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Focus Group Recruiting in Health Communication Campaigns: Lessons from a Project on Risky Sexual Behavior
Unformatted Document Text:  Recruiting for Focus Groups in Health Communication Campaigns page 10 RECRUITMENT PROCESSES While recruiting targets are identified by the underlying theoretical and targeting concerns of the study, recruitment strategy to fulfill the design is often shaped by project resources. Recruitment processes, therefore, must be practical, economical and provide a means for finding people who are eligible (Krueger, 1988:196). A successful recruiting process must identify who will be doing the recruiting, how the target population will be contacted, and what tools will be used during recruiting. Who Will Recruit. An initial step in the recruiting process is to decide who will be doing the recruiting, since the process could be conducted by researchers, gatekeepers, volunteers, an outside professional agency or a combination of these (Krueger, 1988:196). The Mass Media Project researchers maintained full control of the recruiting process through all three waves of focus groups and primarily depended on Project personnel for recruiting activities. However, each of these options will be reviewed and briefly discussed. Researchers can choose to do the recruiting themselves. Focus group recruitment is labor intensive and many university-based researchers do not have a team with the expertise or the funding to effectively organize the task and carry it out. This means that researcher-based recruiting is often not cost effective for the project (Morrison, 1998:190-196). However, the Mass Media Project made the decision to center the recruiting process “in-house” for several reasons. Among the considerations were the large number of groups involved in the study, and the fact that the team had some members with prior experience with focus groups that would be useful in the planning and implementation stages. The Mass Media Project’s recruiting system is particularly illustrative of researcher-driven recruiting since the Project utilized a broad spectrum of recruiting strategies and because the Project had the opportunity to refine recruiting methods for each successive wave of focus groups. Recruiting conducted by researchers offers several advantages including being able to maintain complete control of how closely the recruiting actually matches the sample design, and the assurance that recruiting was conducted properly. Additionally, because team members are trained researchers, or researchers-in-training, it is unlikely that ethical problems of an IRB nature will arise. Finally, if adjustments need to be made in recruiting practices or sample representation, the researcher has immediate feedback and can address the problem instantly and authoritatively. Gatekeepers are useful because they hold a formal position that allows them to control, supervise or restrict access to the target population. Volunteers are helpful because they are often actors within the desired population. In the case of sensitive populations, working with gatekeepers may help maximize participant safety (Farquhar, 1999). The positive aspects of using gatekeepers as recruiters is that their existing contacts and networks can help in the recruiting effort and that they know the demands and pressures participants face in everyday life. This means that the gatekeeper may be able to effectively help build recruiting strategies that are persuasive and successful (Krueger, 1988:196). The Mass Media Project

Authors: Allard, Suzie., Palmgreen, Philip. and Zimmerman, Rick.
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Recruiting for Focus Groups in Health Communication Campaigns
page 10
RECRUITMENT PROCESSES
While recruiting targets are identified by the underlying theoretical and targeting concerns of the
study, recruitment strategy to fulfill the design is often shaped by project resources. Recruitment processes,
therefore, must be practical, economical and provide a means for finding people who are eligible (Krueger,
1988:196). A successful recruiting process must identify who will be doing the recruiting, how the target
population will be contacted, and what tools will be used during recruiting.
Who Will Recruit. An initial step in the recruiting process is to decide who will be doing the recruiting, since
the process could be conducted by researchers, gatekeepers, volunteers, an outside professional agency or a
combination of these (Krueger, 1988:196). The Mass Media Project researchers maintained full control of the
recruiting process through all three waves of focus groups and primarily depended on Project personnel for
recruiting activities. However, each of these options will be reviewed and briefly discussed.
Researchers can choose to do the recruiting themselves. Focus group recruitment is labor intensive
and many university-based researchers do not have a team with the expertise or the funding to effectively
organize the task and carry it out. This means that researcher-based recruiting is often not cost effective for
the project (Morrison, 1998:190-196).
However, the Mass Media Project made the decision to center the recruiting process “in-house” for
several reasons. Among the considerations were the large number of groups involved in the study, and the
fact that the team had some members with prior experience with focus groups that would be useful in the
planning and implementation stages. The Mass Media Project’s recruiting system is particularly illustrative of
researcher-driven recruiting since the Project utilized a broad spectrum of recruiting strategies and because
the Project had the opportunity to refine recruiting methods for each successive wave of focus groups.
Recruiting conducted by researchers offers several advantages including being able to maintain
complete control of how closely the recruiting actually matches the sample design, and the assurance that
recruiting was conducted properly. Additionally, because team members are trained researchers, or
researchers-in-training, it is unlikely that ethical problems of an IRB nature will arise. Finally, if adjustments
need to be made in recruiting practices or sample representation, the researcher has immediate feedback
and can address the problem instantly and authoritatively.
Gatekeepers are useful because they hold a formal position that allows them to control, supervise or
restrict access to the target population. Volunteers are helpful because they are often actors within the
desired population. In the case of sensitive populations, working with gatekeepers may help maximize
participant safety (Farquhar, 1999). The positive aspects of using gatekeepers as recruiters is that their
existing contacts and networks can help in the recruiting effort and that they know the demands and
pressures participants face in everyday life. This means that the gatekeeper may be able to effectively help
build recruiting strategies that are persuasive and successful (Krueger, 1988:196). The Mass Media Project


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