Good, quality research doesn’t have to come with a high price tag. And most companies don’t have a ton of extra money sitting around right now to throw against it – especially surveys that primarily support PR. But, you don’t have to throw in the towel just because you’re lacking budget.
Following are three research possibilities that fall in the “free” category. We’ve worked with clients who have used each of these approaches and built highly successful marketing and PR campaigns around the results.
- Analyze Public Records. There is a wealth of free, public information online. Records like proxy statements contain a goldmine of useful data and trends if you take the time to dig through and analyze. For example, our client Hay Group does a review of proxy statements annually for the Wall Street Journal to identify changes and trends in CEO compensation. Not only is it great media exposure for the firm around an important business offering, but it’s the basis for a larger marketing campaign that includes webinars, blogger and trade media outreach, and local events.
- Mine Your Own Database. Sniff around. Internal data collection systems within some organizations can house powerful information that is right under your nose. What kind of data do you regularly collect from or about customers? Are you already benchmarking information to report back to customers? Are there surveys you send out to customers into which you can sprinkle a few PR-friendly questions? If your organization collects data, then your job as a PR professional is to take the time to understand what’s there and explore looking at the data in different ways that might catch an outsider’s attention.
One example: Our long-time client MetLife has an extensive database of disability claims for millions of employees. They are able to look at aggregated information to analyze emerging patterns and trends. A few years ago, they pulled some of this data into a research guide, which then fueled a marketing campaign and ongoing conversations with the media about how absence and disease management programs in the workplace. However, data collection can also be as simple as making a point of asking the same three questions to every customer you meet with and collating those responses over time.
- Partner with an Association. If you don’t have the means or the size to do it all yourself, look externally for partners and powerful customer groups to survey. Professional associations can be a perfect source for relevant professionals to survey. However, it needs to be a true “partnership” to work; meaning both parties enjoy some type of gain. In the category of practicing what we preach – my own firm recently did this. We partnered with a marketing firm (Bloom Group) and the Association of Management Consulting Firms (AMCF) to survey our collective contacts about how consulting firms are using social media. From preliminary brainstorming discussions and conversations with various consultants, we knew marketers in this space were curious about what the competition was up to and if/how they could effectively embrace social media. We used the survey results as a means to educate AMCF members about an issue their members wanted to learn more about and as a marketing tool to fuel conversations with clients and the media for BlissPR and Bloom Group.
One important note: while all of the ideas above may be free from a dollar standpoint, it’s definitely not without a “price.” You get what you pay for. In this case, you’re not paying an external resource to help collect and crunch data or analyze information. It’s all up to you. To do a quality job requires a significant time investment from a group of people dedicated to doing the analysis, message development and marketing the results.
All of the hard work can pay off tremendously if you take the time to plan carefully and do it right.
Have you used inexpensive means for gathering research to fuel a PR program? What advice do you have to offer?
(photo by stuartpilbrow)
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