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Five Strategic Communications Research Opportunities During the Coronavirus Pandemic Scroll to read

Coronavirus creates new communication challenges for organizations – businesses, nonprofits and associations – on how to advance their messaging in news and social media. The domestic and global health crisis is an ever-changing environment that rewrites the communications rule book day-by-day for how organizations should communicate to policymakers, influencers, and the general public about their political and policy efforts.

Organizations that misjudge this new environment and incorrectly gauge the public mood will face negative consequences to their brand and reputation— a stock photo that fails to portray people upholding CDC recommendations, a social media post that is insensitive to the moment, or rumors about misusing stimulus funding– can cause swift, negative conversation online. Organizations that fail to respond to the changing environment by updating their communication’s risk:

  • Losing their voice in important policy making conversations that are being discussed across most industries at the national, state, and local levels.
  • Offending key constituencies with improper imagery and messaging. At a minimum, organizations that fail to update their communications risk being viewed as out of touch and ineffective.
  • Missing opportunities to highlight an organization’s efforts related to the virus outbreak or elsewhere.

Formal research – including consumer and member surveys, brand and message testing – can help organizations strategize how to best communicate during this crisis. Here are five opportunities to consider:

Formal research – including consumer and member surveys, brand and message testing – can help organizations strategize how to best communicate during this crisis

1. The renewed importance of qualitative research

Qualitative research can effectively help organizations develop messaging in an always changing news environment. Organizations need in-depth intelligence on how people think and feel about important issues. Qualitative research enables that in-depth understanding.

2. Online focus groups are an excellent tool for communication

Online focus groups enable a relatively large group of participants (25 to 30) from multiple locations around the country to join a dynamic, moderated conversation. A typical 90-minute session can accommodate multiple choice questions, creative testing, highlighting exercises, and conversations between the participants and the moderators. Online focus group session can help clients understand public perceptions, test messaging, and evaluate creative concepts.

3. Online bulletin boards provide an adaptive, ongoing dialogue

Online bulletin boards can reach a large number of respondents over the course of several days. Participants respond to a prepared schedule of questions, which can include observations from encounters in their daily lives. Bulletin boards provide detailed feedback in an environment that allows clients to probe and adjust their questions based on the multi-day session. These sessions can be used for a variety of applications, including issue intelligence, campaign feedback, message testing, creative testing, and reputation evaluation.

4. Always on” communities provide constant data

A large sample of respondents who provide regular, “asynchronous” feedback based on a schedule of assignments provides clients with the ideal mix of qualitative and quantitative data points. Think of a community as a large-scale bulletin board. Standing up an online community can entail large upfront costs. But once established, they provide a tool for constant data that can change based on the immediate needs of the client. This reduces the turn-around time for getting feedback compared to a stand-alone survey or even an online focus group.

5. Media analytics focus priorities

The news and social media conversation changes by the hour, making it hard for organizations to prioritize what constitutes a risk or an opportunity. Should an organization response and, if so, when? A data-based approach can analyze the entire news and social media conversation to provide valuable metrics that quantify reactions, sentiment, and importance. This allows measuring: the social media conversation generated by a news article; the comments of leading social media influencers; the tracking of important topics in local publications that will filter up into national news; the effectiveness of owned or earned media client mentions; and the relative size of topics within the news and social environment. Empowered by these data points, clients can make fast, informed decisions about their communication priorities and messaging.

Certus Insights is an experienced partner that can help clients implement these methodologies for actionable intelligence. To learn more, please email us here.