Market Research for Advocacy

Market research is a powerful tool for advocacy

In an internet age, not-for-profit organizations should understand how important it is to adopt market research as advocacy to help inform their public interest initiatives.

Because not-for-profits are vital to the local communities they serve, it is their shared responsibility to encourage policy and law makers to do what is right for the public. By using advocacy market research, not-for-profits can adopt a robust tool to put their cases forward and reach change agents in all levels of government.  

This is research for advocacy in a nutshell.

In most funding circles, advocacy is often considered an “art of persuasion”; it can be loosely defined as “converting the impossible into the inevitable”. Ask any campaign manager and they will tell you the same.

The question is: How do campaign managers convert the impossible and reach the public to create more awareness and become relevant to policymakers?


Research for advocacy

When we think of research for advocacy, some may think of decades of long, drawn-out research studies that show obscure connections between lifestyle and behaviour factors. And while some industry research can take many years to yield actionable results, research for advocacy can often be done MORE QUICKLY and can deliver information that is sometimes more relevant to policymakers.

One way to get an advocacy message in front of the public is by undertaking and publicizing research that demonstrates the need for such laws or policies, the public support behind them and the likely results if the change were implemented.

For example, as part of Tourism Saskatoon’s strategic plan, they identified the need to expand hosting capacity and to remain competitive for business and sporting events. For the past several years, the city of Saskatoon has seen on and off support for a new downtown arena and convention centre.

Because Tourism Saskatoon ran a public opinion poll conducted by Insightrix to promote their advocacy message, they received media coverage to help grow support and validate their city planning initiatives. Insightrix worked with the Tourism Saskatoon on the question wording to ensure that the answers represented the views of the community, and were not leading, thereby ensuring credibility. This is an example of publicizing research that demonstrates the direct interest of the community.

https://globalnews.ca/news/4101828/downtown-arena-tourism-saskatoon/ (media coverage) http://www.tourismsaskatoon.com/about/about-strategic-plan/ (strategic plan)

What distinguishes research for advocacy from other types of evidence-based research is that it is focused on specific answers in mind, and that it is a part of an overarching strategy to influence potential policy development and policy change.

While other research can contribute to the overall understanding of an issue, market research for advocacy has a narrow and specific aim, and it does not have to take a lot of time or money to be effective for advocacy campaigns. 


Think like an NGO and run an Omnibus Poll

Most NGOs conduct research in-house, but can use market research firms to help with validating or creating evidence for the larger research projects undertaken by these organizations.

NGOs often use market research to “top up” their existing research by employing omnibus surveys and using locally-conducted research. Omnibus surveys often make good news, particularly if your research is interesting and shows potential for strong public support for the initiative at hand.

Not-for-profits should monitor how NGOs conduct omnibus polling – as these kinds of research methodologies can be done easily and are inexpensive to conduct.

At Insightrix, we run a monthly omnibus poll. Omnibus surveys are a quick and cost-effective, potent research tool that doesn’t break the bank. Our monthly omnibus sample is random and representative: we set quotas by region, age and gender to ensure the sample matches the distribution of the populations.

When thinking about conducting an omnibus survey – keep two things in mind: your story should be newsworthy and contain something interesting that will catch people’s attention (or the attention of journalists), and it should also incorporate the advocacy message. Many NGOs have created media partnerships that have proven to be fruitful.

With the internet becoming an important tool to promote timely research, low-cost media advocacy is an inexpensive way to increase your initiative’s chances for success, especially when it becomes news.


Getting an “in” with the media

Using the media to get your advocacy research in front of the public is an effective way to secure better policies on a range of issues. 

Cultivating relationships with journalists and local media can be difficult – that is, until you get your in with them. Media professionals are often on the look out for good ideas to write about for an article or to produce a segment for broadcast, and they pay close attention to press releases they receive.

However, your press or media release itself is not the objective of advocacy; it is the effect of the news coverage that is important, and that may not always be easy to measure.

One of the best ways to get your in with the media is to be analytical in your own observations of the media and their interactions with those you’re trying to reach. Attempt to understand what type of news is considered newsworthy – What appeals to readers? What issues gain little attention and which gain a lot? Are there local journalists who are more interested in social issues than others?

Through your own research, you can see what gets covered in the media and how that information is presented. Doing this will create advocacy research that is desirable to media, that will be easier to digest and that will more than likely land you publicity for your initiative.


Use omnibus research to spur your advocacy efforts

Media and research are two extremely valuable tools that can increase the awareness of your advocacy research and often require few resources other than the time and people to see them through.

By using more advocacy to validate long-term research, by strengthening your relationship with the media (thereby building the understanding of the population), it will be much easier to influence the policies that matter to them most over time.