Research

Striking Findings from Pew, CFM Research During 2018

Among the most striking research findings during 2018 is that a majority of US teens fear a mass shooting at the school they attend.

Among the most striking research findings during 2018 is that a majority of US teens fear a mass shooting at the school they attend.

The year is almost over and it’s time for retrospectives. Pew Research Center has shared “18 striking findings.” We have a few of our own to share.

 Here are a few of the striking findings by Pew during 2018:

  • The number of unauthorized immigrants in the United States has declined from its peak of 12.2 million in 2007.

  • The number of refugees resettled in the United States decreased more in 2017 than the rest of the world.

  • Younger Americans are better than their elders at separating fact from opinion.

  • A declining share of US Catholics say Pope Francis is doing a good job.

  • A majority of US teens fear a mass shooting at their school.

  • Almost 70 percent of Americans indicate they are worn out by the news. More Republicans say they are fatigued than Democrats.

  • Income inequality in America is greatest among Asians.

  • Bots on Twitter may be responsible for more link-sharing than human tweeters.

  • Almost 60 percent of women in the United States say they have been sexually harassed.

CFM has also been busy conducting research in 2018. Here are some of the findings we are able to share:

  • People in the Pacific Northwest are more optimistic about the way things are going than the rest of the country. Republicans are more pessimistic than Democrats.

  • Republicans and Democrats have significantly different opinions about key issues such as education and transportation. Opinions among Independents are closer to Republicans than Democrats.

  • People expect it will be decades before transportation issues are addressed adequately.

  • The share of people who rely on newspapers for information has declined by 50 percent during the past 10 years. Old-fashioned word of mouth and digital news outlets are now preferred sources.

  • Next to traffic congestion, one of the most commonly mentioned civic challenges is homelessness.

Hold onto your hat because 2019 appears like another storm approaching, with loads of opportunities to take the temperature of Americans around the country and in the Pacific Northwest.

 

Research Can Turn Skeptics, Mavericks into an Army

If you are stymied by skeptics or puzzled by a complex challenge, quality research can help by producing data that leads to discipline – and disciples.

If you are stymied by skeptics or puzzled by a complex challenge, quality research can help by producing data that leads to discipline – and disciples.

Through quality research, you can convert skeptics into believers and mavericks into disciples.

People will fight to the death in defense of ideas for which they may have only flimsy evidence to support. Talking them out of their view can be difficult and even acrimonious. Research findings can provide a bridge for them to retreat.

The point of research is to point the way forward based on something more solid than a hunch or an opinion. A hunch or an opinion may be right, and research can be the vehicle to provide it. Research also can expose an idea as off base, even counterproductive. Think of research as idea intervention.

There is no better place to witness this dynamic than a political campaign. Candidates or ballot measure proponents gather a group of key advisers, including important financial contributors. They come to the brainstorming table with a range of ideas, many rooted in the successes or failures of previous campaigns. That is valuable experience, but not a substitute for fresh, robust research into the current circumstances and voter attitudes that will face candidates or ballot measure advocates.

Mark Nelson, a legend in the realm of Oregon lobbying and political campaigns, was unequivocal in his reliance on solid research. A pollster himself, Nelson told candidates and campaign committees that if an idea hadn’t been tested in polling, it was unusable. (His actual phrasing was blunter.) His track record of success in defeating or passing ballot measures is unmatched in Oregon.

Nelson understood that credible data trumps impulsive ideas or even past experience. He would say research findings provided the discipline for a campaign to stay on message, and his triumphs proved him right. He would agree that research can convert skeptics into believers and mavericks into disciples. Winning can have that effect.

The Nelson approach applies to more than politics. Business decisions, marketing campaigns and strategic planning can benefit from a richer understanding of the competitive playing field, consumer preferences or management priorities. Knowing what gels and what thuds is invaluable in selecting a message or designing a product or service.

While some challenges require sophisticated polling, many can get by with less complicated and costly research techniques, such as well-conceived one-one interviews and roundtable discussions, especially if target audiences are smaller and relatively discrete. A representative sample remains vital to reliable findings, but the task at hand should shape the form of research. The people, businesses, nonprofits and public agencies that get the most of out of their research investments are knowledgeable research consumers.

Research won’t resolve every difference of opinion, but it can inform your actions and enlist skeptics and mavericks in your army of followers.

 

 

Using Research to Find Out What You Need to Know

The moment you think you know it all is the exact moment you need to stop and take stock. Quality, affordable research can make the difference on a new product, rebranding exercise, website home page or ad campaign.

The moment you think you know it all is the exact moment you need to stop and take stock. Quality, affordable research can make the difference on a new product, rebranding exercise, website home page or ad campaign.

The moment you think you know it all is exactly the moment when you need to stop and take stock. Hubris can turn on a dime into expensive mistakes.

Market research and timely public opinion polling is often dismissed on grounds that “we already know the answer to our questions.” That may be true, but it could be a disaster for a business plan, communications strategy or a school bond campaign if it isn’t true.

Frequently hubris is cloaked as a budgetary concern. “We can’t afford conducting any research right now.” Experience shows that many businesses, nonprofits and public agencies can’t afford not to conduct research.

Cockiness can be the cousin of recklessness. Most executives wouldn’t think of making a major decision without legal or financial counsel. So why would they risk the fate of a new product, the design of a website landing page or the effectiveness of an expensive ad buy based on a hunch or a gut feeling?

Research can be overlooked because of unfamiliarity with all its different forms. Many people think of research as only telephone polls or focus groups. Those are common types of research, but there are many other options that may fit better with a project and a budget.

