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Step 1: Plan the research. Determine the following information:

What you want to learn. Decide how you’ll use the results from the focus group discussion or individual interview before you conduct the research. Prepare the questions you want answered, then make sure the moderator and inter- viewer guide will provide the answers. (See Step 5 for more information on developing a moderator’s guide.) You’ll use these questions to analyze the results of the discussions and to organize the report on the focus group discussion or individual interview.

When you need to have that information. Your timing needs will


An Experience With One-on-One Interviews

A television and movie actor who had lost several family members to tobacco offered his time for a tobacco control ad. An advertising concept and script were developed to encour- age smokers to consider quitting by having them think about how their own death from tobacco use would affect their loved ones.

Before producing the ads, the sponsoring organization conducted one-on-one inter- views with adult smokers to ensure that the script and visual presentations would clearly and persuasively communicate the intended message. The smokers were shown the ad concept and asked their reactions to it through a variety of questions. Individual interviews were used instead of focus groups, because it was important for the smokers to be honest and vulnerable. The sponsoring organization was concerned that if smokers were in a focus group together, they might become defensive about the ad’s message that their tobacco use could ultimately hurt their loved ones.

The approach worked. The one-on-one interviews elicited honest, heartfelt responses from the smokers. The interviews also reveal- ed that many respondents didn’t recognize the actor. As a result, the decision was made to identify him on screen at the beginning of the ad. In addition, the original script includ- ed a line noting how the actor’s grandfather couldn’t stop smoking even though he knew it was making him sick. Respondents didn’t find that line credible. They believed the grand- father should have—and would have—quit if he knew smoking was making him sick. These respondents said they would stop as soon as they found out their smoking was causing them serious harm. Whether or not that per- ception was realistic, the script was changed to focus on the grandfather’s suffering, which research respondents sympathized with, rather than focusing on his failure in quitting.

Chapter 3: Gaining and Using Target Audience Insights

Designing and Conducting Focus Groups or Individual In-Depth Interviews

Here are seven major steps for conducting focus groups and individual in-depth interviews:

  • 1.

    Plan the research.

  • 2.

    Choose the location and format for

focus groups or interviews.

3. Draft a recruitment screener.

  • 4.

    Recruit participants.

  • 5.

    Develop a moderator’s guide.



Analyze and use results



Conduct the focus groups or interviews.

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