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Tailoring vs. Targeting

One of the chapters in a recent book on surveying hard-to-reach populations looks at "targeting and tailoring" survey designs. The chapter references this paper on the use of the terms among those who design health communication. I thought the article was an interesting one. They start by saying that "one way to classify message strategies like tailoring is by the level of specificity with which characteristics of the target audience are reflected in the the communication."

That made sense. There is likely a continuum of specificity ranging from complete non-differentiation across units to nearly individualized. But then the authors break that continuum and try to define a "fundamental" difference between tailoring and targeting. They say targeting is for some subgroup while tailoring is to the characteristics of the individual. That sounds good, but at least for surveys, I'm not sure the distinction holds.

In survey design, what would constitute tailoring under that definition? Groves and Couper used "tailoring" to describe how interviewers might change their introduction based on comments from the sampled person. But the training giving to interviewers focuses on a few types of comments. By the definition posited by the health communication paper, would that be tailoring or targeting? There are a few subgroups (not enough time/too busy, don't do surveys, confidentiality concerns).

I think it might be more helpful to think of these as synonymous terms where the specificity of the tailoring/targeting varies. In any event, this is a useful concept for surveys to employ. I believe this has been an innovative idea that does tie back to Leverage-Saliency theory.

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