Surveys are a tool with numerous benefits. Whether you’re looking for customer feedback or consumer sentiment on a particular topic, when used correctly a survey can add significant value to a digital PR campaign. While there is no questioning the value of utilising second party data sources to allow you access to data streams that would otherwise be impossible to uncover yourself, utilising surveys is a great way to incorporate first party data and give journalists the ever-important reason to link back. In this blog post I will delve into the benefits and risks associated with using PR-led surveys, as well as highlighting the key factors to be considered when utilising a survey.
As amazing and in-depth as the Internet is, the answer you’re looking for isn’t always out there and readily available. For example, if you’re looking to assess how a particular group of people behaves or feels it can be hard to pin down any solid, quantitative data beyond speculation. This is when using a survey shines through, allowing you to directly access the groups you’re interested in and pull together a first party data source unique to your brand or client. This, of course, also gives journalists an excellent reason to link back when citing your data.
The nature of survey results, giving you access to the public’s opinion on a number of topics, opens up the findings for discussion. Presenting journalists with different groups’ thoughts, feelings and actions is a great way to invite them to start a conversation and to encourage engagement with the content you have created.
One trap that content creators can often fall into is utilising a number of data sets without considering the human angle. At the end of the day, with anything in life people like to relate things back to how it will affect them. In some cases, with a data heavy piece this can be lost along the way – particularly with topics that can be considered dry. Using survey data can add a human angle to your piece, or even back up the points you’re making to create a more media worthy conversation.
For example, earlier this year we created a campaign demystifying the Shared Ownership Scheme for our client TotallyMoney. Now, while we’re aware that this topic isn’t considered overly interesting to a lot of people, the use of a survey helped this piece excel and exceed what was expected. The static infographic was formed of two parts; one explaining what Shared Ownership actually meant, and one utilising survey data to highlight the public lack of knowledge about the scheme – even for those partaking in it. In the end, we achieved 31 pieces of coverage for the campaign, 17 of which were follow links – a good result for a relatively small, niche campaign.
When it comes to setting up a survey for your campaign, there are a number of factors to consider.
It may seem obvious, but a survey for a survey’s sake is costly and won’t add much value to your campaign. Surveys are a great way to add insight, however if your campaign tells a great story using the available data or calculations completed already then there’s no reason to include one.
When it comes to outreaching, journalists will be far more receptive to your survey insights if they have been produced from a representative sample. This means that the number of respondents of each age, gender, location or any other relevant factor in your survey need be a good subset of the group you’re researching, making the results reliable. To make your results representative you will also need to ensure you survey at least 1,000 respondents unless the group within your research themselves are niche, in which case around 500 should suffice.
Unless you’re planning on carrying out your survey with no assistance, the survey provider you choose should be able to ensure that you’re accessing a representative sample and, in fact, will likely insist on it before you can go live with any results.
So, you’ve decided you need a survey for your campaign – now you need to write it. The key to writing survey questions for a content campaign is to be specific, know what you want to uncover and give quantifiable options. Vague questions lead to vague answers, and if you’re looking to design a piece around your findings this can lead to issues down the line, not to mention a weaker story for journalists.
In the same vein – beware of open-ended responses. What we’ve uncovered from our survey experience is that humans are human, and people will always think that they’re funny, Unfortunately, it’s very hard to gather insight about what someone’s biggest financial hardships are from the answer “your mum lol”, so where possible I’d suggest you steer clear of these question types. Additionally, when there are so many options for people to answer, the data becomes a lot harder to quantify and analyse. For example, we recently conducted a very simple internal survey asking for Christmas party dietary requirements, and this was the outcome:
You’ve carried out your survey – now you just have to pull the strongest results and most newsworthy headlines. However, this can be easier said than done. In order to draw valuable insights it’s important to look beyond the immediate results in front of you, and compare and contrast the findings to delve deeper into your findings. This is where having quantifiable result options will come in handy, allowing you to look straight at the percentage of the sample who answered a specific way and draw direct comparisons.
As with anything, alongside the benefits of using survey data there are also risks. The nature of surveys being so reliant on opinion and feeling from the public means that you cannot ensure that you will receive the results hoped for. Considering the difficulty in making sure that the results you receive are newsworthy, it can be a good idea to set up a test survey in advance of running the full sample. This is particularly true in cases where the success of the campaign will rely solely on the survey results
For this reason, it’s a good idea to not rely too heavily on the survey results to form a survey. Backing up survey findings with research into the gaps in public knowledge revealed or solutions to the problems raised can add an interesting additional layer and provide a better basis for a strong press hook. For other helpful guidelines to follow when creating content, you can check out “Kaizen’s Golden Rules” for pulling together content here.
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Robin L. Newnham
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