Is your content fit for purpose?

July 6, 2017 | mHealth | Sub-Saharan Africa | Global | Peris Kagotho

This is the third of 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.

In my previous blog, I wrote about the five principles of behaviour change messaging. One of the important pillars we have seen in content development is to ensure content is fit for purpose. In this blog, I will be expanding more on this topic. Developing content, and especially behaviour change messages is often a daunting task for those that have a clear goal in mind, and at the same time a perceived simple process for those who just need to get the product out of the door. Having curated mobile messaging in the health sector for the past four years and supported content quality assurance (QA) and quality control (QC) processes across eight Sub-Saharan markets, I thought it might be prudent to share some insights, mainly focusing on context and testing.


Mobile messaging, just like language, is very contextual. Communication styles vary from region to region, culture to culture and it is no wonder that a message that may be considered accurate and excellent, doesn’t either achieve any of its intended outcomes, nor an increase in service uptake resulting in behavioural change.

What is considered good quality content will vary across different settings? A health message that is perfect for a Western urban setting may be far removed and irrelevant if brought to a rural or remote African setting. Other than geographical disparity, messages can also be affected by economic, religious, psychographic (interests, values and lifestyle) and even demographic differences.


Considering the above stated dynamics, content testing with the intended end users, becomes extremely important.  It also needs to be done within their environment, with consideration of their experiences being at the centre of the content development. This approach helps the content developer to verify the usability of the content by further understanding the target audience, and its audience’s knowledge, behaviour and assumptions. This approach also delivers best possible fit with the needs and characteristics of the end user, improving acceptance and uptake of the recommendations, which is key to achieving behavioural change.

Testing in practice: So how do you do this?

The content testing exercise should include where possible, representatives of the stakeholders (such as officials representing both the Ministry of Health and the private sector), the content development team and a representative sample of the intended end users. For an effective content testing exercise, the appropriate format is to use the actual content as test material. Preferably, you should go to the field and run onsite interviews with the target group, as opposed to bringing these interviewees to a new environment such as your office. Onsite interviews provides the best setting for the interviewees to be most relaxed because they are in their comfort zone. And, you get to understand some of the environmental variables they face like distance from a health centre, access to transportation, food available, etc.

Content format

Ideally, one should test content that is in the same format as the developed live content on the platform e.g. voice recordings, SMS, USSD, data etc.


When preparing for content testing, identification of the locations for the testing is important. One should select multiple locations that reflect the variety of your target group’s backgrounds and behavioural patterns.

Capture insights

In order to capture all the insights from the testing exercise, it is important to write notes, take photographs, videos, voice recordings etc. These are then taken into account while editing the content to best fit the target audience.

Further advice

As the interviewers, the content testing team should:

  • Ensure they avoid leading questions;
  • Debrief after every session;
  • Synthesise the information gathered into findings and actions; and
  • Assign owners and re-run.


Last but definitely not least, one needs to leave all preconceived ideas back at the office! Going to the field for content testing requires the content development team to have an open mind. This will give them fertile ground to learn as much as possible from the target audience without bias.

Now that we know the importance of incorporating the content’s context and end user testing to the content development cycle, to ensure it is fit for purpose, one question we have been left to answer is, how do we maximise its relevance and hence the impact? Content scheduling is an important step to ensure relevance, timeliness and delivery of much needed, appropriate information to the user. In my next blog, I will focus on how best to schedule your content for maximum content relevance and acceptability.


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

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