Actor/audience research

Most campaigns rely for success in drawing the support of new audiences and key players to the campaign cause. It is this expansion of public and specialist support that tilts the balance of influences in the campaign's favour and forces change on the resisting parties. Campaigners need to know how their audiences and potential key players think about the issues at stake. And the best way to find out is to ask them within the context of a programme of qualitative research. Qualitative research talks in depth to individuals or small groups about an issue, often using stimulus materials such as video footage or key words or ideas that are central to the campaign. In the discussions, the researcher takes an objective view of the issue and does not take sides when developing a discussion about an issue. The analysis of qualitative discussions seeks to uncover common themes and underlying thought structures used by people when talking about the issue. This then gives strong clues about how communications about the issue could be built up to be acceptable to these people and of course others like them. If it is necessary for the campaign, propositions that do well within qualitative research can be subsequently tested quantitatively using survey techniques (quantitative research) to establish broadly held views on the campaign.

Many campaigns proceed to engage with wider audiences without knowing how they actually think about the issue at stake. Often they project their own values onto these audiences. This is a recipe for confusion as it is highly likely that most audiences will not share the campaigns values or perspectives, they will not see the world the way the campaign does. Understanding how your audiences "read the world" is central to effectively communicating with them.