Beyond public awareness: reports on poverty require actionable outcomes

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A Common Wealth reader recently asked, “How do I volunteer for [anti-poverty] coalitions of community leaders…?” Unfortunately, it’s not easy to find to an answer to their question.

As a marketing communications professional, I urge clients to remember the all-important call to action. What do we want people to do with the information once they’ve received it? Too often, reports published by non-profit organizations, such as the one related to the reader’s question, lack two critical items:

1. An understanding of audience and the way they consume information. Reports, full of valuable data, are a vital asset for people at all levels, but they’re not always designed for greatest accessibility. Academics and policy makers and institutional board members are only one part of the puzzle, but seem to be the sole audience for such reports; they should both spread the gospel and preach to the choir.

Supported by visualization tools and simplified graphics such as infographics, it’s easier than ever to share data quickly and effectively across multiple platforms to reach a broader audience.

2. Measurable objectives. What impact do these studies have on the community? Do they advance issues related to poverty or do they simply represent preexisting ideas backed by new information?

It’s time to consider how such reports push efforts beyond public awareness supported by a cycle of seasonal news stories. Reports on the state of our community must combine findings with tactics to drive specific actions toward desired outcomes.

In the future, non-profit organizations publishing reports on poverty and other community issues should employ a wider variety of communications tactics to share the findings. These vehicles should also collect information about people reading these reports. This will help organizations and other stakeholders understand the effectiveness of research reports to increase awareness and most importantly — influence people into action.

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