Content Scheduling: daunting task or an art?

July 18, 2017 | mHealth | Global | Peris Kagotho

This is the final blog in a four part blog series focusing on techniques and learnings for effective and impactful content development that achieves its intended outcomes, resulting in behavioural change.

Content scheduling is a very important step in your content development cycle. In my first blog I wrote about the Five prerequisites for high quality mHealth content, I then looked into the 5 Quality principles of behaviour change messaging, and finally in my last blog I covered Content testing and knowing if your content is fit for purpose. All these contribute toward superior quality content. The last step in this process is to place messages in the correct timeline so as to be relevant, timely, and to deliver much needed and appropriate information to an end user.

Examples of poor scheduling include, sending a message encouraging a pregnant woman to properly prepare for birth when she is only five weeks pregnant; or encouraging a pregnant woman at 36 weeks to start attending and ensure atleast four antenatal clinic visits for good pregnancy support. Such messages, although very important, would not achieve the desired behavioural change due to mismatch between the content delivered and the current information need. If on the other hand, a pregnant woman at five weeks of pregnancy is sent a message encouraging her to start attending the antenatal clinics earlier on in her pregnancy, and attend at least four antenatal clinic visits during the course of her pregnancy, the message would be relevant and timely. If at 36 weeks of pregnancy a woman is sent a message encouraging her to properly prepare for birth, then the message would be actionable, the impact would be higher and you would achieve the desired behavioural change.

Content scheduling is an art that combines professional knowledge and skills, subject matter expertise and insights from the end user and their ecosystem. Content scheduling may sound like a daunting task. On the contrary, a simple, straight-forward process boiling down to four easy steps, can be used to ensure successful content scheduling.

4 steps to ensure good content scheduling

1. Understand your audience.

To start scheduling your content you need a thorough understanding of your target audience’s needs, the available content and when it is most influential to your target audience. Knowing what content you have and what the user needs at any given point in their life cycle is of paramount value for maximum content relevance and acceptability. A message may be considered accurate and excellent, user friendly and even understandable, but if placed in the wrong category or sent out at the wrong time in the user’s journey, it will not achieve any of its intended outcomes and will definitely not contribute to behaviour change.

2. Prioritization of the messages

You may have a lot of content but the slots for message delivery are limited. In such a case, it is important to prioritize your messages and identify which are the most important. This is usually informed by a landscape analysis which should have been done prior to the content development to identify the scope and purpose of the content. You can read more about this in my first blog: Five prerequisites for high quality mHealth content.

3. Schedule

Place the prioritized messages in the content calendar based on their maximum relevance for each life or health stage. Using the example above, the birth preparedness health message is very useful if sent out to the pregnant lady (end user) during the last trimester (especially within the last four weeks) of pregnancy than if it was sent to her during the first month of pregnancy. The same applies for the message encouraging a lady who is about 5 weeks pregnant to attend at least four antenatal clinics than if the same message was sent to the lady just before her delivery time.

For effective scheduling, it’s important to first develop a content calendar. The benefit of using the calendar format, instead of a long list of content, is to use it as a resource to plan all content activity and more importantly to visualize how your content is distributed throughout the relevant period.

An effective content calendar saves you time & energy by keeping you organized and on track throughout. More importantly, it prevents your content from stagnating or getting repetitive and hence keeps your target audience engaged. Such engagement is what keeps them looking forward to the next lesson or information nugget delivered by your content. You develop a calendar by first utilising the recommendations we have learnt in the previous blogs on the development cycle. After this, we must decide on how often to post. Best practices recommend to post two or three times per week in order to keep the target audience engaged (while this is the case in most countries I worked in, I have also come across some countries where users would like to receive messages more often). Then, based on your frequency, input your content for sharing.

An example of a scheduling process utilized in one of our mNutrition countries, that has a 5-day content service is shown below:

4. Align and link

Finally, every message should have a unique identifier (ID), as shown in the diagram below. This is a unique ID for each message that can be used for linking and tracing the messages to their sources to ensure clarity and credibility of your content. For ease of reporting, the message IDs can be tracked by the service providers to analyse frequency and delivery of each message to the end user. This can be used as one of the markers to map out service penetrability and your ability to influence behaviour change. For each of the messages above, as shown below:

Below is an example of content scheduling using unique message ID’s to identify and align what message to send at a particular time. The message ID’s are linked to the actual messages in your content database:

Over the last few weeks I have taken you through a four part blog series focusing on techniques and learnings for effective and impactful content development that achieves its intended outcomes resulting in behavioural change. These blogs can be termed as best practices that can be adopted for your content development cycle. The reason we call it a content development cycle is because it is meant to be cyclic or iterative. Your target audience is dynamic, the needs are changing and there’s always new information. It is therefore recommended to review content periodically and to subject new content to this process to ensure credible and useful health information.

This project was funded with UK aid from the British people.

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