How To Use a Survey & Research Report Strategy for PR

Surveys, original research and proprietary data reports are effective tools for PR, marketing and sales. Here’s how to build compelling ones.

We recently saw a stat that 68% of journalists “want to see original research and trend data in pitches.” We can attest. Insight-based PR programs — fueled by research and survey reports — are one of our own tried and true tactics.

The reason they’re so effective? Smart and timely thought leadership is a vital component of nearly every B2B communications strategy (as well as some B2C strategies) and thought leadership backed by data is far more authoritative.

If done right, original research and data reports can result in a flurry of on-message press coverage that effectively reaches potential customers while greatly increasing brand awareness — and can be cornerstone content for related marketing and sales efforts.  

Survey and research reports for PR

PR-focused research hubs differ from pure-play market research. The latter is meant to collect data to inform business decisions such as product development and marketing strategy. The former is about catching the attention of your external audiences and stakeholders with a story.

Insight reports can be built with a few different data types. Generally, these are:

  • Surveys: Surveys can be conducted with a specific consumer demographic or industry/professional audiences. They’re often done via online survey tools, either with a built-in audience that you can customize or to send to your own list of contacts. With surveys, you create your own line of questioning.
  • User/Client Data: Analysis can also be conducted on the collective data within a technology solution or across a client base. With this data type, though, the stories can’t just be about product/service usage. Rather, analysis should focus on uncovering proof points of industry trends, challenges, etc. For example, a recruiting technology might compare the percent of job openings that were filled from one quarter to the next to illustrate a market trend around hiring.

The benefits of research hubs

Potential customers, journalists and other key audiences engage most with organizations they see as a true resource. To be seen as a viable solution, companies and their executives need to prove that they fully understand the challenges their industry is going through. That they recognize the significant trends and are anticipating what’s to come.

This is the meaning of thought leadership. And whether it’s delivered in the form of executives pontificating on LinkedIn, owned content (blog posts, whitepapers), earned media opportunities (press interviews, commentary, bylines), or another format, proprietary data is an excellent foundation and supporting asset.

In media relations, survey and research reports are particularly effective for:

  • Getting tier-one coverage without hard news
  • Making subject matter experts stand out in pitches to reporters
  • Adding a fresh news hook to bring corporate narratives and visions to life
  • Boosting brand/business relevance

What we really love about original data reports, though, is that it’s also impactful for marketing and sales.

Not only does it build linkbacks, which boosts SEO and helps drives site traffic. It’s high-value content, so it can also be used across inbound marketing (website content, SEO) and outbound marketing (email, social, paid) as well as in sales enablement (cold outreach, prospect touchpoints).

Designing compelling surveys and original research reports

Creating a set of high-value insights (that aren’t already out in the market) isn’t easy. It’s both art and science. But when you do, the impact is huge.

Survey reports require a ton of effort and preparation. There’s also budget involved. So, after all that investment and hard work, why do we see so many of them miss the mark, bringing in virtually no press coverage or quality leads?

These are the most common mistakes we see:

  1. Far too promotional or product-centric: No one wants data that serves as a commercial for your solution. If the goal is to demonstrate thought leadership, the main survey takeaway should never directly focus on the need for the organization’s technology. It should not be a market research or product marketing-led initiative. Reporters will ignore it and prospects will see right through it.
  2. Interesting, but no connection to your audience: Have you ever seen a survey that’s interesting — maybe even “click-bait”-worthy — but has literally nothing to do with the company releasing it? This is the opposite of the “promotional” point above, but just as important. Even if it’s on a trending topic, the media will question why they should see you as an expert resource. And, even if it manages to secure press interest, your target audiences won’t care one bit. Read: it won’t do a single thing to advance your business.
  3. Nothing new or unique: We often see multiple competitors saying the same things and releasing nearly identical data points/takeaways for their industry. Without any new insights, there’s no reason for a reporter to cover the story or a prospective customer to engage with it. It’s key to do thorough news and competitor analysis at the beginning of survey creation, to find a white space within a topic of interest.
  4. Timing was all wrong: Timing the release of research with a calendar hook can make all the difference. Survey data can be evergreen and cited for months to come. However, making it as timely as possible (for instance, tax season, graduation season, or a major industry conference) can create some real urgency. It makes it more of a news event that people need to pay attention to.
  5. Data overload: When it comes to surveys, you can absolutely have too much of a good thing. Be careful not to oversaturate your market with new data (or repeated data) too frequently. It will likely lose impact and your audience will start to tune you out no matter how good your insights are.

What results to expect with data reports

Original research reports give instant credibility to an argument or claim. They position a company and its spokespeople as authorities. When pitched strategically, it often results in a slew of high-impact press coverage.

We’ve seen research programs achieve results including a 100% increase in business press coverage y-o-y, upwards of 100 on-message articles and hundreds of new website users.

Want to see these best practices on how to conduct a survey in action? Here are some survey report examples from past client campaigns: ‘The No Vacation Nation’, ‘The Future of Work’ Survey Series’, ‘The Dirty Truth’, and Evite’s outlook on friendship.

*This post was originally written May 2021, and was updated October 2023.

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