person Guy Potter access_time March 22, 2019

Headline-Grabbing PR Surveys

Social media has meant the PR industry now has to respond to the changing news agenda as quickly as possible, if not, real time. This means a fast-turnaround of information and an agile approach to data gathering.

We take a look at how you can get the best from your PR survey to generate headline-worthy stories that keep your clients happy and engaged.

What are agile surveys?

Agile research is the process of gathering data quickly and efficiently, without sacrificing quality. They are usually done in real time and can be completed within minutes. The whole idea of agile surveys is to get you data when you need it.

The beauty of agile research is that it can be run by a survey house or by yourself (self-service). They are easy to set-up and, especially for a PR survey – where headline data is the main purpose – they can be very cost-effective. Even for those clients on tight budgets.

Ultimately, an agile, self-service PR survey is mainly used to gauge likes/dislikes or to respond to a trending topic or issue. However, if you want more detailed insights and analysis, then it’s probably best to look at an assisted survey as this will give you more specific data.

With self-service PR research you can create surveys with a fair amount of detail, from demographic data, shopping habits and preferred media. This means you can drill down to get more targeted information from your chosen audience.

Headline-grabbing surveys

When dealing with any research project, it’s important to always start at the end and work your way backwards. Consider your headline and then tailor your questions accordingly.

If you want your headline to state that 90% of the UK population prefer cats, then think about what questions you need to ask to get to that point.

It’s always worth noting from a PR point of view, or in fact a research point in general, that you can’t control outcomes, so it’s always best to prepare for different results than anticipated.

So, if most of the UK population prefer dogs, and your client is a cat-focused brand, then there may be an issue there. The next step could be to look at demographic data and see if there are any interesting results there.

It could be that 98% of 25 – 34 year olds prefer cats, in which case your headline could be around cats as the Millennial pet of choice.

Other key points to consider when creating your questionnaire:

  1. Think about what exactly it is you want from the survey – its ultimate purpose – and what you will use it for?
  2. Make sure your questions are clear and to the point and leave no room for misinterpretation
  3. If it’s for consumer feedback or insights, then think about what you want to get from the questions you ask.

When it comes to drafting the questions, be clear and try not to squeeze in too many points. Respondents get bored and frustrated if there are too many questions. You may find your headline-grabbing story also gets lost in too much detail.

To combat this risk, stick to around 10 questions. You want a headline and a bit more additional data, that’s it. Make the majority of the questions closed. If you’re using a scale or multiple-choice answers, then make sure they follow the same pattern or flow throughout. This will not only help keep your survey consistent but will also keep it at a steady enough pace to keep respondents engaged.

Creating the sample base

Although the press does recognise a ‘quick and dirty’ PR survey and treat it accordingly, research still has to adhere to a set of standards. For a journalist, or even a marketing director looking for quick insight, there does need to be a methodology with which to frame the survey to make it newsworthy or relevant.

A good start is the sample base to help identify your target audience, which will lead to a more focused survey. Do note that some survey providers may not give you the chance to create a target sample base at the start, so always check before you press go on a survey.

In these cases, be aware that it’s a general population survey, which is fine for consumer research, but may be tricky if it’s a tech or business angle.

When choosing your target demographic, like the question creating process, always go back to end of the survey and consider the results you want to achieve.

For those survey providers that do have the ability to give you a demographic breakdown at the point of creation, consider what and who you want to respond. For example, it is possible to choose a sample base by a respondent’s choice of newspaper or even their preferred supermarket, so it can really drill down to provide some specifics.

PR survey templates

There are always typical surveys that PRs, brands or marketers commission repeatedly, and these are usually focused around major events, brand analysis or the latest news agenda. For example, we see a lot of research around the latest trending TV show or celebrity.

For these surveys, there are ready-made questionnaire templates that can be tweaked or amended to fit a specific theme. This not only reduces the time spent creating a questionnaire, but it means you’re working with a tried and tested formula, so you can relax in the knowledge that its success or failure no longer depends solely on the person creating the questionnaire.

As these templates can be saved, it also means quick, easy access whenever required, not to mention the ability to gather results in as fast a timeframe as possible.

The main point of a PR survey these days is to respond quickly and get your client coverage, which is why there is no time for a traditional Omnibus or focus groups. Agile surveys help you achieve those goals to keep you and your client’s happy.

Guy Potter is maru / usurv's head of research and clients.
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