One-on-one interviews is a cost-effective way to gather reliable information. These interviews won’t produce pie-chart results, but they will generate useful perspective and context. Say an executive is ready to launch a new initiative. One-on-one interviews can test whether his top lieutenants are on board or have lingering concerns. A nonprofit is considering a name change. One-on-one interviews can help ascertain how much brand equity resides in the current name and the aspirations for a new name.

For consumer-facing businesses, follow-up online surveys can gauge customer satisfaction and identify problems with products, personnel or shipping.

Roundtable discussions, whether in lunchrooms or at community centers, are an underutilized form of research. You might think of these as informal focus groups where you can collect information directly from participants and view group interaction. Both can provide insight, either by reaffirming what you thought, countering your assumptions or uncovering something you never thought of before.

An old-fashioned idea, which remains relevant, is to walk around and talk to people. Ask employees what they would improve. Ask customers whether you are meeting their expectations. Ask vendors how you could do business better and more profitably.

Research professionals are valuable resources who can give advice on the type of research that matches what you need and what you have to spend. They also can assist on what questions you ask and how they are framed to avoid biasing answers and skewing results.

One final thought. Third-party research, whether in the form of surveys or interviews, can yield more candid responses, especially if the topics explored relate to bosses and their plans.

The fundamental value proposition for quality research is what helps you find out what you need to know, not just what you want to hear.

 

Making Customer Engagement Simple

Fears about customer engagement are due primarily to not knowing how or where to start. 

Fears about customer engagement are due primarily to not knowing how or where to start. 

“Customer” has become a key word in marketing plans. Efforts to improve customer service, analyze customer touch points, understand the customer experience and develop better customer relationship management are widespread.

Why then do conversations about customer engagement make marketing managers turn into deer in the headlights: big eyed, frozen in fear and totally confused? 

Fears about customer engagement are due primarily to not knowing how or where to start. Here are some simple steps to get the customer engagement ball rolling. They also can serve as the foundation for a long-term, effective program with measureable results.  

  1. Get to know your customer by asking them to participate in an online survey. Use the Net Promoter Score (NPS) question that will measure how likely customers are to recommend your product or service and  identify Promoters (your biggest fans who will recommend products and services to others) and Detractors (dissatisfied customers who will complain to others). Ask open-ended questions to determine why some customers would recommend and others would not.  
  2. Send thank you emails to survey participants. Share some information about what you learned and what you plan to do with the results. Customers now know you are listening and plan to take action based on feedback. 
  3. Send another email to customers who did not participate in the survey. Share some information about what you learned from the survey. Include a hyperlink to the survey so these customers can share their opinions, too.  
  4. Periodically let your customers know about the changes you have made in products, services and operations. Remind them changes are based on customer input and ideas. 
  5. Invite customers who participated in online surveys to participate in web-based or live customer advisory panels. Use the panels to help make decisions about products, services and operational changes. Let other customers know about the advisory panels. 
  6. Use comments from online surveys to develop content for newsletters and social media postings. The topics will be relevant to others as well and will increase readership.  
  7. Get customer service to call Detractors. Dissatisfied customers will explain specific problems with products or poor customer service experiences. Offer to make amends. You will be surprised how many will temper criticism. Not only that – they will tell others that your company responded to their complaints. 

Every six to 12 months, conduct another online survey among a different group of customers and repeat the entire process. 

Customer engagement programs don’t need to be complicated. By keeping the process simple, companies can engage a wide range of customers, get actionable information, utilize communication tools already in place and develop stronger relationships.

The Right Tool for the Job

We live in the digital era, but that doesn't mean social media platforms such as Twitter can substitute for reliable public opinion instruments.

We live in the digital era, but that doesn't mean social media platforms such as Twitter can substitute for reliable public opinion instruments.

What's trending on Twitter isn't always an accurate reflection of public opinion. A large number of tweets may indicate public interest in a topic or event, but not a full picture of what the public thinks.

This isn't surprising. Twitter is a self-selected social media tool. The body of tweets doesn't need to reflect the demographics of a community, state or constituency. People who tweet on a topic may be more liberal, more conservative, richer or poorer than the public at large. Comments have value, but can't be rendered in quantitative terms the same as public opinion polling.

Quality public opinion polling is centered on a representative sample of who is interviewed. That assures the findings have credibility as a reliable reflection of the group being surveyed, with a slight margin of error.

The breadth and depth of the digital revolution may tempt some to see social media platforms as mirrors of public opinion. They certainly are reflections, but not ones you can totally rely upon to make decisions on messaging, trustworthy spokespeople and effective communication channels. A solid poll is a much better instrument for that.

Twitter conversations can be valuable to assess. For example, tweets can show the emotional charge in an issue or how an issue activates a particular group. The compressed format helps people distill what they feel to a few words, which in effect become sound bites. Tweets also can show the range of reactions.

In the world of measurement, there is room for evaluation of platforms such as Twitter. But it is important to recognize the right tool for the job. When you need an accurate picture of how a constituency views an issue, a poll with a representative sample is a much better choice.

Moving the Needle Is What Counts

Public affairs and public relations campaigns must do more than rack up statistics. They need to move the needle.

Measuring success can be highly variable in the public affairs and public relations world. If you are handling communications for a ballot measure campaign, success is easy to mark — you either win or lose at the polls. But most of the time, success comes in the form of incremental movement.

Just because the advance is incremental doesn't mean you can blow off measuring it. For example, coming up with an incentive to encourage loyal customers to come to your restaurant one more time each month may not seem like a big deal, but the return on investment — a discount or free food item — can be enormous because you are communicating with people that already love your restaurant.