Getting healthy online discussion board focus groups



Online market research was chosen to support important strategic communication advice, key message development and copy writing services for a government-sponsored health initiative called “Get-Healthy”. Online market research was chosen because of its affordability, agility and convenience.

The Get Healthy Service provides information and ongoing health coaching support about how to improve your lifestyle in relation to:

  • Healthy eating.
  • Being active.
  • Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.

The communication under review is a direct mail package sent to targeted households. The proposed direct mail piece was to include details of the offer, relevant calls to action to encourage individual participation in the free program.


To provide online market research services to test and ascertain the effectiveness of a proposed direct mail piece for a state government health department to determine and pre-test the effectiveness of the content and presentation of the offer, prior to targeted distribution.

Target audiences

Male and female, 35-65 years, from low SEIFA postal areas.


Due to the geographic dispersion of regional and metropolitan participants for this study, an online research methodology was an obvious solution. Online Discussion Boards were chosen over real time groups due to, participant availability (they were able to contribute to the discussion at a time convenient to them) and some restrictions on Internet reliability in some of the more remote regions.

health Lifestyle
  • 1 x online discussion board group
  • 3 days in duration
  • 8 participants, plus 2 reserves
  • 1 x moderator
  • 1 x client Observer

Based on the project objectives, the discussion was structured as follows (in context of receiving the material in the post):

Day 1: Get it

Day 2: Read it

Day 3: Consider it

8 screened participants were mailed the direct mail piece in a sealed envelope, and instructed to open it on a designated date and time to mimic their response to their first exposure to the information.

What are online discussion board focus groups?

Online discussion boards occur in a secure environment where participants login and post comments in response to a discussion topic. Discussion board topics may include question, polls, images, website links or videos. You can ask participants to share their opinions, upload their own images, or take part in private discussions. Participants are notified when a new discussion topic is posted and they can access the discussion board from a computer or a mobile device. Online discussion boards can range in duration from days, weeks and months.

Insights revealed

The feedback and insights provided by the focus group participants established that the general “look and feel” of the Get Healthy envelope was a key influence in shaping the respondents’ initial perceptions of, and attitudes toward, the letter enclosed.

In particular, the research confirmed that as the first point of engagement, the envelope should be presented and addressed in a way that is appealing to the receiver in order to warrant their further engagement with the mail piece. A key point of contention among the respondents was the use of the “To the Householder” label, of which the majority disliked. On a positive note, it was communicated that the use of Get Healthy branding and supporting material ( fridge magnet) helped to reinforce the campaign’s key messaging and ensure the Service remained top-of-mind for respondents.

In terms of the most influential findings, we found that the majority of respondents were of the opinion that the mail package contained junk mail or political advertising material due to the presentation of the envelope. Among some respondents, recognition of the Get Healthy branding and Tasmanian Government logo was not immediate and the appeal of the letter suffered due to its generic and impersonal mode of address. The presentation of the letter was also noted as an area for improvement ­ particularly with regard to the layout of the text copy and small, unattractive pictures.


  • Upon reviewing the feedback, the agency reviewed alternative creative strategies to help improve the visual appeal of the envelope:

  • They replaced the “To the Householder” label with an alternative option: “To anyone who wants to get healthy”.
  • The agency significantly increased the size and prominence of the Government logo (bottom left-hand corner) and Get Healthy logo (bottom right-hand corner).
  • An eye-catching “Free Health Service” banner was incorporated in the top right-hand side of the envelope to help trigger motivation to act among mail recipients.

The letter

  • It was the agencies intention to make the letter less text-heavy and cluttered. Therefore, they made the decision to increase it to two-pages (as opposed to one) in the attempt to making it appear more inviting and easier to read.
  • They reviewed the existing layout of the letter to consider the value of larger images and the power of colour in order to maintain reader interest. Making the letter two-pages allowed us to run four separate testimonials (in break-out boxes) presented in much larger font, purple (as opposed to black).
  • A large photo was also included alongside each testimonial (as opposed to two very small thumbnail images featured in the original letter’s testimonial).
  • The idea to run a range of testimonials (male and female from different backgrounds and walks of life) was influenced by a couple of respondents stating they enjoyed the depiction of a good example of realistic and achievable body change.
  • The agency also changed the first line of address in the letter from “Dear Householder” (in normal font) to FREE HEALTH COACHING SERVICE in bright green bold font as a heading to reinforce the campaign message.
  • They kept paragraphs short and maintained the use of bullet points to encourage reader engagement.

Thank you to Corporate Communications for sharing the outcomes

Share this: