Success in public relations or public affairs usually starts with a thorough assessment of the marketplace. We help clients assess where the public is at on issues and ideas, how best to move them to action that drives success and how our client partners can achieve the outcomes for success.
Years ago, one of the country’s most respected polling experts, Daniel Yankelovich, determined that public audiences typically moved through seven discrete steps as they moved from awareness to consensus on policy issues:
1) Dawning Awareness
• People become aware of an issue or parts of an issue, but with little appreciation for its complexity, its relevance to them, or the choices.
2) Greater Urgency
• The issue gains personal significance, often as interest groups take up the cause. Eventually mainstream and social media become part of the discussion.
3) Discovering the Choices
• The public focus shifts to choices, some of which may be only emerging and won’t be clear for a long time. Opposition forms, providing counter choices.
4) Wishful Thinking
• The public isn’t yet ready to face trade-offs and consequences of the choices. The public holds out hope for an easy solution.
5) Weighing the Choices
• The public begins to make an assessment, sorting through the different choices. They are guided by information and misinformation.
6) Taking an Intellectual Stand
• As the need for change becomes more clear, the closer the public moves to judgment.
7) Reaching a Decision
• The public arrives at a consensus. Action is possible.
Too often, organizations launch a communications or public affairs initiative without a thorough understanding of where audiences are at in this evolution of thinking or even the audiences they need to engage to succeed. Horner Strategies has the expertise to assess the marketplace of ideas, to define our clients’ standing with key audiences and to translate the assessment into effective initiatives. Among the key points we test:
• Who are the audiences? Who do you need to succeed? Who stands in the way of success?
• What is the public’s starting point on key issues? What values are important important? What is their vision; that is, do key audiences – including influencers – have a firm sense of the long-term solution?
• What are the barriers to connecting the public with the issue? Does the public understand the issue, are the choices realistic?
• What is the sense of the issue’s importance? What are competing priorities?
• What is the sense of who will make decisions? Does the public feel disenfranchised?
• What are competing priorities?
• What are the elements to framing the communications around the issue? How does the public frame the choice? Does this framing need to be re-stated?
• What moves the public to action?