Diagnosing Health Campaigns: A Campaign Evaluation Assignment

Top GIFT from AEJMC-PRD 2018

Editorial Record: Submitted to AEJMC-PRD GIFT Competition by Feb. 5, 2018. A blind copy was peer reviewed by the PRD Teaching Committee, led by Chair Katie Place. First published online on August 17, 2018.


Laura Elizabeth Willis, Assistant Professor of Health and Strategic Communication in the School of Communication at Quinnipiac University.

Laura E. Willis, Quinnipiac University

Diagnosing Health Campaigns: A Campaign Evaluation Assignment


The purpose of this assignment is to have students engage in the evaluation of real-world, contemporary health communication campaigns developed and disseminated by a leading public health organization. The final product of this assignment is a written analysis paper; however, the content of that paper is meant to be developed through group discussion. The assignment was developed for an upper-level, major elective on strategic health communication for public relations undergraduate students. This assignment has two primary components. First, groups of students are asked to apply the six components of health communication campaign design (formative research, use of theory, audience segmentation, message design, channels/message placement, and evaluation) in their evaluation of the campaign overview and materials presented on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website. Additionally, student groups are asked to consider the role of evidence within the campaign development and evaluation. Second, groups have the opportunity to discuss how organizations communicate about their campaigns, including what information they provide and what information would have been more helpful in determining the outcomes of the campaign. This assignment has been popular in both the on-ground and online sections of the strategic health communication elective class, as it provides students the opportunity to apply course material to a real health campaign in collaboration with their peers.


This assignment asks students to engage in critical and creative thinking in their application of key concepts from course materials to assess a campaign, as described on the CDC’s website. Moreover, the assessment of the campaign deepens students’ understanding of the purpose of research in strategic health communication, an inquiry and analysis learning outcome. These are learning outcomes for both the analysis paper and the group discussion about the CDC’s communication about its campaigns on its website. This assignment directly connects to public relations theory and practice, as it asks students to consider the output of contemporary campaign practices and identify possible theories that may have informed the campaign.

The assignment also asks students to practice effective communication in their discussions with their group members about their assigned campaign, in the analysis paper they submit as a group, and in the follow-up discussion. Finally, working as a group also encourages them to practice professionalism in group dynamics, which is a social and emotional intelligence learning outcome.   


This assignment provides students with the opportunity to evaluate how components work together in practice. Students apply the six components of campaign development and consider the role of evidence to a real-world example in group discussions and a subsequent paper. Moreover, this assignment helps them to feel more familiar with these concepts before they begin their final project for the course (a health campaign proposal plan).


In-Person Classroom

When this assignment has been utilized in a class running in person, students are divided into small groups, in which they select from a list of pre-determined CDC campaigns. Generally, student groups begin to work on the analysis of the campaign during class time. By providing time in class for this work, the instructor can observe a group’s dynamic and get an idea of their individual contributions to the assessment of the campaign, as well as answer questions as they arise. An analysis paper is due afterward (generally by two class meetings after the in-class work time). In the class meeting in which the paper is due, we wrap up the assignment with a more meta-level discussion of how the CDC organized and discussed the campaign efforts on its website.

Virtual Classroom

In an online setting, the timeline varies slightly, and the nature of group work and discussions shifts. In-person work and discussions shift to a virtual group messaging program and/or a discussion board on the class’ website. Student professionalism in the small group setting can be assessed through group evaluation, which is due after the submission of the paper.

In both on-ground and virtual settings, students have noted that this assignment helped them to more fully understand the implications of critical campaign components, such as audience segmentation or evaluation, on an individual campaign’s success, as well as the generation of strategic health communication knowledge for future campaign development.


Once students have been separated into small groups (no more than four, depending on the class size), they are given a list of CDC campaigns that they have likely never heard of before, but which have sufficient information about the campaign available through the CDC’s website. For example, previous student groups have analyzed campaigns such as “Screen for Life,” “Inside Knowledge,” “Get Smart,” “One and Only,” and “One Conversation at a Time.” The groups are then asked to select campaigns, and students are given some quiet time in class to begin reviewing the campaign information. After that, student groups are asked to begin discussing both the campaign itself, as well as the communication efforts about the campaign.  

