Is Your Survey a Clunker? Get More Media Mileage by Giving it a Tune-Up.

Marketers love survey research.  It powers the marketing engines at all the consulting firms I have worked with over the last 8 years.  It also has the potential to generate news headlines, which we PR pros love.  But, not all surveys are created equal.  There are plenty of lemons.  Journalists have hit survey overload.

Still – a survey, done right, can be very powerful.  Like a shiny new hybrid car, it can drive a B2B marketing program for hundreds of miles without stopping to refuel.  Business Development?  Check.  Market research?  Check.  Media relations?  Check.

We’re often hired for the latter, so I’ll focus there.

If you really want media attention, it needs to be a key objective of the survey and treated as such. This means creating a collaborative effort between PR, marketing and relevant business line leaders from the beginning — starting with developing the survey questions.  You’d be surprised how much of an impact throwing in even a couple of “PR/news-friendly” questions can have.

A few small tweaks can greatly increase the mileage for your survey results.  Consider some of these practices…

Comparison Shop – Are your competitors asking similar questions in their surveys?  When do they release their data?  Can you explain how/what makes your data significantly different to an outsider, like a reporter?   

Use a Navigation System – Map out external trigger points for news around the topics covered in the survey.  Maybe the data itself isn’t that groundbreaking, but regulatory developments, compliance deadlines, seasonal stories, earnings announcements and major industry conferences are all potential hooks that can give your information more weight and context.  

Take it Off-Road – Bounce questions off of a few trusted contacts.  There is no better way to find out what really interests your clients or the media than asking.  We worked with a financial services firm to revive their annual survey.  Conversations with a couple of key national reporters indicated interest was high, but little was known about Gen Xers’ investment behaviors.  We narrowed the survey’s scope to a specific demographic  and, in turn, filled a news gap, evidenced by the more than 10 million impressions we garnered that first year. 

Check the Horsepower – Do you have an appropriate pool of respondents to make the results newsworthy?  One hundred respondents can represent significant market power for a niche group.  For broad consumer polls, 2,500 respondents is more likely to be representative of the general population.  Another option – put a different lens on the data.  Are there ways to break out the results by demographic, geography or industry to give it more power?    

Drive Like a Grandpa – Once the results are back, don’t just blast off and cut your losses after a single lap around the track.  Take it slow and steady, and create a more interactive approach to continue momentum after the initial first week buzz.  Traditional marketing extension points include byline articles and presentations.  Social media strategies play an equally important role.  Where are conversations happening online about the topics covered in your survey?  Become a part of that dialogue, follow and comment on others’ blog posts, join relevant LinkedIn discussions or post your executive summary report to a site like SlideShare. 

What strategies do you use to keep your survey motor running?   Do you have success stories to share?

(photo by KB35)


To reach Kellie:
Twitter: @kshe
LinkedIn: Kellie Sheehan