Alan Berkowitz, Ph.D.
Consistent messaging is one of the critical elements of effective prevention. If a particular type of message has been shown by research and evaluation to be effective, it must be implemented in a consistent manner. For example, scare tactics and fear-based messages have been shown to not work, while positive messages that focus on strengths, healthy norms, and actions that can be implemented have been validated. For these types of messages to be as effective as possible, the whole messaging system of the environment must be shaped so as to consistently support them. This is why “prevention is a process” that requires careful planning, education of stakeholders, and buy-in from key players. As an approach is implemented, inconsistent messages and practices will become apparent (on the part of individuals, programs, and in particular aspects of the environment) and it is the responsibility of prevention practitioners to engage with these individuals, programs, and/or aspects of the environment to see if the inconsistent messages and practices can be modified to be more consistent (or at least less inconsistent) with those chosen for the campaign. The same is true when critics of a campaign emerge – they should be approached as potential allies with substantive questions that need to be addressed in order to gain their buy-in.