Just Like Content, Context is King

Supposedly you have been asked to assess the impact of your brand’s messaging, an educational program sponsored by the government, or perhaps a leadership development program in corporate America.

You may be an outsider to the organization and you are not sure what would be effective questions to ask.

While one can benefit from learning about relevant dimensions that have been identified by scholars in a particular field (be it impact assessment or leadership development), what is critical is to make them relevant to those you are attempting to engage.

Next you will need to create the questions (e.g. To what extend to you agree/disagree that she is an effective decision maker). In order to generate effective items that are highly relevant, we recommend that you follow these steps:

  • Conduct several interviews: conduct interviews with stakeholders who can shed light on important dimensions you need to assess in your project. This provides you with the opportunity to learn the proper context
  • Conduct focus groups: when possible, focus groups can be a beneficial activity. Focus groups allow dynamic interactions that can illicit diversity of themes and ideas, that otherwise, might be difficult to obtain in interviews
  • Synthesize: the interviews and focus groups will result in rich transcripts and material to synthesize. It is often the case that you are able to identify the important issues, dimensions, actors, timelines, events, etc. that are relevant
  • Generate survey items: based on the synthesized material, you can now start generating questions that are effective and relevant
  • Gain feedback: always gain feedback about from relevant stakeholders
  • Pilot: before widely engaging with your questions, it is a good idea to pilot with a small group. This step allows you to uncover things like ambiguity in the language, confusion, or any other issue you haven’t thought of. It is perfect timing to refine before sending it out broadly
  • Send away!

Even if you aren’t an outsider to an organization and are part of an internal marketing, branding, research, or talent team, it is still a good idea to follow the above steps to maximize the impact of your study.