Five-Point Readiness Checklist for Engagement Surveys

by Naomi Devine, Senior Designer and Digital Engagement Specialist

So many surveys. Often low barrier, this is a technique to solicit a lot of feedback and is quite in vogue – we have six large surveys live right now! But, before launching a survey, it is important to have a readiness checklist to ensure you have covered all your bases, which will ensure a successful launch. Here at Delaney, the engagement people, we often say that surveys are the most used and mis-used engagement technique or method out there, thus making a checklist your best friend when a survey is the right call.

Before we get into our readiness checklist, as a refresher, here’s a quick look at the strengths and weaknesses of engagement surveys:

  1. Strengths
    • They are quick and cost effective to develop and administer;
    • They engage people in their own time during the survey windows;
    • They are well understood and accepted by the public and decision makers; and
    • They can provide quantitative data for analysis for detailed understanding. 
  1. Weaknesses
    • They are less appropriate for high-intensity engagements (that likely require more direct conversation-style techniques like focus groups and workshops);
    • The data are only as good as the quality of the question asked ;
    • They should be combined with other techniques to be effective; and
    • Since they are so often used, the public may be facing survey fatigue. 

When a survey is the right choice, you want to avoid the pitfalls that so often crop up when getting to the survey design phase. How can you best position yourself for success in a world awash with surveys that aren’t doing the job? 

We have a Five-Point Readiness Checklist to help you. 

  1. Map the interested and affected parties for your engagement (this is normally done in your overall engagement plan). This means you know what groups you are targeting for participation in the survey. Remember: it’s not just about getting a lot of responses, but responses from “the right” people. This is where you need to set the stage for diversity, equity and inclusivity (look for a forthcoming blog on this).
  2. Acquire the full understanding of your project’s context to design your survey (this is often done during pre-engagement interviews with select representatives and discussions with your engagement project sponsor).
  3. Know your survey objectives. Confirm the questions you need answered in your survey, in your own words. This is not yet your survey questionnaire, which will be designed after you have confirmed that you’re ready (using this checklist).
  4. Focus on how you will communicate the survey.
    • Remember that engagement always requires communications support, so outline supporting communications in a plan that accompanies the survey for internal reviewers to understand and approve.
    • Communicate internally before externally.
    • Use communications channels effectively for participant recruitment.
    • Ensure that the survey is written at a language level (usually grade 8 level language) for everyone to understand.
    • Test your survey with an internal group after loading on the chosen platform.
    • Launch as early as possible to give as much time as possible to your potential participants.
  5. Gain internal buy-in. Before you go too far, you need to consider the following:
    • Privacy and/or ethics as well as data storage.
    • Technology: do you have a survey platform and (technical) expertise or support, or does that need to be acquired or subscribed to?
    • Who are the decision partners (internal and external)?
    • Who are the contractors and sub-contractors that may be a part of survey deployment and/or analysis?

 As you can see, this may be a five-point list, but it is an involved checklist Once you have checked these boxes, you are ready to jump into the survey questionnaire design and implementation phase, successfully creating a survey that supports your overall engagement plan and decision-making process. Effective engagement practitioners need to be knowledgeable about what’s necessary to make each step possible.

If you are interested in learning more, we have a course on this topic, Designing Engagement Surveys, that takes you through the details of this checklist and provides you with the skills to successfully design, launch, analyze and report out on your next engagement survey. Reach out anytime if you want to learn more about the course or ask us any questions.