Covid-19 has encouraged even my Mum to get online – with a little encouragement. But how can we get stakeholder feedback for our communications ideas and campaigns in an increasingly online world? Here are some of my favourite tools.

lady talking online, illustrating how to get feedback from stakeholders

Online events: instant poll and Q&A feedback

Works really well for: Online events such as webinars, training sessions and presentations.

How to do it virtually: I’ve recently tried Menti and Slido.

I came across Menti on project management seminars I was attending as part of my Prince2 CPD … I really liked the ease of use (go to a website, type in a event code), and also that you don’t need to be a big company with a big budget to use it. Use it to spice up presentations and online meetings with live polls, Q&As, quizzes and more. There’s a free option, with paid plans from £8.99 per month.

I’ve also used Slido, which I really liked for Q&A, including subject-specific questions you can review and answer later. It has the ability to anonymise questions, which can be brilliant for those reluctant to ask a question in a virtual room of 100 people, but a pain to administer if you’re hijacked by keyboard warriors.

Like Menti, Slido offers live polls and quizzes and users also don’t need to download any software – just go to the website and type in an event code.

Disadvantages: Hmmmmm, not sure I can think of a disadvantage. Other than you might not like the feedback you get. Which can be a bit disheartening. But that’s how you evolve and improve, right?

Consider: Having more than one person to run the event, so someone can monitor questions and run the interactive elements.

Focus groups: qualitative online feedback

Works really well for: Getting nuanced and qualitative feedback from your target audiences. I’ve seen customer focus groups used for proposed marketing / communications campaigns, products, services or changes; and employee focus groups for gathering views and input on business plans and proposals.

How to do it virtually: Tools such as Zoom are a boon for online focus groups.  An upgraded version allows you to put people in breakout rooms, and enables participants to write and comment on what they’re seeing in real-time. I’ve also used Zoom in team meetings and for online learning.

Disadvantages: Focus groups are time consuming to run, and a virtual group can be quite intense for participants and moderators.

Consider: Having an independent moderator to help people feel more able to give their views freely. Having more than one person running the group can be helpful, to allow for note-taking and to look out for facial reactions and other body language signals online! I’d also suggest tailoring the session so participants don’t have to stare at a screen for two hours straight.

Find out more: This post has loads of helpful detail for running a successful focus group.

Online surveys or questionnaires to capture stakeholder feedback

Works really well for: Gathering quantitative feedback from a large number of people.

How to do it virtually: To be fair, online questionnaires are hardly new, and SurveyMonkey is a long-established provider. There’s a free option available, though I’d recommend a paid plan which allows you more questions, easier analysis and more.

I’ve used SurveyMonkey for everything ranging from employee feedback, gathering views and opinions from a community as part of some volunteer work I was involved in, and my own business research.

Disadvantages: Surveys and questionnaires aren’t so great for nuanced qualitative feedback. Although including some comment options in your survey helps.

Consider: Excluding a “neutral” answer option and including a “don’t know/no opinion” option. In my view, if people don’t know the answer to a question they can default to the neutral option (eg 3 in a scale of 1 to 5), when they may actually mean, “I don’t know enough to be able to answer this question”, or “I don’t really care”.

What about others ways to get feedback online?

A few other non-exhaustive ways of getting feedback online include:

  • Website popups asking stakeholders if content was useful/did they find what they needed, etc? Tools such as Hotjar can do the trick.
  • Determining trends on one particular question over a longer time period. TinyPulse does just this for employee feedback.
  • User actions, for example your intranet stats/Google Analytics stats/page drop-off rates or A/B tests will give useful insights.

What about stakeholders who aren’t online?

If your target audience isn’t online then your feedback mission may need to get creative. Depending on your organisation’s existing setup you could look at: a half-way house such as SMS for quantitative feedback; telephone qualitative research; or enlisting the help of people/groups/venues who already have contact with your target audience.

What will online feedback look like beyond Covid-19? 

Will our feedback tools change when it’s safe for to hold face-to-face focus groups and events again?

My view is that many of the tools will stay, but we may use them slightly differently. For example, Menti and Slido work for both face-to-face and virtual events. And I think Zoom is here to stay. As for my Mum: I reckon there’ll be a day when the loaned iPad is politely returned …

What are your favourite tools for gaining online feedback? Has Covid-19 encouraged you, your friends and family to adopt new technologies? Share your thoughts in the comments below.