How to reframe a message in four steps

New early introduction guidelines of peanut protein for infants in Canada.

It’s a time-honoured tradition – passing down food and nutritional advice to younger generations. Eat this, not that; don’t eat too much or too little; avoid foods that have too much sugar, calories and carbs.

What about “don’t give kids peanut butter, because they might be allergic to it?”

Based on scientific research, allergists have recently found that infants should be eating peanuts by six months of age. Why? To reduce the risk of peanut allergy. This recommendation marks a dramatic shift in the understanding of how peanut allergy develops.

Argyle works with the American Peanut Council (through the Peanut Bureau of Canada), to advance Canadians’ understanding of the nutritional value of U.S.-grown peanuts, and about peanut allergies. Since this shift and corresponding recommendation are so dramatic, the message needs to be reframed to help Canadian consumers both understand and change their behaviours when it comes to peanut allergies.

To change attitudes and behaviours, here are four tips to reframe your message:

Do your research: It’s natural that guidelines, especially when it comes to food and infants, will change over time as advanced research is done. An important first step is to uncover what your target audience already knows on the topic – and what they don’t. If a light level of awareness already exists, you can tailor materials and content to this level of knowledge authority. Each year, the APC conducts annual consumer research nationwide to gain insight on demographics, brands, the snack category and allergy awareness to learn what motivates Canadians to choose – or not choose – peanut products. This shines a light on where to focus our communication efforts.

Identify 3-5 messages, each supported by a fact: A message is a short, memorable, quotable and sharable turn of phrase that captures the essence of its subject, and why someone should care. Try to have no fewer than three key messages, and no more than five; otherwise, you risk having too little or too much to say – and risk losing your audience. Pair each message with at least one succinct fact or example that would resonate with the audience. In all communications for the APC, Argyle incorporates consistent messaging at each touch-point with target audiences including e-newsletters, social media, industry conferences, and media.

Adapt your content to each audience’s favourite channel: Determine how your audience prefers to be communicated with – and adapt your content accordingly. For example, millennial consumers get most of their nutritional information online, so social and digital media, particularly videos, resonate best with this group. Argyle has developed and grown the PBC’s Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pages to create a platform to share, engage and promote not only the health benefits of peanuts and peanut butter, but information about peanut allergy research to remain top-of-mind with consumers.

Call to action – delivered by a credible voice: Determine how you will tell your story differently to elicit and encourage a change in behaviour. In this case, it’s talking more about prevention and awareness vs. avoidance. By building relationships with key influencers, such as registered dietitians, Argyle has tapped into a strong, credible voice to share messages with among health professionals, and their client and patient base to further extend message reach.

There is still much to accomplish if we are to change the narrative about food allergies, but a good first step is to tell the new story. By inviting everyone to the table – health professionals, scientists, researchers and communicators – perhaps we can envision a world rid of food allergies for good. It’s programs like this that are so rewarding for the Argyle team – where there is both economic benefit for peanut farmers, and real, genuine social value for parents, children and society.


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