Discussion Prompts

Student groups are asked to consider the following prompts as they begin to critically review and discuss their CDC campaign.

  • What information was easiest for you to discern about your assigned campaign from the CDC’s website?
  • Was the organization of the information easy for you to navigate?
  • Who do you think the target public is for these web pages?
  • If you were planning on developing a campaign that shared the same topic (or target public), what information would have been most helpful to you? What would you like to know that wasn’t provided on the website?
  • How do the ways in which the CDC communicates about its campaigns connect to what you understand about evidence-based practice?

Within their groups, students are asked to discuss how they see the six key components of health communication campaigns within their assigned campaign, as this will be a major focus of the final paper (for analysis paper directions, see Appendix A; for grading rubric, see Appendix B).

Appendix A
Analysis Paper Directions

Work with your group members to review and analyze the CDC campaign you’ve been assigned. You must evaluate both the campaign itself and the information provided about the campaign on the CDC’s website. 

(1) From the CDC’s website, what can you determine related to the six key components of campaign design: 

  • Formative research
  • Use of theory
  • Audience segmentation
  • Message design
  • Channels and message placement
  • Evaluation

Questions to consider: 

  • What do you perceive the goals of the campaign are?
  • Who is the target audience for the campaign?
  • What channels appear to be utilized by the campaign? 
  • Using what you know about the key components of a successful campaign, what does the campaign seem to be doing well?
  • What possible changes would you suggest? 

(2) Moreover, what might the information provided suggest for the evidence-based approach to health communication? 

Questions to consider: 

  • Does this campaign appear to have been based on evidence?
  • Would you be able to incorporate lessons from this campaign into the development of future health communication campaigns?

Write up the critical analysis in no more than 5 pages (using APA style). This paper should be a true group effort – you should NOT divvy up the work and individually write subsections; this will result in a paper that lacks a consistent tone of voice.

Connections to course material must be made and cited appropriately.

Your contributions and professionalism will be assessed through group evaluations at the end of the assignment.

Appendix B
Analysis Paper Grading Rubric

Reminder: Your individual grade for this assignment may be impacted by the evaluations provided by you and your group members. It is your responsibility to be a professional and effective group member. Failure to submit a fully completed evaluation will result in a 5-point reduction from your individual grade.

Equal Weight (20% each) Mastery (90-100%) Proficient (80-89%) Developing (70-79%) Feedback & Score
Identification of the main aspects of the campaign Identifies and demonstrates a sophisticated understanding of the main components of campaign design Identifies and demonstrates an acceptable understanding of most components of campaign design Identifies and demonstrates a weak understanding of some components of campaign design
Analysis /evaluation of the campaign Presents an insightful and thorough analysis of all aspects of the campaign Presents a thorough analysis of most aspects of the campaign Presents a superficial or incomplete analysis of some of the aspects of the campaign
Recommendations Supports recommendations and opinions with strong arguments; recommendations are reasonable and objective Supports recommendations and opinions with limited reasoning and evidence; demonstrates little engagement with ideas presented Little or no action is suggested, and/or inappropriate solutions are proposed to the issues
Links to course material Makes appropriate and powerful connections between identified health communication aspects and the course readings and lectures Makes appropriate but somewhat vague connections between identified issues/concepts and concepts studied in course material Makes inappropriate or little connection between aspects identified and the concepts studied in course materials
Writing mechanics and formatting Demonstrates clarity, conciseness, and correctness; formatting is appropriate, and writing is free of grammar and spelling errors Exhibits occasional grammar or spelling errors, but there is still a clear presentation of ideas; lacks organization Writing is unfocused, is rambling, or contains serious errors; writing is poorly organized and does not follow specified guidelines