The first chapter in the upcoming Academy Guide to Nutrition Communication introduces the foundation of nutrition communication, defines terms, and describes the vast application of communication principles to nutrition practice. I wrote the chapter with Dr. Ardyth Gillespie, retired professor of nutritional science from Cornell, where I completed graduate school and studied under Dr. Gillespie. In writing this chapter we worked together to create the “Framework for Planning and Evaluating Nutrition Communication,” an update of previous nutrition communication models. You are getting a first glimpse, prior to rendering by a graphic designer.
We wanted to create a visual tool to conceptualize the nutrition communication process. After many renditions with more parts and numerous arrows between boxes, we settled on a simpler diagram with four main concept areas: inputs, communication decisions, intervening process, and outcomes.
Communication inputs consist of what the audience and the communicator bring to the communication process. Audience members are not blank slates to receive a message; they have a lifetime of experiences and relationships which predispose how they filter a message as they receive it and how they respond. Likewise, communicators bring predispositions which influence communication decisions. Learning about your audience and involving them in communication decisions and the entire communication process will result in improved outcomes.
Communication decisions include determining the communication goals and desired outcomes, framing and designing the message content and delivery, and determining the relational component of the communication, which includes how communicator and audience interact.
The intervening process includes everything that happens between initiation of the communication and the outcomes. This includes communication delivery and how well the communication is received. Receiving the message has several levels of involvement: the audience being aware of the message, attending to it, and varying degrees of audience comprehension, participation, and engagement. During the intervening process the communicator and audience ideally interact. This can take the form of formal or informal feedback, as well as many other types of interaction. Interaction enhances the audience’s receipt of the message and leads to more positive outcomes.
The desired outcomes selected at the beginning of communication planning can be in the cognitive, affective, behavioral intention, or behavioral domains. The ideal outcome is for the audience to fully and accurately understand your message due to positive influences in the intervening process, which in turn leads to achieving the desired outcomes in the cognitive, affective, and behavioral domains. Evaluating all aspects of the process helps explain why desired outcomes were or were not achieved.
To summarize the nutrition communication planning process outlined by this framework:
Assess audience and communicator inputs. When direct contact is not possible before the program, learn about the audience by other methods.
Set realistic goals with members of the audience.
Plan methods to evaluate the intervening process both during and after the program.
Plan communication using the most applicable theory, data, and guidelines available.
Use the best art of communicating within your own communication style. Add innovation and creativity while maintaining accuracy and meeting the communication goals.
Evaluate the communication process and how well program objectives were achieved.
Does this model help you envision the communication process? Would it be helpful in planning and evaluating nutrition communication? What do you like? What is unclear?
“There is nothing so practical as a good theory.”
~ Kurt Lewin, founding father of social psychology