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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 12 Panelists are often “professional” focus group respondents, and it is possible that they may not accurately reflect the people in the target population. If a researcher is working with a professional agency, it is essential to maintain channels of communication with the agency in order to provide the agency with salient information and to get continued feedback about the process so that rigorous quality can be assured. Additionally, the researcher should design some procedure within the focus group proceedings to determine if group members do meet eligibility requirements. If they do not, and the agency has not consulted the researcher about how to adjust the recruiting process, the researcher could renegotiate the recruitment fees associated with that group. Contacting the Target Population. A difficult and often expensive part of the recruiting process is reaching potential participants who can then be screened for eligibility. There are myriad means to make initial contact with individuals, however this is an area that has not been explored in depth in existing literature. The following procedures are all viable means to find potential subjects and each was employed by the Mass Media Project with varying levels of success. Table 3 outlines the strategies used by the Project during each wave of focus groups. Telephone Recruiting. Using the telephone is a prime recruiting strategy to contact individuals. There are two approaches -- the cold call and the supplied lead. The cold call refers to a process in which recruiters use telephone lists from a variety of sources to make unsolicited calls to individuals to make them aware of the research, and to determine interest and eligibility. It is the most random approach and the Mass Media Project used this approach in Waves One and Two. In Wave One, recruiters began with a list of students provided by the registrar. Recruiters began by calling every third name on the list. This proved to be a very labor-intensive process that produced few individuals eligible for focus group participation. Among the problems that reduced the efficacy of this approach were phone numbers that were no longer in service, students who were not on campus during the summer session, and many students who did not qualify for the target population. The problem with phone lists was even more pronounced when they were used to recruit community members. The lists used to contact community members were secured from different suppliers. One list was purchased from a commercial vendor. When this list was ordered, Project personnel specified that the list should have phone numbers that would reach young adults between 18-26 within the Lexington area. A second list with similar parameters was procured from the university-affiliated research center. The list from the commercial source did not provide high quality of leads, and included many numbers that were not in service or did not connect with our target population. The list from the university-affiliated research center had more “good” numbers but still provided few leads. Based on the low level of respondent recruitment from these lists, the Project decided that this was not a cost-effective approach for recruiting community members compared to other strategies.

Authors: Allard, Suzie., Palmgreen, Philip. and Zimmerman, Rick.
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Recruiting for Focus Groups in Health Communication Campaigns
page 12
Panelists are often “professional” focus group respondents, and it is possible that they may not accurately
reflect the people in the target population.
If a researcher is working with a professional agency, it is essential to maintain channels of
communication with the agency in order to provide the agency with salient information and to get continued
feedback about the process so that rigorous quality can be assured. Additionally, the researcher should
design some procedure within the focus group proceedings to determine if group members do meet eligibility
requirements. If they do not, and the agency has not consulted the researcher about how to adjust the
recruiting process, the researcher could renegotiate the recruitment fees associated with that group.
Contacting the Target Population. A difficult and often expensive part of the recruiting process is reaching
potential participants who can then be screened for eligibility. There are myriad means to make initial contact
with individuals, however this is an area that has not been explored in depth in existing literature. The
following procedures are all viable means to find potential subjects and each was employed by the Mass
Media Project with varying levels of success. Table 3 outlines the strategies used by the Project during each
wave of focus groups.
Telephone Recruiting. Using the telephone is a prime recruiting strategy to contact individuals.
There are two approaches -- the cold call and the supplied lead.
The cold call refers to a process in which recruiters use telephone lists from a variety of sources to
make unsolicited calls to individuals to make them aware of the research, and to determine interest and
eligibility. It is the most random approach and the Mass Media Project used this approach in Waves One and
Two. In Wave One, recruiters began with a list of students provided by the registrar. Recruiters began by
calling every third name on the list. This proved to be a very labor-intensive process that produced few
individuals eligible for focus group participation. Among the problems that reduced the efficacy of this
approach were phone numbers that were no longer in service, students who were not on campus during the
summer session, and many students who did not qualify for the target population.
The problem with phone lists was even more pronounced when they were used to recruit community
members. The lists used to contact community members were secured from different suppliers. One list was
purchased from a commercial vendor. When this list was ordered, Project personnel specified that the list
should have phone numbers that would reach young adults between 18-26 within the Lexington area. A
second list with similar parameters was procured from the university-affiliated research center. The list from
the commercial source did not provide high quality of leads, and included many numbers that were not in
service or did not connect with our target population. The list from the university-affiliated research center
had more “good” numbers but still provided few leads. Based on the low level of respondent recruitment from
these lists, the Project decided that this was not a cost-effective approach for recruiting community members
compared to other strategies.


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