This post gives an outline of the main findings; reflections on the findings are in the ‘Conclusions‘ post.
This post, and others, may be revised based on feedback and review. The results of the survey are being shared only with the respondents in the first instance, and your feedback on the report are very welcome. This and forthcoming posts with detailed results may be published more widely at a later date.
Methods in use and their effectiveness
From a menu of forty possible methods, eight are used by 80%+ of respondents. These eight are not, however, all seen to be highly effective. An overall ranking based on popularity and rating for effectiveness identifies a top ten of methods: predominantly those involving direct personal contact with Members; some involving publication of products and service information; and some acting indirectly to build the reputation of the service.
Focusing only on users of particular methods, there are methods which are not widely widely used but are highly rated by those who deployed them. These minority choices might be seen as a partial corrective to the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ identifying the most popular methods . The most striking example of this is ‘open days and research weeks’ – used by only seven services, but five of them rated it as ‘highly effective’.
Three methods were felt to have some effect by every service using them: two concerned work with Committees, the other was requesting feedback after work had been delivered.
By contrast, for many methods there is difficulty in knowing what impact they have – nine methods had 25% or more services unsure about the results (in terms of raising their profile, at least). For example, the method ‘Common visual identity for all products and promotional materials – same ‘look and feel” had 35% of users uncertain of its effectiveness. This implies that around one-third of use is not based on direct local evidence of effectiveness but on evidence/advice from other contexts, or on intuition.
What do services know about their profile with Members?
At least four out of five services know the volume of use by Members and which Members are regular clients. Just over 70% know which Members never use their service.
Far fewer claim to know how much their research is used and for what purposes.
Less than half of services claim to know what image Members have of their service. Less than 20% say they measure the impact of their promotional activities. Most services, however, do take steps to find out Member views (such as through surveys) and a large minority request feedback after delivering work and use interviews to get more detailed and personal intelligence.
Special methods for a new parliament
Almost every service reported taking special promotional measures for a new parliament. Once again, it may be that those using more personal forms of contact are getting better results. The other notable insight is that, in some parliaments, the immediate post-election period is not conducive to promoting research services – Members have other priorities – and an approach later in the term can be more productive.
What do services think is valuable in their offer to Members?
The responses here tended to be on the lines of ‘impartial service delivering high-quality objective information’.
Do services have a marketing strategy?
No service reported that they had a marketing strategy, recognisable as such. One service reported it was developing one, and other services reported approaches to marketing – but not a strategy.
Next in ‘Raising the Profile’:
The results in detail beginning with Part 3 – the most popular methods