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  • Writer's pictureAmplio

4 Tips for Creating Effective SBCC Audio Content

Updated: May 11, 2023

Fidelis Da-Uri (right) lead the development of audio content for social and behavior change initiatives.

How understanding communities drives strategies for SBCC success

Amplio works global partners to amplify program reach and impact, using the Amplio Talking Book as a Social and Behavior Change Communications (SBCC) strategy. Each partner chooses the messages they want to share, including the positive attitudes and behaviors they aim to encourage. To achieve success, program managers have to figure out how to create messages that are meaningful to the communities they serve.

Community entry is an essential first step

Community entry is the process of initiating, nurturing, and sustaining a productive working relationship with community members in order to plan for, implement, and

evaluate an intervention. In order to communicate effectively, you need to get to know people and understand their values, customs, and beliefs—and build trust.

“The program knows what it wants to achieve, but you have to see it from the community’s perspective,” said Phillip Kinyota, senior technical manager at Centre for Behaviour Change Communication (CBCC), a Kenyai-based organization that specializes in SBCC solutions for the public and private sectors. “You have to develop the ideas and campaigns in collaboration with the people you want to reach.”

Fidelis Da-Uri, Amplio's senior program manager, agreed. Da-uri is an SBCC expert who designs and produces SBCC messaging, scripts, and audio content for Talking Books and community radio. He has produced content in over a dozen languages.

“Traditions, culture, and social norms dictate what is acceptable, or not, within a given society. When you’re developing content, it's important to understand how culture can be transformed to create behavior change and improve the health and well-being of people by adapting the positive aspects of cultural practices,” he said.

We asked our experts to share their tips for creating SBCC content.

1. Understand the community’s values

Kinyota and Da-Uri agree that connecting a community’s cultural values is key to  developing effective behavior change messaging. If you understand what people care about, and connect your content to their traditional values and beliefs, you’ll have a much better chance of success. The goal is to show listeners how a desired new behavior fits into their existing belief system.

An example of CBCC's social and behavior change communication print material for the Afya Timiza project

In Kenya, CBCC used the Amplio Talking Book as one of their SBCC strategies for the USAID-funded Afya Timiza project, promoting access to quality health education and services for semi-nomadic pastoralists in Samburu and Turkana counties. Samburu and Turkana people both have a tradition of warriorhood. As CBCC spent time in the communities conducting the program’s participatory assessment, the team asked themselves, “How do we make health issues cool to a warrior culture?” CBCC's solution was to create a campaign based on the concept of heroism. The campaign encourages the uptake of maternal, newborn, and child health knowledge and practices with the idea that heroes take care of their family’s health.

2. Handle sensitive topics and taboos with extra care

Da-Uri emphasized that understanding sensitive topics and cultural taboos is crucial. Many development projects seek to address or change highly sensitive traditions and social behaviors. Content creators must approach sensitive issues with care.  

“I am always very careful when producing content about culturally sensitive topics such as child marriage, gender roles, and women’s empowerment—or enrolling children with disabilities in school. The choice of words in such messages can generate a lot of controversies among our target groups,” Da-Uri said.

Fidelis Da-uri, left, plays the xylophone and records SBCC content with local music groups.

Because Da-Uri grew up in Ghana’s Upper West Region, he has a strong understanding of local languages and social norms. An accomplished musician, Da-Uri plays the classic Ghana Gyli xylophone and uses music as a tool for social and behavior change. He collaborates with local music and theater groups to record songs and audio dramas. But if a topic touches a cultural nerve, Da-Uri prefers to handle the message himself.

“Whenever a message touches on issues or behaviors that have implications, I’ll write the script or compose the lyrics myself, to guide and control the singing or drama group on what they should or should not say. I also work with local stakeholders, including traditional and religious leaders, to get their endorsement and support."

3. See where program goals and local practices overlap

Most SBCC initiatives focus on ways to improve health and well-being, but what happens when a recommended behavior is at odds with a community’s traditions or values? 

Kinyota said it's important to look for ways to connect the program’s goals and messaging with the community’s local knowledge, attitudes, and practices, and build from there. "CBCC used this approach for a reproductive health project. In this case, we want to encourage contraceptive use, but it’s considered desirable in the community for a man to have a large family. It’s a testament to his masculinity,” Kinyota explained.

To resolve this potential conflict, CBCC identified where the behaviors they want to promote overlap with the community’s traditional practices.

“Spacing of children by at least two years is generally accepted as good. Communities have had their own ways of child spacing, such as husbands moving away from the wife after she gives birth and the use of exclusive breastfeeding (Lactational Amenorrhea Method) as a family planning method,” Kinyota shared. “Thus, our entry point to these conversations has focused on spacing of pregnancies for at least two years, and why contraceptives are more reliable than traditional methods.”

4. Test your message with focus groups

Kinyota recommends spending extra time on the scripts and always testing messages with focus groups that represent your target audience before deploying new content to the communities.

“Once we’ve determined the key approaches and messages, we use them to write a creative brief for the content producers. They draft the first scripts and we test the messages in the community. We play the messages for a variety of audiences, including local health workers, county health management teams, and groups that represent the target audience in age, gender, lifestyle, and so on,” Kinyota said. 

“We test for certain variables: Is the message offensive? Is the information relevant? Do people like the music or story? We keep testing until no new information is coming out of the focus groups."

“We test for certain variables: Is the message offensive? Is the information relevant? Do people like the music or story? We keep testing until no new information is coming out of the focus groups," Kinyota said.

"SBCC content needs to be infused with insights from your target audiences, so it’s relatable, it's responding to a problem, and the solutions are actionable.”


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