Section 5: Topic 2
Helping the hard-to-reach
Your final task is to use the information you have collected to prioritise who you will reach out to first. Traditionally, people used stakeholder analysis to select those with most interest and influence, to the detriment of those with high interest and benefit but little influence. That's why in the final column of the stakeholder/public analysis template, you identify individuals, groups or organisations who have low interest but high influence and/or benefit as hard-to-reach groups that may require special attention.
There are two types of hard-to-reach groups:
First, there are the gate-keepers who have huge influence as gate-keepers to facilitate or block impact, but who have limited interest in the research. For example, it may be at the edge of their desk and low-priority compared to other issues that are more central to their interests. As a result, they may not return the researcher’s emails or calls, and it is tempting to ignore them because they are so hard-to-reach. However, when the researcher eventually comes to their attention, the researcher may regret not investing more heavily in finding a way to get the gate-keeper’s attention early and find common ground, as they may have the power to stop you in the research in its tracks, for example preventing the researcher from getting access to data, people or resources that are crucial for their pathway to impact.
Second, there are the marginalised, who have little influence to either facilitate or block impact, and who may have limited interest in the research, but who could benefit more than anyone else if you could only make the work relevant enough. This analysis empowers you to prioritise the hard-to-reach if you wish, as well as the already-interested and powerful. The choice is yours.
The point is that you make an informed choice. You don't just reactively reach out to whoever is easiest to reach, or those outlets with the largest circulations or viewing figures. You prioritise those who can benefit most from the research in a much more targeted way.
If you want to go deeper into stakeholder analysis, see this advanced guide to stakeholder analysis.
Case Study: Making partners of miscarriage sufferers “feel visible”
Dr Petra Boynton, from University College London, worked with the Miscarriage Association to research the effects of pregnancy loss on partners. This led to a cultural change in attitude towards providing emotional support for partners, enabling them to feel seen and express their emotions. Her research showed that the partners of women who miscarry a baby often feel invisible and side-lined.
After suffering several miscarriages herself, Petra noticed that while hospitals were able to provide physical support, no emotional support was offered. The charity Miscarriage Association was of great help in this regard so she was keen to help them in return when they asked if she would help with fundraising. She offered to do some research for them, using funding that UCL had received for public engagement. The Miscarriage Association (MA) had heard from many partners of woman who had miscarried who were struggling emotionally but did not know how to express it, so they wanted to revise their pamphlets for partners and do a media campaign to raise awareness.
Petra and the MA worked together to produce a survey about the experiences of partners of women who had miscarried. They then analysed the common themes in the responses and hired an artist to illustrate some of the striking quotes as posters, which were displayed in hospitals and the media. The UCL press office helped them with a press release, and their findings were shared across newspapers, radio stations and on TV shows such as BBC Breakfast and the Victoria Derbyshire Show.
The press release led to a significant increase in the number of partners calling the MA’s helpline and discussing their reactions to miscarriage on their Facebook group. It also led to many other charities talking about the effects of miscarriage on partners, and others began considering the consequences for same-sex partners for the first time.
Based on the press release, Petra was contacted by Routledge, who wanted her to write a self-help book about her own experience and what she had learnt from the research. ‘Coping with Pregnancy Loss’ was released in 2018 and is now a popular recommendation by medical staff to patients. The book raises funds for charities who endorse it, as they get money back with every copy sold through them. Following the book release, Petra has been training health professionals on communicating with miscarriage sufferers and answering the questions they often have, based on her research. Petra is currently working on a new book, ‘A Compassionate Guide to Pregnancy Loss’, which will be translated into different languages to support and advise those in low income countries.
Petra said the UCL press office were ‘amazing’, as they competently took care of the media enquiry, enabling the Miscarriage Association to continue their primary duties of supporting those in need. They used their own contacts and the MA’s, preparing key players early on for the press release. By raising awareness, the MA and other charities were able to help more people who need support, and contribute to evidence-based training of healthcare professionals to help them communicate better with patients.
View the page for partners on the Miscarriage Association website