Communicating with Adult Students—Don’t Assume, Test!

Becky Morehouse

Becky Morehouse

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Due diligence is important when you’re ready to evaluate creative ideas and the mediums that carry them forth. Obviously, testing with any target audience is an invaluable step to ensure that you’re on target, especially when it’s an audience as potentially diverse as prospective adult students.

Whether testing copy, ads, visuals, or a new brand campaign, there are ways to gather helpful opinions—positive and negative—that will also be as directive as possible for fine-tuning your efforts or nixing truly unsuccessful attempts.

Keep these ideas in mind before you launch new communication materials, website initiatives, social media efforts, etc.:

  • Research for creative is most effective when it circles back to the communication objectives outlined in an audience-specific creative brief, rather than merely gathering a laundry list of what participants like or dislike about certain aspects. Make sure you have a firm and established strategy behind the work to help with pursuing key points in a discussion. That way you can ask specifically about elements that communicate effectively and those that don’t.
  • When developing your interview guide, don’t forget to include questioning that helps gauge the participants’ perspective on the creative pieces at hand. Let’s say you’re testing brand campaign concepts. Before launching into specific options, discuss reactions to brand campaigns in general, i.e., what makes a good brand campaign, what makes a poor one, name a memorable one, etc. This context helps the discussion, but it also helps with direction for your team when taken into consideration with reactions to the executions at hand.
  • Once you have initial reactions to the treatment, it generally works well to first ask participants to expound on what they found especially compelling and why. When you move to explore more negative reactions, try to keep the conversation as constructive as possible. For example, instead of asking what they didn’t like about an execution, ask how the execution can be improved. This is a subtle but important difference when returning feedback to the creative team.
  • Finally, if something is really testing poorly, try to give the idea at least a fighting chance (as objectively as possible) so that you thoroughly understand what problems exist. You can do this by playing devil’s advocate with counterpoints to really delve into problem areas—and perhaps along the way you may even discover salvageable nuggets.

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