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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 17 Referrals. A very productive recruiting strategy employed in all three waves of the Mass Media Project involved asking research respondents to recommend friends who might be interested in participating. Individuals were given the opportunity to provide referrals when they were first invited to a focus group, and when they attended the focus group. The referrals could be made in two ways. They could provide a first name and phone number for the friend with the understanding that the Project would tell the referred friend that they had been mentioned by their friend. Or they could provide their friend with the Project phone number and ask their friend to mention their name during recruitment. The referring individual would receive a $10 incentive if the person they referred was eligible and participated in a focus group. Another type of referral utilized by the Mass Media Project involved contacting people from earlier Waves who had qualified to participate but who had not been scheduled for a focus group. The referral process required careful bookkeeping in terms of knowing who had been referred, and who referred them. Additionally, if the referred person showed up for a focus group, then the individual who made the referral needed to be paid. However, keeping these records was a good use of time considering the success of this strategy for recruiting eligible participants. The referral process does present some difficulties such as the possibility that there may be too many people with similar ideas and opinions or that people who know each other will dominate the conversation. The Mass Media project had several ways to address these issues. First, whenever possible, referrals were used to recruit for a different Wave from the one the referree was in. Second, the Mass Media Project worked to minimize the chances that participants in each group would know each other. For example, two people who knew each other were only invited to attend a group together under special circumstances such one person relying on the other for transportation. Electronic communication. The Mass Media Project did not utilize electronic means for establishing initial contact with potential participants. However, email was one option utilized during follow-up procedures such as for reminder notes and a way to provide venue maps for people who would be participating in a focus group. It is worth noting how electronic communication may be used to reach people for recruiting purposes, such as through messages on electronic mailing lists, in chat rooms or through direct email contact. In all cases, electronic communication places restrictions on who will see the message. While this is not a problem for some communication research questions, the electronic communication bias may have significant implications for some issues. There are also other considerations. For example, electronic mailing lists are an efficient way to reach a particular population of people, but permission from the list owner may be required to make a posting. Additionally, if there is any reason to maintain a low-key presence within the chosen community, an electronic mailing list announcement may not be the appropriate choice.

Authors: Allard, Suzie., Palmgreen, Philip. and Zimmerman, Rick.
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Recruiting for Focus Groups in Health Communication Campaigns
page 17
Referrals. A very productive recruiting strategy employed in all three waves of the Mass Media
Project involved asking research respondents to recommend friends who might be interested in participating.
Individuals were given the opportunity to provide referrals when they were first invited to a focus group, and
when they attended the focus group. The referrals could be made in two ways. They could provide a first
name and phone number for the friend with the understanding that the Project would tell the referred friend
that they had been mentioned by their friend. Or they could provide their friend with the Project phone
number and ask their friend to mention their name during recruitment. The referring individual would receive
a $10 incentive if the person they referred was eligible and participated in a focus group.
Another type of referral utilized by the Mass Media Project involved contacting people from earlier
Waves who had qualified to participate but who had not been scheduled for a focus group.
The referral process required careful bookkeeping in terms of knowing who had been referred, and
who referred them. Additionally, if the referred person showed up for a focus group, then the individual who
made the referral needed to be paid. However, keeping these records was a good use of time considering
the success of this strategy for recruiting eligible participants.
The referral process does present some difficulties such as the possibility that there may be too many
people with similar ideas and opinions or that people who know each other will dominate the conversation.
The Mass Media project had several ways to address these issues. First, whenever possible, referrals were
used to recruit for a different Wave from the one the referree was in. Second, the Mass Media Project worked
to minimize the chances that participants in each group would know each other. For example, two people who
knew each other were only invited to attend a group together under special circumstances such one person
relying on the other for transportation.
Electronic communication. The Mass Media Project did not utilize electronic means for
establishing initial contact with potential participants. However, email was one option utilized during follow-up
procedures such as for reminder notes and a way to provide venue maps for people who would be
participating in a focus group.
It is worth noting how electronic communication may be used to reach people for recruiting purposes,
such as through messages on electronic mailing lists, in chat rooms or through direct email contact. In all
cases, electronic communication places restrictions on who will see the message. While this is not a problem
for some communication research questions, the electronic communication bias may have significant
implications for some issues.
There are also other considerations. For example, electronic mailing lists are an efficient way to
reach a particular population of people, but permission from the list owner may be required to make a posting.
Additionally, if there is any reason to maintain a low-key presence within the chosen community, an electronic
mailing list announcement may not be the appropriate choice.


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