Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Assessing Research

It seems to me we have a tendency to overlook the tools of research and assessment in the classic PR model: Research, Plan, Execute, Assess.

We're fortunate at SAF/PA to have very sharp Airmen in our Plans division. They provide a robust research and assessment capability that becomes the foundation for executing many of our communication strategies and tactics.

One piece of research we've been using for the past several weeks is from the Pew News Interest Index. Pew examines "News Awareness by the American Public."

Pew conducts a national survey of adults asking them what is the one story they followed the most closely in the news over the last week. In professional research parlance the question falls under the category of "unaided recall." That means the respondents don't have a choice of options to pick from--they have to remember on their own what stories they paid attention to during the last week.

For example, since mid-April, the economy and Swine Flu have dominated the results; between 30-to-40 percent of the respondents listed those as the story they most closely watched. On a graph, our Plans division then charts out the military stories respondents indicated. Since April, issues such as CIA interrogations, Iraq, Pakistan, detainee abuse photos, Iran and the terror debate made the chart. None of them scored more than 11 percent in the survey and most were down around the 5-to-6 percent levels. The pirate issue with the Maersk Alabama was the lone exception with 34 percent of the respondents saying they most closely followed that story from 17-20 April.

What this tells me is that most folks outside of Washington, D.C. don't really think about the things we focus a lot of effort on here at the Pentagon. So, how should we use this information? What I think we need to learn from this information is determining what our real target
audience(s) should be for a given issue, determine how that audience likes to receive their information and then communicate with them accordingly. Gone are the days when a communication plan lists audiences as Media, Congress, Influencers, Great American Public. Not everybody has time to deal with our issues. We have have to find out who does and who cares, and ensure they get our messages.

Thanks for reading.

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