Section 5: Topic 1
Targeting media impact for engagement
Most press officers are familiar with audience segmentation techniques, but to generate impact you can take this a step further with a publics/stakeholder analysis. This will give you a sophisticated and holistic understanding of those you may want to engage with, and help prioritise the limited time available for impact. You can use the analysis to identify the top people, organisations or groups that are most important for you to prioritise. There's no one right way to prioritise those you engage with - instead the tool empowers you to make that choice for your own, clear reasons (so you can explain why you haven't got to a particular group yet if asked). While it is easiest to think of "beneficiaries", this tool will also get you to think about whether there might also be groups who may be disadvantaged or harmed in some way as a result of the research, so you can consider how to reduce those negative impacts. Most people focus on individuals, groups or organisations, but you can also use the tool to think about future generations and non-human beneficiaries.
To get started, download the Word template or print the PDF version. You can use this individually, or you can use it to structure a discussion with colleagues. You can even invite a few colleagues and/or stakeholders to discuss this in a workshop setting, transferring the template onto the walls of the room using flip-chart paper and marker pens. There are three questions you need to ask in any stakeholder/publics analysis…
Question 1: Who is interested in the research?
The first question you need to ask is who might be interested in the research. They can just be a little bit interested, and they can be interested in just one aspect of the research (e.g. the method or theory, or one research finding versus another depending on the outcome of your work). In some cases you may want to identify groups that you think are not (currently) interested in the research, who you would like to be interested, or who you think are important for other reasons (e.g. they may be particularly influential or impacted - see the following questions). Any organisation (or individual or group) may be interested in many different things - your task is simply to list those interests that coincide with key aspects of the research.
Write the name of each public/stakeholder you think may be interested in the first column of the template, describing the nature of their interest in the third column. To help you think critically about the nature and level of their interest, the second column asks you to grade how interested you think they are likely to be. Don't get hung up on this though, as it is highly subjective. The key thing is that you understand what aspects of the research you think each group is likely to be interested in, or if they're not interested but they are important for other reasons, write down why you think they are disinterested. You will start to notice that different groups have quite different interests, and you will be able to use this later on to craft tailored messages to each one as you embark on the pathway to impact.
Question 2: How might they influence the ability of the research to achieve impact (indirectly)?
Now you need to consider if there are any groups or organisations who might have the ability to influence the ability of the researcher to achieve impact indirectly. Indirect influence over impact can work in two ways:
Those who have the ability to facilitate your impact: organisations or groups who want to achieve similar benefits for similar groups to you, who may provide you with important new opportunities or resources that could empower you to achieve greater impacts than would have been possible had you not connected with them. The earlier you connect, the more buy-in they will have and the more they are likely to help you (and vice versa).
Those who have the ability to block your impact: organisations whose interests are compromised or harmed by your work, whether in practical or ideological terms. They may have the power to prevent you from achieving impacts and it is important for both pragmatic and moral reasons to engage early with these groups to ensure you do not have negative unintended impacts, and/or you can bring round dissenting voices and find a way to work together (or work around them if necessary).
Consider how influential each of the interested groups might be, whether they might facilitate or block your impact, rating them high, medium or low. Again, the key is to understand the nature of their influence. The ratings are subjective but should stimulate you to think more deeply about the question. Describe how you think each public or stakeholder could influence the ability of the researcher to generate impact in column 5.
Question 3: Who is impacted?
Finally, there is an optional question about the level and nature of impact for each group who engages with your work. In some cases you may feel you have the answer to this already, and so you can skip this question. But it is a good discipline to ask yourself this question explicitly, because you will often realise that the impact is implicit (rather than explicit) in your answers so far. In particular, it is important to consider if there may be a negative impact here, so you can ameliorate this if possible. In some cases, this question reveals important hard-to-reach groups that may have limited interest and no influence, but who would benefit more than most other groups if you could only make it relevant enough to get them interested. Add information about the positive or negative impacts you think each group might get from engaging with the research in column 5 (alongside your comments on influence). Another reason this is a useful question is that you can easily convert a positive impact here into an impact goal in your impact plan (e.g. using the Fast Track Impact planning template).