Belden Russonello Strategists
November 2004

When should a non-profit communications effort use survey research to evaluate a communications campaign? The best advice is: Start before you begin. It sounds like something Yogi Berra might say, but it is the best way to summarize the key to successfully deciding whether or not to use a survey and ultimately in evaluating a communications campaign.

The goal for communications campaigns generally fall into three categories of attempted influence: a) awareness and perhaps salience of a topic, such as building public recognition of global warming and then increasing public concern; b) behavior, that is moving the public to drive less or to buy hybrid fuel cars; and c) policy change, such as getting Congress to pass legislation mandating higher fuel efficiency standards. Other key components of any communication plan are the audience and the overall budget for the campaign.

The use of survey research is perhaps the best example of the need to plan for communications evaluation because it is costly and highly sensitive to three elements of campaign design: your audience, your goal, and your campaign's communications budget.

This paper will outline the questions you need to ask in the design stages of a communications campaign to maximize your chances of using survey research only when you need it, as well as explain the different types of survey methodologies for evaluation and their advantages and disadvantages.

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This article was prepared by the public opinion research and strategic communications firm Belden Russonello Strategists in Washington.