When conducting surveys on campus, researchers must give careful consideration to how they market and brand the survey. Given the trend in the past decade (or more!) of over-surveying students, faculty, and staff, finding a way to make your study stand out can be a challenge.
Our September Poll of the Month asked respondents about how they go about marketing surveys on campus. In all, we had 57 respondents to the poll. By far personalized emails were the most popular form of reaching out to students, faculty, and staff to alert them to the survey: 75% of respondents used this method. Personalized emails at minimum include a unique survey link to ‘track’ respondents as well as an introduction that addresses the respondent by name. These types of communication send the message that the individual will not continue to be bombarded with requests for this particular survey if s/he responds now or opts out of the panel.
Personalized emails also offer an opportunity for the person overseeing the administration to try to appeal in specific ways to the potential respondent by connecting the instrument to their major/department, club/group, or course. All of the CIRP surveys offer campuses with the option of contacting potential respondents through HERI-managed emails – this service tracks respondents and those who opt out and removes them from the panel.
Nearly as many respondents (70%) reported using emails sent to listservs. This form of outreach may be an easier and broader strategy to connect with the targeted audience, but it comes across as less personal and can limit researchers’ ability to track individuals who have responded. Thus, sending email blasts to listservs increases the risk of survey (and email) fatigue, particularly among individuals who have already responded.
Nearly half of respondents to the September poll (46%) use announcements in class to advertise surveys. This kind of outreach can add a personal touch to requests to participate in surveys that a faceless email cannot provide. Additionally, class announcements can be particularly effective when targeting a specific group of students. For example, using first-year seminar courses or introductory English courses might be a good strategy to use for a survey like CIRP’s Your First College Year survey, which focuses on experiences and outcomes of first-year college students. Relatedly, about a quarter (23%) of respondents to the poll reported making announcements at meetings, which help add that personal touch when surveying faculty or staff.
More than one-third of respondents (37%) rely upon flyers around campus, 19% post ads in the campus newspaper, and one in nine (11%) advertise surveys on billboards or marquees around campus. In our annual administration report form (ARF) that we send at the close of every survey, we have learned of some campuses advertising their CIRP surveys on busses – that’s one surefire why to make sure word gets around!
Others outreach to potential respondents through the residence hall staff (9%) or by signaling to students and faculty that the campus uses the results by highlighting findings through infographics (9%). We occasionally hear of campuses incentivizing resident assistants (RAs) with pizza parties awarded to the floor or area with the highest response rate. Additionally, showcasing the findings from previous surveys through a medium such as infographics signals to potential respondents that their input matters and gets used and seen by the institution.
When trying to conduct a campus-wide survey, having an effective marketing strategy will go a long way in promoting greater interest and response among targeted participants. So, for your next survey administration, consider marketing the study beyond just email – post some flyers, partner with campus housing, or print out some infographics to show your target audience just how much their input matters.