Newsrooms Flooded with Silly Surveys
Journalists and newsrooms are inundated with ever more data, information, and press releases that highlight survey findings in hopes of grabbing reporters’ and readers’ interest. While many surveys are poorly done and grossly self-serving, findings from other research surveys continue to generate newsworthy stories.
Consider this view recently expressed by a business columnist at the Chicago Tribune:
Approximately every 12 seconds, I receive a press release about an exciting new survey that reveals fascinating insight into how the average American worker feels about solar-powered pencil sharpeners, edible timecards or not being killed by lions. Consider this: A company called Kronos Inc. runs a thing called The Workforce Institute, which recently hired a company called Harris Interactive to conduct a survey that found that 82 percent of employed adults in Mexico “currently use or have in the past used a time clock to clock in and out of work.” Did you know that? Of course you didn’t, because why on Earth would you want to? And yet every day there are more. It’s an endless spigot of navel-gazing workplace data.
On the other hand, nearly every day media outlets like the Chicago Tribune are writing stories describing new survey research that is relevant, interesting, and surprising.
Consider Monday’s New York Times business section, which featured on its front page an article about a survey of young adult men commissioned by Comedy Central. The survey documented a fascinating generational shift in which humor has replaced things like music and sports as the means through which younger men express themselves. In fact, the survey was interesting enough that it made it past the Times’ survey-censors who often (wrongly) assert that online surveys cannot be rigorous.
The NYT article is a good reminder that despite the number of silly surveys cluttering the world, research that is thoughtful and well done continues to be newsworthy.
If you are considering a survey for media outreach, we suggest starting with a clear message that supports your business objectives. However, you must then brainstorm relevant and important issues, problems, and solutions from the perspective of people who may not care about your business. The survey needs to be about them, not about you.
For additional tips, read our articles in Public Relations Tactics entitled “How to Create Surveys for PR Stories” and “Telling the Whole Story: When Numbers Aren’t Enough”. Feel free to give us a call as well. We can advise you and your team on an optimal approach for conducting rigorous, substantive, and media-worthy studies to support your PR efforts.
—Joe Hopper, Ph.D.