Optimize Your PR—Don’t Do Silly Surveys
We are strong advocates of using surveys for public relations outreach. Commissioning surveys that answer interesting questions to help drive news stories and other types of communication can build a credible foundation so that journalists and other audiences take note and listen. But we are not fans of silly surveys that rely on outlandish, sexy, or clever comparisons designed primarily to get quick flashes of attention and media hits.
There are three tiers of survey research common in public relations, only two of which can truly optimize your PR:
Serious Surveys. Beyond providing rich material for news releases, serious surveys are designed to establish true thought leadership. They are leveraged for publication through white papers, conference presentations, or peer-reviewed journals. The surveys we conducted and published about ulcerative colitis are excellent examples, and for the last three years have been used by the client to demonstrate a deep understanding of the issues faced by patients and physicians.
Solid Surveys. Solid surveys answer interesting questions or document issues that people care about, with solutions that people can use. The primary goal is media placement, but a solid survey can be leveraged further. For example, one client we worked for got significant story placements by surveying people about skin cancer myths and reasons for not taking simple precautions like wearing sunscreen. Another gets ongoing coverage for a survey of IT professionals about future trends in the marketplace.
Silly Surveys. These are unfortunately not designed to answer authentic questions, but to grab attention in ways that may not even be relevant to your business. We saw one survey not long ago that measured which song titles, from among five or six listed, captured people’s optimism or pessimism about the decade ahead. The client? An office products company. Another recent survey announced the percentage of women who would give up TV, cell phones, computers, or sex in exchange for losing 10 pounds. Who cares? These are not meaningful comparisons; they’re just silly.
To be fair, silly surveys can attract good media, but there are costs. First, they diminish your (and our) long-term credibility as journalists start to ask whether they’re reading yet another gimmick survey or whether your latest effort offers something of real value. Second, there is an opportunity cost. You could be investing in information that not only gets media attention, but is leveraged in multiple ways and for many years. We have a client for whom we did a solid survey back in 2004, which they are still using on their website to engage consumers in 2010.
If you’re in the business of PR, we suggest leaving the silly surveys to Facebook polls. Instead, focus on building a credible foundation with expert research and data analysis. Versta Research can help you with this. We can help you answer questions with expertise, turn data into stories, and ultimately help you communicate those stories to the audiences you need to reach.
—Joe Hopper, Ph.D.