfill a given objective.

In order to choose your outreach tactics, it’s a good idea to list what resources you have—things like your advertising budget, your time or another person’s time, internal marketing or design support, any existing media connections or relationships. Our goal with this toolkit is to equip you with strategies, templates, and tools to streamline the amount of time and money you need to deploy a successful campaign.

That said, the tactics and messages you choose should be tailored to each audience segment and based on what you learned in Step 3 about their media preferences and trusted sources. A communications plan typically includes a time frame and budget associated with each tactic.

Here’s how to do this using an objective from Step 2:

Objective: Over the next 2 weeks, increase in-state traffic to the testing locations web page by 300%.


Facebook promoted post driving to the testing website


Adult residents ages 21+

  • Testing gives you peace of mind to go about your life
  • Testing is quick, painless, and free
  • Testing sites are convenient and easy to get to
  • You’ll get your results within a few hours



10 Days


launch your campaign and track your progress

Work on a campaign isn’t over after you’ve launched it—especially because most digital tactics like Google ads, social media, and YouTube provide a wealth of real-time data on how well your content is reaching and resonating with your audience segments.

Make a habit of checking on the performance of digital tactics weekly (if not daily) to see what messages and audience segments are performing well and which are underperforming. If you are using different messages, turn off the ineffective messages and prioritize the effective ones. This kind of ongoing optimization of your campaign’s messages and tactics is an important step to meeting your objectives and getting the most out of your budget.

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