Raising public awareness is a function of public relations that focuses on providing information about a particular subject, organization, etc. so your target audience can make their own educated decisions and (hopefully) back your cause. Many practitioners will tell you that changing people’s opinions or behaviors is one of the most challenging aspects of PR. And, they are undoubtedly correct. The first step in garnering support is awareness.
One of SA’s public awareness clients is the Iowa Governor’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Advisory Council, a partnership of educators, companies, legislators and students, co-chaired by Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds and Vermeer Corp. CEO Mary Andringa.
In 2011, the STEM Council was created via bi-partisan support of the Iowa Legislature to increase interest and awareness of STEM education, keeping students across the state competitive with other students around the world and enhance economic development.
A couple years after the creation of the STEM Council, the organization agreed the initiative needed visibility and awarded its public awareness campaign to SA. We were beyond excited to partner with the STEM Council and help promote the mission, goals and programming of such an amazing organization.
The first step to rocking the STEM public awareness campaign was research. One of the key findings from the public awareness section of the initial survey conducted by the STEM Council indicated that only 26 percent of Iowans had heard of STEM. This research, along with other data provided by the Iowa STEM Monitoring Project (ISMP) allowed our team to then create a plan.
Creating a plan is the second step in conducting a public awareness campaign and for STEM this meant determining the target audiences, creating the objectives and defining the strategies. Establishing target audiences are essential to the success of your campaign. Keep in mind, “the general public” is not a reasonable target audience. Think through what group of people will make the biggest impact, both positively and negatively, on your cause, then prioritize those audiences.
The next part of the planning process is creating objectives that focus on what attitudes or opinions you want to achieve from your target audiences. Make sure your objectives are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, results-orientated and time specific so you can effectively evaluate the success of your campaign. Then create strategies that describe how you want to reach your objectives.
Once the plan was in place, we began to execute. This is where the exciting things happen like media relations, events, speaking engagements, videos, social media, branding, billboards, etc. During this third step is when you are accomplishing tactics based off your objectives and strategies.
The last step is evaluation. What worked? What didn’t? Were we successful? After evaluating the first year of the STEM public awareness campaign, the ISMP reported that interest and awareness in STEM across Iowa increased by 58 percent and more than 100,000 students were impacted by STEM programming, nearly tripling the number of students reached in the previous year. This follow-up research told us that what we were doing was working. Now, we just need to do more.
As we grow our partnership with the STEM Council, we will continue to research, plan, execute and evaluate every year of the STEM public awareness campaign. Follow these four steps and your next public awareness campaign will most definitely rock.