FIRST 5 Launches New Messaging and Brand with InterQ's Qualitative Research Process


First 5 is a statewide California agency, with operating offices in each of California’s counties. Funded by tobacco tax dollars, the agency is tasked with financing early childhood initiatives, promoting family wellness, advocating for preschool and early education opportunities, and supporting families.

First 5 is a complex organization – they fund nonprofits, but they are not a nonprofit organization. Furthermore, each county operates independently with its own initiatives, making the story even more complex.

First 5 Santa Clara County and First 5 San Francisco County needed help spreading their message and promoting their programs throughout their counties, but they knew their brands were complex. They didn’t know how much brand recognition they had, how they were perceived by the public, or how to structure their communications because of these challenges.

First 5 San Francisco was launching a new website, and they wanted research done to help guide the structure and tone of communications. First 5 Santa Clara aimed to create a branding campaign to support its extremely popular Potter the Otter initiative. Additionally, they needed guidance in advocating for their Family Resource Center sites.

The agencies in both counties teamed up to hire a research agency to help them better understand public perception so they could frame their messaging and develop marketing tactics. InterQ was hired for the job.


InterQ designed a three-part qualitative research framework to help both counties. There was multiple target populations to study, and the approaches were tailored accordingly.

First 5 San Francisco Internal Stakeholders: This included employees of First 5, employees at First 5’s funded Preschool for All campus sites, and administrators at Preschool for All sites.

First 5 wanted to understand how the organization was being communicated to recipient partners, identify the internal challenges, and know how to address questions faced by internal teams.

InterQ chose in-depth phone interviews for the internal stakeholder population. The results were coded and assembled in a comprehensive report that detailed the findings and provided suggestions for streamlining operations throughout the Preschool for All sites.

First 5 Santa Clara Internal Stakeholders: In Santa Clara County, stakeholders included employees and administrators at First 5’s funded Family Resource Centers, internal First 5 employees, and the Executive Director of First 5.

InterQ also used telephone in-depth phone interviews with the internal stakeholder group. The results were coded and assembled into a comprehensive report, which gave clarity and direction to internal First 5 communications, and streamlined a method for working with Family Resource Centers throughout the County.

First 5 Santa Clara families: The third component of the research was conducted with the families who benefitted from First 5’s Santa Clara Family Resource Centers.

InterQ conducted traditional focus groups with families who attended or lived near Family Resource Centers. The interviewer moderated a discussion that included questions about the resources that families were looking for, discussed how families used current resources, and sought opinions and perceptions about First 5 as a brand.

The findings were coded and compiled into a comprehensive report.


The First 5 project included three separate qualitative research projects, and three different deliverables for each component. The findings as a whole provided a comprehensive picture for both Counties; they were able to understand how their employees, staff members, and partner agencies used First 5’s resources; they learned how to streamline and better manage operations; and they came away with a deeper understand of public needs.

The results from the research led to several branding initiatives. InterQ wrote and guided messaging strategy for First 5 San Francisco’s new website, and we worked closely with Santa Clara County on several messaging and marketing projects.

Following the research, metrics showed significant increases in website and social media traffic, and internal communications improved markedly.



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