This week, Edelman released findings from the 2011 Capital Staffers Index, an annual global study that analyzes top trends in global public affairs and communications. This year’s expanded report was based on interviews with more than 500 senior staffers (legislative directors and above) from cities in 11 different countries.
This year’s survey results underscore the important role that social media and the Internet can play in educating policymakers and galvanizing them to support a policy issue. The results confirm that traditional public affairs components, such as grassroots outreach and fact-based messaging, remain critical to advocacy success. The data also shows a meteoric rise in the use of social media as a tool that policymakers use in trying to shape and influence policy worldwide. Specifically, policymakers are using Twitter, Facebook and mobile technology more to reach out to citizens.
Key findings include:
The Internet helps shape and influence policy.
Policymakers love to tweet and be tweeted about.
Personal, traditional outreach is just as important as ever.
Think economy, engage locally.
Evidence-based and localized messaging is key to advocacy success.
Sixty percent of staffers have gone online to learn about an important policy issue for the first time, while 33 percent have admitted to changing their opinion based on what they have read online – an almost 200 percent jump from last year.
Twitter use has soared among policymakers. Nearly 53 percent of members of Parliaments and Congress are now actively using Twitter to communicate with their constituents – a 15 percent rise from last year’s 38 percent. And 41 percent have also seen a growth in constituents’ use of Twitter to reach their lawmakers – almost a 600 percent increase from 7 percent in 2009.
Ninety-five percent of staffers report that the two most important factors that turn issues into policy priorities are the impact of an issue on the national economy they operate in and the effect on their constituents. And more than 80 percent of staffers revealed that letters from voters and community leaders, along with individual constituent visits, are most effective in raising an issue’s prominence in their agenda.
Ninety-five percent of the local audiences indicated that the national economy and local constituents were either somewhat or very important when determining policy issue priorities. Eighty-six percent indicated government, 84 percent for the environment and national defense rounded out the list of top five with 77 percent.
Twenty-one percent of respondents say poor messages are the primary reason that public affairs campaigns fail, while 23 percent indicate that fact-based, clearly articulated messaging is key to winning over staffers, especially messages that are supported by independent, academic or NGO research. When asked to provide reasons why public affairs campaigns fail, 13 percent of global respondents noted that limited grassroots support was the secondary campaign “fail factor,” thus underscoring the need for strategic grassroots advocacy for campaign success.
The 2011 Capital Staffers Index is the third annual survey of senior legislative staffers from countries around the world. This mixed-mode survey was conducted online and via telephone among 542 staffers from Washington, D.C., Brussels, London, Beijing, Ottawa, Mexico City, Paris, Berlin, New Delhi, Buenos Aires and Brasilia. It tracks many baseline public affairs metrics first established in our 2009 benchmark study. The survey has an overall margin of error of +/- 4.2% at the 95% level of confidence.
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