What methods are in use to raise the profile of parliamentary research services, and which methods do the professionals consider to be effective? These were the questions opened to subscribers to IFLAPARL’s mailing list – and the professional community beyond that – in the winter of 2021/22. An initial request round produced four very useful full-text responses from Israel, Slovakia, Canada and New Zealand. Based partly on these responses, a survey form was designed and this had 22 respondents. The report’s statistics are based on the survey responses but the full text answers have been used where relevant in the commentary.
The full commentary was provided initially to the survey respondents in the first half of 2022 and they were given the opportunity to comment on the findings. Following that period of review the commentary was released to the wider public in July 2022.
What does ‘raising the profile’ mean?
‘Profile’ is about more than volume of use or reach amongst the target audience. It is also about intangibles such as reputation amongst Members and other decision-makers, the strength of the brand and the authority which its products command. There is a distinction between direct clients – typically support staff of Members and operational staff of the secretariat – and decision-makers – Members and senior officials of the secretariat. It would be possible for a service to have a high profile and very good level of success in terms of volume of use and satisfaction amongst direct clients without achieving a high profile amongst decision-makers – and vice versa. A high profile amongst decision-makers is a useful asset and arguably an essential to the service being truly valued in the institution. The focus in the survey was on the profile amongst Members.
‘Raising the profile’ has at least three main kinds of activity:
- Direct promotion of service use
- Indirect promotion of service use
- Building the reputation or brand of the service
‘Direct promotion of service use‘ is straightforward advertising of specific services or products to target clients – with a priority to Members and their offices, but often extending to parliamentary officials, specialist external audiences and even the general public. This can be seen as similar to ‘sales’ advertising.
‘Indirect promotion of service use’ concerns promotional actions which advertise the service without a direct message about use – creating awareness of service availability amongst target clients rather than the ‘selling’ of a particular service or product. The use of social media to broadcast research products externally may be done with an aim of eventually reaching clients internally. The intention is to increase readership of a particular product but also to create awareness of service availability. A simpler example of indirect promotion of use is giveaway branded gadgets, clothing or stationery.
‘Building the reputation or brand of the service’ refers to promotional actions which are not about direct ‘selling’ or awareness of specific products or services. For example, the involvement of a service in parliamentary strengthening projects elsewhere is one way to raise its profile within its own parliament. This may be because it brings the institution prestige, or because it validates the expertise of the service, or because it is seen to be ‘doing the right thing’ and gains reputation as a result. Another example is the publication of academic articles or academic conference presentations by research staff – it makes no direct contribution to service delivery or advertising, but it might enhance the reputation of the service.
Some actions can work on more than one plane – a seminar or workshop on research around a policy issue might build the reputation of the service as an intellectual centre while also including indirect and even direct promotion.
The survey and respondents
The survey form asked about forty different methods for profile-raising. The responses led to the identification of additional methods – the complete list is here, with links to examples in some cases. The survey also covered special measures adopted for new parliaments; how the profile and marketing methods are measured; and marketing strategy.
Respondents were given the choice to be identified in this report or to remain anonymous; and for those identified to have any description of their service or quote from their responses to be identifiable or to be anonymised. Of the 22 services responding to the formal survey, 18 agreed to be credited (see below) and of those 10 have allowed the content of their responses to be identifiable – all else is anonymised. If particular services are named or quoted and others not, it may be as a consequence of those choices rather than any other reason. The responding services are from across the globe.
Credited contributors in the first and/or second round: Slovakia (Department of Parliamentary Institute); Israel (Knesset Research & Information Centre); Canada (Library of Parliament); New Zealand (Parliamentary Library); Andalucia, Spain (Parlamento de Andalucía. Servicio de Biblioteca); Portugal (Divisão de Informação Legislativa e Parlamentar); Sweden (research service); Uganda (Department of Research Service); New South Wales, Australia (New South Wales Parliamentary Research Service); Zambia (Research Department), Queensland (Queensland Parliament – Research & Information Service); Hungary (Information Service for MPs (research service); Finland (Internal Research Service); Romania (Directorate for Studies and Legislative Documentation); Burundi (Cour des comptes) [This is not a parliamentary research service in the conventional sense, but it does undertake research for the parliament] ; Malawi (Parliament of Malawi research service); North Macedonia (Parliamentary Institute); Pakistan (PIPS – Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services); Lithuania (Research Unit of the Information and Communication Department of the Office of the Seimas); Argentina (Dirección Servicios Legislativos).
Contributor services requesting anonymity: Four, not listed above.