A 360° communications strategy to disseminate survey results

11 August 2020

At Equilibrium CenDE, we run a quarterly regional survey on Venezuela migrants and refugees that has potential to inform both decision-makers and general public opinion.

The survey is an important part of our innovative communications strategy in the face of COVID-19. As Dustin Gilbreath said, ‘providing accurate, timely and actionable quantitative research is one way that think tanks could provide immediate support to response efforts.’

As an experienced journalist and communicator that has worked in multiple think tanks and media and communication agencies, I would have usually approached this task as follows: review the report, write a press release, disseminate it through mass media and hope to be published.

But times are changing. And while this is still a valid approach, at Equilibrium CenDE I have learned that what’s needed is a 360° communications strategy – communications in 3D glasses, if you like!

When you work in a fast-paced think tank that is always growing, those 3D glasses can be quite intense. But the important thing is to keep trying and learning.

Here I outline the six components of our 360° communications strategy for survey results:

1. ‘The old school’

This is the traditional approach mentioned above: carefully reading the survey results report, highlighting key ideas, writing the press release and disseminating it with the media (both mainstream and alternative).

2. Social media

Most organisations will use social media, but it is how we use our social networks that makes them special and effective. And learning how to make them effective is a long road of trial and error.

In the case of surveys, you need everything ready for the publication day: graphs, captions and key messages for each network (for us: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn).

On Twitter, it is important to share tweets via direct message with all team members (researchers, communicators, and anyone involved in the surveys who can say something about them). In addition, sharing tweets via direct message with similar organisations and/or journalists with whom you have had prior contact is a good idea as well.

3. Data visualisation

Surveys are perfect for data visualisation. The ’easiest’ and ‘fastest’ way is to use infographics as descriptive posts, especially for Twitter and Instagram.

If you have the necessary resources, you can use PowerBi or Tableau to create more sophisticated data visualisations, or even video animations.

4. WhatsApp: the snowball effect

Have you seen how fake news travels on WhatsApp? Why not use that same channel to share news that is true?

Nowadays, WhatsApp is a great way to share news, and you can now format the text, add emojis, and include links and attachments. In Peru, the investigative platform Ojo Público uses WhatsApp as one of its main platforms to disseminate its news.

This study cites Newman et al. saying: ‘WhatsApp is the most used messaging app for news, and numbers are already higher than for other social networks such as Instagram and Twitter. While there is a decline in Facebook use for news and a stagnation in general Facebook use, WhatsApp use increases for both categories. WhatsApp use for news has almost tripled since 2014 and has overtaken Twitter’s importance in many countries.’

5. Mailing (or the other ‘old school’)

It’s true, people still read their e-mails and it’s worth sending out your results through this channel.  But the key is knowing what the best times to send the e-mails are.

This is also trial and error, to get to know your audience(s). Focus on the key people (academics, decision-makers, peer organisations, etc.) receiving the information so that they can, above all, use it and share it.

6. YouTube

Finally, in the case of our most recent survey, we made a short video presentation to thank the Venezuelan migrants who took the time to respond. This video is also a way to give the study a face. In other words, to tell the public who we are, why we do what we do, and to connect with them in times when we can’t see each other in person.

Final reflections

This list is not only a quick recipe for successful survey dissemination. It also depicts Equilibrium CenDE’s dynamic work and goal: to produce and effectively share useful content with different audiences (from researchers to the average news reader, including decision-makers and the media) in order to have greater impact.

Burstein (2003) sustains that public opinion has a substantial impact on public policy. And Wlezien and Soroka (2016) call public opinion an important driver of public policy change. Thus, as a think tank that seeks change in public policy, it is important for us that our content reaches the ordinary citizen, allowing us to promote debate around important topics like the impact of Venezuelan migration in Latin America.

Our communications strategy is, as everything else in life, a journey of trial and error. However, we are committed to learning as fast as we can, and we are doing so by combining these experiences with theory, and by following other examples from leading think tanks around the world.