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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 20 the group. The invitee was given two options for receiving these directions – either through traditional mail or as an attachment through email. The second procedure entailed calling each invitee the night before the scheduled discussion to remind them of the appointment and to clarify any questions about directions to the venue. If an individual was not home, the recruiter would leave a message about the appointment. However to protect the individual’s privacy, messages merely reminded the individual about the “discussion tomorrow at 6:30 p.m.” and did not mention the topic of the discussion. Followup activities can be difficult to orchestrate when there are a large number of groups involved and when the activities of multiple recruiters need to be coordinated. Therefore the Mass Media Project team developed a records system that allowed recruiters to trace the disposition of a potential participant from initial contact, through eligibility screening, to group assignment, and through both phases of the followup procedures. This same system also provided the framework for keeping track of who attended sessions and who offered referrals. CONCLUSION Focus group studies benefit greatly from rigorous methodological foundations that include a theoretically driven sampling plan and well-defined recruiting procedures that reach the targeted population. However, while focus group-related literature acknowledges the importance of these issues, it has not addressed either issue in-depth. Conducting three waves of focus groups for the Mass Media Project provided us with the opportunity to address issues related to rigorous sampling and recruitment methods. What follows are eleven “lessons” that emerged from the experience. 1. It is important to identify the target audience with very specific criteria that can be ascertained through a small number of screening questions. The Mass Media Project was successful in recruiting 38 groups that matched the predetermined sampling plan. One reason for the Mass Media Project's recruiting mechanism's success was that it utilized very specific, clearly defined eligibility requirements. This allowed recruiters to concentrate on where and how to find the right people. Additionally, theoretically-based criteria greatly improved the value of the data gathered from the groups. 2. The sensitive nature of the discussion topic should be dealt with at the recruiting stage. Our groups were exploring sensitive issues and discussing stimuli that were suggestive and explicit. To assure that we had group members who would participate and offer insights, we addressed the topic of our groups from the earliest moments in recruiting. Our ads included mention of risky behavior, and the recruiting script that was used to establish eligibility specifically stated risky sex, and asked some questions about personal behavior that clearly indicated the nature of the discussion. Addressing these issues during recruiting satisfied IRB concerns and allowed subjects to make decisions about their participation before they

Authors: Allard, Suzie., Palmgreen, Philip. and Zimmerman, Rick.
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Recruiting for Focus Groups in Health Communication Campaigns
page 20
the group. The invitee was given two options for receiving these directions – either through traditional mail or
as an attachment through email.
The second procedure entailed calling each invitee the night before the scheduled discussion to
remind them of the appointment and to clarify any questions about directions to the venue. If an individual
was not home, the recruiter would leave a message about the appointment. However to protect the
individual’s privacy, messages merely reminded the individual about the “discussion tomorrow at 6:30 p.m.”
and did not mention the topic of the discussion.
Followup activities can be difficult to orchestrate when there are a large number of groups involved
and when the activities of multiple recruiters need to be coordinated. Therefore the Mass Media Project team
developed a records system that allowed recruiters to trace the disposition of a potential participant from initial
contact, through eligibility screening, to group assignment, and through both phases of the followup
procedures. This same system also provided the framework for keeping track of who attended sessions and
who offered referrals.
CONCLUSION
Focus group studies benefit greatly from rigorous methodological foundations that include a
theoretically driven sampling plan and well-defined recruiting procedures that reach the targeted population.
However, while focus group-related literature acknowledges the importance of these issues, it has not
addressed either issue in-depth. Conducting three waves of focus groups for the Mass Media Project
provided us with the opportunity to address issues related to rigorous sampling and recruitment methods.
What follows are eleven “lessons” that emerged from the experience.
1. It is important to identify the target audience with very specific criteria that can be
ascertained through a small number of screening questions. The Mass Media Project was successful in
recruiting 38 groups that matched the predetermined sampling plan. One reason for the Mass Media
Project's recruiting mechanism's success was that it utilized very specific, clearly defined eligibility
requirements. This allowed recruiters to concentrate on where and how to find the right people. Additionally,
theoretically-based criteria greatly improved the value of the data gathered from the groups.
2. The sensitive nature of the discussion topic should be dealt with at the recruiting stage.
Our groups were exploring sensitive issues and discussing stimuli that were suggestive and explicit. To
assure that we had group members who would participate and offer insights, we addressed the topic of our
groups from the earliest moments in recruiting. Our ads included mention of risky behavior, and the recruiting
script that was used to establish eligibility specifically stated risky sex, and asked some questions about
personal behavior that clearly indicated the nature of the discussion. Addressing these issues during
recruiting satisfied IRB concerns and allowed subjects to make decisions about their participation before they


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