Participation is a common issue for most university surveys. It is hard to get a decent response rate while balancing the ethics of giving too much or too little reward. To a student it is one more email survey in a vast sea of emails to answer. However, to a university it can mean making an argument for grants and accreditation.
So how does one tailor a campaign to reach the most students without being too oppressive? The first step is to determine how large of a survey you are conducting. If you have only 20 to 30 people maybe just calling or mailing a letter to the participants directly could be the easiest solution. However when you have 500 or more to reach it can get to be pretty hairy.
So then, your next step is to decide what points of contact you have with the participants. Can you mail or email them messages about the survey? Would it be something you could post online to a commonly visited website or offline to a bulletin board? Once you figure out all the ways you can contact them make a list of the cheapest (time, money, and resource-wise) and then work your way back to the most expensive. Then consider using several online and offline avenues to reach the most people.
Once you have thought of some ways you can reach your audience and have an estimate of how many you need to reach, consider the budget you have. I am very lucky and have an out standing print shop on campus that can make great quality work for cheap. I am able to blanket the campus in advertising. However there are other ways to reach the general population as well for cheap. If your institution or township has a newspaper you can advertise there or see about getting a blurb on a local community website. Some news outlets even need stories like this and may help give you ‘free’ advertising by running an interview about your research.
Have a goal in mind of how much participation you will need and want. Having something to work towards is a great way to know the scale and magnitude of your project.This will also help decide how big your budget will need to be.
Once all the technical steps are out of the way, it’s down to the fun stuff. Deciding on a general direction, art style, and tone for the campaign! For my most recent advertisements I chose to go a more silly and school spirited route. I made posters that had lightening bolts and tigers to be ridiculous and school mascot posters to be informational. In addition to placing information on each poster, I also included a QR code so tech savvy students could go directly to my website to find out how to take the survey.
My department decided posters would be the best route seeing how some of our population doesn’t answer or check the addresses we have on file for them. Also not every student was an avid technology user. However we do have a great community space on campus. So working together with other facilities on campus were able to actually offer the survey in the cafeteria to boost visibility and hopefully participation.
As of this post we haven’t had our first survey event, however we have already gained a fair amount of response. We are hoping with the added attention we are giving to the survey should help push our numbers well into our goal.
I hope this helps you start your own media campaign. I apologize for the briefness. As possible, I’ll write more on this topic and expand on each idea. Until then take a look at some of the posters we mocked up while doing this project.