Search engines most used sources of information for policy makers

New research from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) has found that traditional media and search engines are dominant sources for policy makers looking for evidence-based information. Published today, the report’s findings demonstrate that issuing press releases, publishing articles on websites, and sharing information on social media should form part of a wider policy engagement strategy.

Authored by Dr Caroline Wood, Research Communications Manager at the University of Oxford, the report – ‘Communicating evidence to policy makers – what works best?‘ – surveyed 132 policy makers across the UK. It explores which channels are most effective in communicating evidence and information to policy makers, and the features and formats that make information sources most useful.

When asked what sources respondents used when needing to access evidence-based information, search engines were the most popular tools with nearly four in five (79%) policy makers saying they use them nearly always or often. The next most used sources were reports from think tanks, NGOs, campaign groups, and learned societies (58%), then mainstream media and news outlets (57%).

Participants were also asked about the barriers they faced when trying to access evidence-based information. -This revealed that the biggest frustrations are paywalls and subscriptions (98%), information not being impartial (90%), and lengthy papers that do not include a summary (89%)-. Nearly one-third (31%) of participants also said that information frequently lacks policy recommendations or practical suggestions.

Based on these new findings, the paper includes a toolkit of 12 top tips for communicating effectively with policy makers. The report also features interviews about what makes good evidence-based information with:

  • Tim Bearder, Councillor for Oxfordshire County Council and South Oxfordshire District Council
  • Julieta Cuneo, Night-Time Policy Specialist, Mayor of London
  • Sam Lister, Director General for Strategy and Operations at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, DCMS
  • Lord Ralph Lucas
  • Paul Sweeney, Member of the Scottish Parliament
  • A Parliamentary Researcher for Senedd Cymru, the Welsh Parliament

If the policies and laws that shape our daily lives are to be informed by the best available evidence, it is crucial that this information is clearly and effectively communicated to those in positions of power. By taking a deep dive into how this can best be achieved, this project’s findings offer valuable insights to all those at ‘knowledge-broker’ organisations wanting to reach policy makers. With thanks to the CIPR for funding this work and all the policy makers who contributed to the study.
Dr Caroline Wood Chart.PR

The report was funded by the CIPR Research Fund, now in its fourth successive year. The Fund awards grants of up to £2000 to CIPR members at any stage of their career to conduct independent PR research to support the development and advancement of the wider profession, in line with the Institute’s Royal Charter and five-year strategy. Applications are decided by members of the CIPR’s Research Fund Panel.

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