Good research provides the information needed at each stage of an outreach campaign. Throughout the campaign, managers need to make decisions that are best made by keeping in mind the information about the target audience, as provided by research.
A Continuing Process
In the planning stage of a campaign, research can provide key information about the environment within which the campaign will operate, and about the target audience(s) at whom the campaign is aimed.
Research at the pre-planning stage of the outreach campaign will yield information regarding which messages, communication tools and products could be most effective for a particular campaign.
Once the campaign is launched, research continues to be an essential element providing important feedback on the success that the campaign is or is not achieving. Such research provides the necessary information to keep the campaign flexible enough to allow important adaptations to take place. By changing elements that are not working and playing up elements that do work, a campaign in danger of failing mid-way can be turned into a success.
Finally, at the end of the campaign, research is also essential to evaluate the campaign. Of specific interest at this stage are questions regarding whether the target audience adopted the specific attitudes or behavior promoted by the campaign.
Obtaining Information from Research
Before any research is conducted, there needs to be a clear understanding of what information is needed from the research and how this information will affect specific decisions relating to the campaign. It is also important to be aware of what information is already available in order to avoid unnecessary costs for obtaining duplicate information. Linking research to decision making will reduce the risk of wasting time and other resources in researching useless information.
At the planning stage of a campaign, important decisions about the attitude/behavior to promote and the audience to target need to be made. It is also at this time that different alternatives for promoting the attitude/behavior to the selected audience will be considered. The types of questions and information that will be involved in research at this stage may include:
- What is the most pressing IP issue that will be addressed in this campaign?
- How big is this problem?
- Who is affected / involved in this problem?
- What change in attitude or behavior should be promoted?
- Which of the different groups involved in this problem is likely to be more responsive to a campaign promoting a change in attitude or behavior?
- How can the target audience be reached?
- How can the target audience be persuaded to change the current attitude or behavior?
In order to answer these and other relevant questions at this stage, research will need to provide information on the demographic and psychological profile of the target audience. This profile may include the following information:
- Age group / gender / profession
- Sources of information
- Travelling /commuting habits
- Role models
- Perceived advantages/disadvantages of behavior promoted by the campaign
- Perceived barriers to adopting the promoted behavior
- Perceived incentives which would encourage adoption of promoted behavior
- Competing behaviors
- Perceived advantages/disadvantages of adopting competing behavior
At the pre-testing stage of an outreach campaign, the purpose of research is to determine which of the different promotion alternatives that were considered in the planning stage could provide the best results. Research at this stage can also help to fine-tune communications products, ensuring that they contain no major deficiencies and making them more attractive and relevant to the target audience. Research can also be used to evaluate how the campaigns message / slogan / communication products rate in terms of whether the target audience considers them:
- Easy to understand
At the monitoring stage of an outreach campaign, it is important to measure more than just the number of brochures distributed, the number of newspapers that reprinted a press release, or the number of times that a public service announcement was broadcast. While this type of data may be the easiest to obtain, and perhaps the most comforting, it does not provide information as to whether or not the desired objectives, in terms of changes in attitude or behavior, are being achieved by the campaign.
To properly monitor the effectiveness of an outreach campaign, it is important to measure the changes in attitude and behavior that the campaign is achieving. How exactly this can be done largely depends on the communication tools used and the behavior being promoted. Some examples of how attitude/behavior changes can be measured include:
- Increase in calls to hotline or visits to website mentioned in communications products (posters, public service announcements, leaflets, etc).
- Amount of participation in events (such as seminars, exhibitions, contests)
- Increase in registrations by target group (for campaigns aiming at increasing IP registrations).
- Decrease in illegal downloads or sales of counterfeit products (for anti-piracy or anti-counterfeiting campaigns).
Research at the evaluation stage of the campaign is similar though more in-depth than that in the monitoring stage. Once again, research is used to measure actual changes in attitudes and behavior though instead of using this information to adapt and steer the campaign in the right direction, the goal at this stage is to evaluate whether the campaign has achieved its intended objectives.
Types of Research
For those new to outreach efforts, the idea of conducting market research may appear to be a long, difficult and expensive process. However, using a bit of creativity, market research can be quick, easy, and even free.
While it is true that market research can include extensive, and expensive, surveys made by marketing professionals, the points below provide some ideas on how data can be collected in a simpler and less expensive way.
Ideas for easy, cost effective research:
At the planning stage of the campaign:
- Look through secondary sources of information such as official statistics, reports, articles and surveys conducted by other parties that can provide inside information about your target audiences.
- Create partnerships with other parties who are also interested in the type of information that the research would yield. These could be other government institutions or NGOs who could share in the costs of the research. They could also be private corporations who have in-house market research departments or who are willing to finance the research. Finally, consider university students and researchers (in business, psychology or sociology departments) who are often in the search for topics for research projects and may be willing to conduct valuable research at minimal or no cost.
- Use Internet and/or telephone polls to provide faster results than print surveys. This option, however, does require the manpower to make the calls or develop the on-line questionnaire.
- Keep in mind that informal interviews, small focus groups, and even simple observation can provide the same or even better information as large, expensive studies. Show communication products (videos, publications, posters, etc.) to a small but representative group of target audience members. Use their feedback to decide between different product options or fine-tune a product before it is officially launched.
- Begin the campaign in a small location that is nevertheless representative of the wider area that the campaign will eventually cover. Apart from being less costly than immediately rolling out the campaign at the national level, this try-out will yield information on how the target audience actually reacts to the campaign. This information can then be used to refine and improve the campaign before it is fully rolled-out. In addition, if the campaign proves to be a success in this small location, this information may be used to obtain the additional funds needed to rollout the campaign in a larger scale.
- Carry out quick and simple customer satisfaction surveys to help evaluate the progress and results of the campaign. Since only people who have engaged in the behavior promoted (registered IP / attended activities promoted by the campaign / etc.) are interviewed, the sample group will be easier to conduct.