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New ways of engaging key audiences for an evidence centre in Wales

How we developed and implemented an engagement plan to extend reach with the Welsh government and public bodies; the research community; think tanks and other policy influencers.

The Wales Centre for Public Policy curate and share research predominantly with the Welsh Government, helping to shape policymaking.

Knowing they have a rich resource, WCPP wanted to widen their audiences to offer their research for free to public bodies; to share their methodologies with the research community; and to position themselves as experts within the think tank and policy network.

WCPP also needed some short-term help delivering day-to-day comms work.

What was our challenge?

Our initial work with the senior leadership team identified three core offers: access to a free bank of evidence for policymakers; methods of curating evidence for academics and research bodies; and acting as experts in evidence-based policymaking for the think tank and influencer community.

Moving from passive to active comms

While the centre had a fantastic resource of recent and forthcoming research to promote, we quickly realised that WCPP were using their channels to broadcast quite passive information about latest research to their audiences, without making the case about why their audiences should engage. We also saw the flow of research meant comms were not evenly spaced, leaving audiences without regular, relevant content.

Mapping audiences and identifying needs

With this in mind, we ran workshops with the senior team to map out the key organisations for each offer - choosing to prioritise those who were most influential/important - then agreeing each organisation’s current needs and how WCPP could help.

With senior leaders, we turned what we discovered about each organisation’s motivations and WCPP’s offer into an over-arching narrative and a series of messages – focusing first on the audience’s needs, the part of WCPP’s offer which met those needs, and then making an ask to start a conversation.

How did we approach the problem?

We encouraged WCPP to think bigger in terms of their audience; to be braver in seeing engagement as the responsibility of everyone in the organisation; and to stay real in thinking about what their audience really cares about.

We identified where each audience talked to each other, focusing on which WCPP and external channels or activities they prefer, so we could turn the general messaging into specific content. We also looked at WCPP’s newsletter list so we could segment content for the three broad audience types.

Creating a comms culture

As well as identifying broad audience types, we asked the centre to think about which individuals they could approach via focused tactics, such as face-to-face meetings and attendance at events.

Given the volume of people WCPP knows and meets, we encouraged senior leaders to view comms as a job for everyone, not just the comms team.

Regular, audience-led communications

To create a steady flow of comms content, we set up a calendar for the centre to plot out when research would appear, so they could manage their workload and plug gaps with existing, relevant content.

Finally, recognising that WCPP’s website was the place to push audiences, we reviewed the structure and recommended content was refocused around the user groups’ needs rather than research themes.

What was the outcome?

Our plan was put into practice when we delivered the comms function for WCPP during a recruitment period. We tested, learned and adapted our approach, and supported WCPP to measure their impact through new analytic reporting where raw figures were given a narrative context.

“Since working with Matt and Vic, we’re much clearer about our audiences and why they would want to work with us. We’ve moved from quite passive comms to more engaging messaging and we can measure our success and adapt our approach as we learn what works.” “As a senior team, we now see how so much of our work was in fact already comms work. We’re thinking about how to make more of our current ways of reaching people as well as finding new ones.”