How to Develop Surveys for PR: The Right Questions To Ask

Back in December, we penned a piece on using surveys to generate coverage and increase brand awareness. In the increasingly competitive media landscape, data that supplements a trend being covered in the press – or better yet, offers a contrary insight – can result in serious ink. Gathering timely, press-worthy data is also a great way to generate news between major announcements, but there are some important questions to ask yourself before asking questions of anyone else.

Does this data already exist?

This seems like an obvious one, but it’s important to emphasize. If a quick Google search reveals that your survey results are old news, a reporter is likely to pass. After an initial survey idea is formed, you may have a lively brainstorm session to collect ideas on a direction. Developing a set of solid survey questions is time-consuming – and you could spin your wheels drafting and re-drafting content only to learn later that someone has already collected, analyzed and released the very same data. To dig more deeply beyond a simple web search, look into professional organizations or analysts relevant to the industry. Good public sources of data sets are, Amazon Web Services and Google Trends.

Do I have a sound hypothesis?

Developing a clear and succinct hypothesis is even more important than the survey questions themselves. What are you trying to prove or disprove? When conducting surveys on behalf of clients for PR, it is key to ensure that a hypothesis is not simply to prove the value of a product or service, but to either answer a question being asked in the media, or to provide insight that is truly novel. You’ll find that if you don’t have a good hypothesis that questions will be nearly impossible to write. Think back to high school when you learned about the five-paragraph essay – wasn’t the hypothesis always the hardest part? Simplicity always won.

Will anyone actually care?

Surveys require resources, both time and money, so it is critical to do a scan of the media that is important to you or your client. If you have good relationships with some key reporters, ask them about their interest before you even conduct the survey. If you have a really good relationship, ask them what data they’ve been seeking and offer to help them out by gathering it! When collecting data, even though media may be your primary target, coverage is never a sure thing, so think about how else the resulting data might be used – company blogs, infographics, sales materials, social media posts, advertising, customer communications and more.

Are the conclusions defensible?

When using Google to conduct a survey of the general population, we strongly recommend to SHIFT clients adhering to Google best practices by collecting 1,500-2,000 responses. One advantage of using Google Consumer Surveys (or a survey tool like it), you are guaranteed response rate that is weighted for against the U.S. Census, giving a representative sample. And, while you do not want to exactly replicate existing survey results that are out there, bringing in outside research that supports conclusions will beef up your storyline.

Do surveys really work for PR?

They sure do! Especially if you’ve taken the time to be thoughtful, strategic and vigilant about the details. In 2016, in the earlier days of influencer marketing, SHIFT worked with client Collective Bias, a leader in that space, on a survey aimed at understanding how social media was impacting consumers’ in-store purchase decisions. Social influencers on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat and more have a huge impact on brand marketing, but together, SHIFT and Collective Bias sought to determine whether the huge sums of money brands spend on celebrities (read: Kardashians) truly impact the bottom line.

Using the Google Consumer Survey tool, 10 questions revealed the most popular platforms, differences in generational preferences, types of content consumed…..but, the blockbuster data point was that only 3% of consumers said they were influenced to make an in-store purchase based on a celebrity endorsement on social media. This single data point generated nearly 100 pieces of coverage across mainstream consumer media, business press, blogs and trade publications. And, after nearly a year, the hits are still coming in!

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