Why Testing Your Message Outside the Beltway is Crucial


Yes but does your message work outside the Beltway
If you are based in the Washington, DC, metro area, whether you’re a corporation, a trade association, a Think Tank, or a politician, here’s some wise advice… Test your message outside the Beltway.

That’s what we’ve been telling our clients for nearly two decades. And even though they know that—of course they know that—they’re almost always surprised at what Outside-the-Beltway testing turns up.

Getting close to their issues is our clients’ job. They’re policy experts. They need to know every in, out, and upside down. That’s what they and their colleagues think, read, write, and talk about. It’s the air they breathe.

Most people outside the Washington metro area are not immersed in the details of these issues—sometimes they’ve never even heard of the issues.

It’s also important to recognize that life experiences outside the Beltway can be very different, so concerns can be different: employment and unemployment rates, income levels, blue collar or white collar, religion (a lot or none), political attitudes, and attitudes toward politics. Communities vary from densely urban to intensely agricultural, with their own neighborhood values. What works in DC might not work in Chicago and Seattle, and probably won’t work in Worcester, Mingo Junction, and Tupelo.

But if they’re your audience, you need to verify that you’re speaking their language.

And the best way to do that is to test it with them. See their reactions. Hear their thoughts.

Again, our clients know all this. But they still—regularly—say things like, “I did not expect that to tank”; “I am really surprised none of the respondents have heard of that”; “I didn’t realize our language was so full of jargon until this dial test.”

And we especially like: “Good thing we tested this!”

Some Washington, D.C., facts and comparisons:

—Bigger salaries: highest per capita income in the country ($75,569; the national average is $49,571)[1] with an annual growth rate of 4.5% (vs. 3.6% national average)[2]

—Educated: 55% of the population 25 years or older has at least a bachelor’s degree (29.3% nationally);[3] 31% have an advanced degree (11.2% nationally)[4]

—Expensive housing: median value of a house is $567,800 ($433,000 nationally)

—Lower rate of home ownership: 40.4% own their own homes (63.7% nationally)

—High crime: 6,408.6 crimes per 100,000 people (3,295.0 nationally)[5]


[1] http://www.courant.com/business/hc-per-capita-income-connecticut-20170328-story.html
[2] https://wtop.com/business-finance/2017/03/dc-per-capita-income-25-percent-higher-national-average/
[3] https://www.iowaeconomicdevelopment.com/50states
[4] https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_15_5YR_S1501
[5] https://www.iowaeconomicdevelopment.com/50states