Public Opinion Strategies has a long history of conducting research for some of America’s leading corporations and associations—often in sensitive situations under the glare of the media spotlight.
Central to our corporate work is an evaluation of a company’s overall image. We probe consumer attitudes about brands, products, and entire industries, and assess public opinion about such issues as corporate responsibility, community relations, political and economic policy, and other key areas of industry interest.
Our researchers employ a combination of techniques ranging from one-on-one interviews, Internet surveys, telephone polling, and focus groups, all targeted at well-defined and often difficult-to-reach audiences such as government policymakers, industry thought leaders, and consumers with special interests and specific purchasing habits. Conducted at regular intervals, these studies allow a company to monitor its image and customer satisfaction levels over time and evaluate how well the company’s performance stacks up against its competitors.
But our work goes well beyond data gathering. Analysis of our findings yields valuable insights into consumer values, aspirations, and concerns as well as a company’s market position relative to other businesses in the field. Understanding precisely how the public perceives and relates to a company allows it to be more proactive in shaping its image by developing a communications strategy that plays on its strengths and addresses its weaknesses.
We help develop and explore key marketing messages and advertising concepts, and we test them to determine which messages resonate best with target audiences. In times of crises, when a company is facing widespread customer dissatisfaction, negative public opinion, or critical press, our rapid turnaround helps companies respond quickly and effectively to the immediate situation, contain the damage to its reputation, and develop a communications plan that will restore its image.
Consider a few case studies:
- For a California insurance company, we conducted focus groups in five areas throughout the state. The primary purpose of the focus groups was to qualitatively gauge sentiment in California about the insurance industry in general and about the company in particular. The sessions were designed to test awareness of several specific programs as well as to determine the impact of media coverage on the company’s image.
- We conducted research in a Midwestern state on behalf of a large electric and gas utility. The company was facing public criticism over rates, reliability, and service issues, as well as a highly publicized state-mandated rebate program and an impending rate increase. In order to gauge customer satisfaction and test outreach programs, messages, and branding strategies, we conducted three customer surveys and five focus groups. Our analysis of this research provided the company with a critical understanding of the concerns and frustrations of their customer base, allowing the company to bolster its image through the design and implementation of a long-term communication, outreach, and customer service program.
- We surveyed ice cream consumers in the home county of a Midwestern ice cream maker. The company wanted to gauge consumer awareness of the brand, brand perceptions vis-à-vis other brands, and the effect of such factors as package size and promotional sales on purchasing decisions. Our research found that the company was a familiar brand best known for its creaminess, rich taste, and flavor. Unlike other brands for whom price was a clear purchasing factor, our client’s customers placed less emphasis on cost.
- Working on behalf of a major pharmaceutical company, we conducted an extensive research effort among Washington, DC policy and opinion leaders to help build the company’s image and brand on Capitol Hill and in the greater metro area. The research was comprised of focus groups among DC policy leaders followed by online surveys to measure the company’s image and test a series of print advertising concepts. The research was critical to an advertising campaign that ran in the Washington Post and several popular Hill publications that were designed to inform political leaders about the company’s long, successful history and its corporate responsibility programs.
- When a major communications company lost the broadcasting rights to a popular network channel in a Western state, the company came to us to determine how best to frame the issue for residents. We worked to develop messages about the nature of the dispute and how to position the company in the debate. The company was also facing the pending sale of a regional cable company, and we helped position the sale favorably to area residents to ensure subscription rates and customer satisfaction remained high.
- In 2006 and 2008, we conducted a national research project on behalf of a prestigious university. With the goal of evaluating the university’s image and reputation relative to other institutions, we conducted two national surveys among opinion elites and an Internet survey among four key audiences: higher education professionals; high school seniors; high school educators (including teachers, principals, and guidance counselors); and employers who make personnel decisions. This research gave the university an opportunity to identify its relative strengths and weaknesses, as well as providing key insight into the factors and qualities that drive its reputation.