Here’s how to really determine if ads are effective: advertise some products, and don’t advertise others. Then see which sells. All those “advertisements that don’t work” will sell the product. Those that are unadvertised will sit on the shelf. When you ask people why they bought the advertised product, they will mention positive product attributes, but seldom advertising.
No matter if you are selling a message, a request for action, or a PAC contribution, the lesson for government relations professionals is this: unsophisticated “merely asking” type of research won’t give you the insight needed to create compelling lines of persuasion.
So, that’s a long explanation of the number-one way to spend money on research that doesn’t get results: incorrect methodology. Here are my others:
Amy Says. . .
2. Staff who are inexperienced in interpreting research results. I remember sitting in a meeting when someone said that a survey revealed that “ members prefer to receive PAC contribution requests via email.” The recommendation? To increase PAC contributions via email requests. The conclusion isn’t even connected to the finding. Maybe they want the requests via email because email is notoriously easy to ignore!
3. Compounding on #2, staff who do not know how to implement what they have interpreted. They have no sense of how the data translates into specific behaviors, and how to create the organizational climate that promotes those behaviors. Or worse yet, they don’t carry the organizational rank necessary to get the behaviors integrated into the culture.
4. Research that doesn’t attempt to find the audience’s values and ideologies. For example, you may assume that because you are a business association, therefore all members vote alike, and you ask questions that bring about pre-destined answers. It fails to recognize that people identify themselves in different ways and their values and hence persuasion triggers are different. Not all women identify themselves as feminists first, not all business owners identify themselves as capitalists first and foremost, and not all physicians identify themselves as small business people.
Now, go out and save some money by conducting sound research and interpreting it correctly!