How to Conduct a Survey for PR & Why Most Fail

By Dave Heffernan, Vice President, Technology

Smart and timely thought leadership is a vital component of nearly every B2B communications strategy.

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

This can come in many forms — executives pontificating on LinkedIn, publishing owned content through blog posts (like this one) and whitepapers, or earned media opportunities like press interviews and contributed articles.

It’s no secret that surveys serve as an excellent foundation for these types of thought leadership. If done right, industry data gives instant credibility to an argument. It positions a company and its spokespeople as authorities and can result in a flurry of on-message press coverage, effectively reaching potential customers while greatly increasing brand awareness.  

That said, surveys are expensive. They require a ton of effort and preparation. 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?

How to conduct a survey for PR is an art. Here are a few pitfalls to avoid:

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 and start media conversations, 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.

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.

Nothing new – similar stats already exist

So many organizations release nearly identical survey stats (to existing surveys) with nearly identical 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.

Timing was all wrong

A 101 on how to conduct a survey: tying the release 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 or the upcoming graduation season) can create some real urgency. It makes it more of a news event that people need to pay attention to.

Data overload

When it comes to surveys, you can absolutely have too much of a good thing. Be careful not too oversaturate your market with new data too frequently, to the point where it loses impact. Key audiences won’t know what to focus on and will eventually just tune you out no matter how good your insights are.

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

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