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Case study: RTI International


RTI International is an independent non-profit research institute that provides expert advice and insights for organizations involved in social causes, including healthcare, international development, climate change, and defense. Researchers at RTI International have used the full range of CMNTY features to establish connections with young people, building an engaged online community to rapidly test creative behavior change campaign treatments.

The USA experiences high rates of teenage alcohol use, drug abuse, and youth violence. Young people are often pressured to engage in risky behaviors because of peer pressure or the social stigma of opting out. RTI International was commissioned by the Family and Youth Services Bureau of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop a nationwide campaign encouraging children aged 13-18 to make healthy decisions and avoid risky behaviors.

Diversity across 26 states

The team combined behavior change science and marketing strategy with user-centered design methods to support young people to improve decision-making. “This was an empowerment campaign,” said Veronica Thomas, Communication Strategist at RTI International. “Teens are encouraged to set goals and stepping-stones to meet them.”

The team had previously used focus groups to test campaign ideas, but cost concerns and a lack of diversity influenced the move to CMNTY. Using CMNTY, RTI International built a panel of young people from across 26 US states. Access to a broad range of participants enabled the team to develop a representative sample, giving all young people a stake in the project. The team used CMNTY to create user groups to test and iterate materials. “We embrace a User-centered design approach,” said Thomas. “We needed to use real teen feedback within the campaign.”

Captivating the youth

Thomas said that teenagers lead busy lives, so finding time for focus groups was always a challenge. CMNTY frees up young people from the fixed times demanded by focus groups. “CMNTY enables us to capture diverse users at their convenience, said Thomas. The software also works across desktop, tablet, and mobile devices. “This enables us to get a range of perspectives.”

Onboarding through the platform proved simple, with users going through a short process to ensure parental consent for participation. Retention rates are high, too, adds Thomas.

Gamification and gratification

While the team had used virtual focus groups before, keeping participants involved in the process proved challenging in a rigid and traditional format. “CMNTY uses the principles of gamification and gratification that increase engagement,” said Thomas. “It keeps users interested.” CMNTY provides several ways to engage audiences, including co-creation spaces, where users can rate ideas and vote on campaigns and creatives. They can also create mood boards, using visuals to display their feelings. “(We used) quizzes, videos, and content to avoid patronizing or shaming users. We wanted to keep the campaign meaningful and relatable,” said Thomas.

Real-time feedback

CMNTY provided a fun, functional, fast way to test ad creatives. “We were able to rapidly test ideas with users on an ongoing platform,” said Thomas. “CMNTY provided us with real-time targeted feedback from target users.” The team used CMNTY to test a range of asset types, something that’s critical for youth-oriented campaigns. “We can upload different media and get responses to build a broad dataset from users,” said Thomas.

The platform provides a range of forums, including public and private spaces where participants can discuss campaign creatives. CMNTY enables researchers to create places where participants can connect freely – with researchers and clients able to gain insights from spontaneous conversations. Discussion areas could also be used to request rapid feedback on specific campaign ideas, creative treatments, or copy.

The power of CMNTY

CMNTY outperformed RTI International’s expectations. “We value the awesome response and convenience of the feedback,” Thomas said. Client and stakeholder access provided total transparency for campaign owners. At the heart of CMNTY is a reporting dashboard where everyone can see the metrics that matter. “Analytics can be performed by user-group. The potential for age analysis is easy, and we can parse this information out,” said Thomas. CMNTY makes analysis simple. Content can be exported to SPSS or Excel, ready to be shared. It can also be used to produce word clouds, develop mood boards, and provide an understanding of sentiment. CMNTY also enables the creation of transcripts and video clips, which provide total transparency for clients – and a valuable future resource for researchers.

RTI International was amazed at the power and potential of CMNTY. “(There was) no real challenge that could not be performed,” said Thomas. The company is already using CMNTY for future projects, using it to build connections and undertake projects that benefit us all.

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