Elite Audience Research — An Introduction

Modern communication campaigns require customizing communication strategies for different target audiences. Elite audiences, professionals engaged in key decision making or with high awareness of industry developments are important target audiences for organizations to reach. Increasingly, the messages and tactics that prove effective with elite audiences are different than those aimed at the general public. Quantitative and qualitative research of elite audiences can assist organizations in effective messaging, creative development, media strategy, and benchmarking.   

What is an Elite Audience? 

Elite audiences constitute a wide variety of hard to reach executives, decisionmakers, professionals, and opinion makers. They can include:  

Washington D.C. Beltway Elites:

The professional communities living and working inside the DC Beltway that are heavily involved in and closely follow political and policy discussions.

Industry Decision Makers:

High-level executives, business leaders, and those responsible for major purchasing decisions within an industry or job role.

Issue Opinion Elites:

Professionals that closely follow the insider developments and news within a specific industry or issue.

Health or Medical Professionals:

Healthcare professionals such as hospital decision makers, nurses, doctors, or health industry decision makers.

Opinion Makers:

Those who influence the influencers, including those heavily involved in civic life, local policy discussions, and prominent voices in online communities.

How Certus Insights Reaches Elite Audiences 

Certus Insights reliably recruits difficult target audiences through: 

  • 1. Panel Specification

    Most elite audiences are best reached through online recruitment. We work with trusted list providers as a starting point for effective sample recruitment. This approach is almost-always more accurate and more cost-effective than recruiting elite audiences from a general sample. There are a select number of audiences that are still best reached via phone, usually those clustered tightly within specific locations and geographies. By identifying the right recruiting methodology at the outset, the project is set up for success.

  • 2. Effective Screening Criteria

    Certus Insights then carefully verifies all respondents through customized screening questions designed to ensure that the right respondents are being recruited. Customized screening questions ensure elites with a specific focus, organization type, or job focus are participating in the survey, focus group, or interviews. We develop quotas to recruit a mix of elites to ensure a diversity of opinions. These quotas can include criteria such as years of experience, income, job focus, work environment, organization type, etc. Effective research is built on a solid foundation of audience recruitment. By using customized screening criteria on top of high-quality panels, Certus Insights ensures accurate data through quality samples.

  • 3. Effective Instrument Development

    Certus Insights gives careful consideration to the questionnaire and discussion guide as an important part of the success of an elite research project. Elite audiences are busy professionals with demands on their time. An engaging questionnaire that avoids repetition ensures that elites who begin the survey complete the survey. This is often an overlooked part of elite research recruitment but should be a priority for all clients.

How to Use an Elite Audience Research Project  

An elite audience research project can provide valuable intelligence for any organization. Important applications can include:  

White Space Opportunities

Identify issues of relevance and concern among an elite audience. Use these issues to determine opportunities for effective content that distinguished a client from other organizations and competitors.

Industry Trends and Analysis

Determine the priorities and concerns that elites see within a given industry, issue, or organization. This intelligence can be used for communications and business planning.

Activation and Tactical Intelligence

Identify the most effective social media channels, news publications, media, events, influencers, or outlets to reach elites through paid, owned, and earned media.

Organizational Benchmarking

Develop a baseline for awareness, favorability, and recognition of brand attributes around an organization, issue, or individual. These measurements can be used to evaluate changes over time to determine campaign effectiveness.

Key Issue Background

Understand how elite audiences think about an issue or an organization to ensure effective messaging and creative. Determine the priorities and challenges elites prioritize in a given industry to ensure communications address concerns.

Message Development

Go to market with a tested set of messages that are optimized for the most effectives concepts, proof-points, words, and phrases to use in owned, earned, and paid media.

What is Best Way to Understand an Elite Audience?  

The most appropriate methodology for an elite audience research project varies by the overall goals of a communications campaign and the specific elite audience.  

Quantitative Survey

Surveys are effective for testing messages, testing campaign activations, benchmarking, and key issue background.

Focus Groups

Focus groups are effective for background on key issues and detailed intelligence for message development. Focus groups can help determine the diversity of opinions that pervade an elite audience, even if the prevalence of those opinions needs to be later evaluated by quantitative research. Focus groups are also effective for small elite audiences, where a quantitative survey may not be feasible.

In-Depth, Individual Interview

One-on-one interviews are best suited for when clients are looking to “dig deep” on a particular issue or sentiment among an elite audience. They can particularly effective for internal research or member research, allowing respondents to voice their opinions in confidence. Similar to focus groups, in-depth, individual interviews work best to develop background on key issues, detailed intelligence for message development, and for small groups of elite audiences.

 If you have an elite project that you and your organization are considering, feel free to contact us and we can discuss the project.  

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Natalie Copeland