For groups on the fence about investing in research this cycle, consider the recent release of the ACSM Anthem American Fitness Index.
The Fitness Index showcases information to multiple audiences in a packaged and condensed format to showcase the ranking of cities using 33 health behaviors, chronic diseases and community infrastructure indicators.
The research from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), together with the Anthem Foundation, generated significant media coverage.
Beyond earning that press for the ACSM, the coverage of the nation’s fittest cities and the summary report can be a useful tool to help inform policymakers as they make budget and policy decisions.
While helpful in informing those machinations, this research is also beneficial from an issue management and public awareness perspective.
It’s a case study example of how research can be leveraged properly, and this method can be replicated following some best practices. Here are 10 things to consider if your group is weighing investing in research this cycle:
1. Tackle a priority issue facing Americans and tie it to today’s current events.
2. Conduct evidence-based studies that go to the heart of solving the challenge.
3. Ensure credible experts are conducting the research and analyzing its meaning.
4. Allow the research findings to justify your call(s) to action.
5. Develop an integrated strategy for releasing the research and findings that is comprehensive and coordinated, reaching policymakers, the media and general public through trusted channels.
6. Identify the right spokespeople who can stay on message and follow up as needed with policymakers and the media.
7. Break down the research and messaging into manageable pieces of information that will appeal to various audiences.
8. Measure the effectiveness of the outreach and be flexible enough to adjust strategies to build a two-way dialogue that can lead to meaningful action.
9. Continue to engage in research projects that adapt to changing times and issues to build the initiative’s brand, remain relevant, and continue delivering accurate research that drives action.
10. Release the research on an annual basis and update the information to showcase any year-to-year trends. For instance, the release of the Fitness Index was the 13th year ACSM and Anthem Foundation worked together.
Mike Fulton directs the Washington, D.C., office of Asher Agency and teaches public affairs in the West Virginia University Reed College of Media’s Integrated Marketing Communications program.
Joshua Habursky is the Head of Federal Affairs at the Premium Cigar Association and Adjunct Professor at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management.