Why I Love Creating PR Surveys
After leaving academic research for the world of applied research, I found myself doing a lot of surveys for public relations. These surveys are designed to uncover surprising or newsworthy nuggets of data that companies use to focus attention on topics relevant to their concerns. My first boss despised such work, believing that a public relations agenda somehow dirtied the objectivity of rigorous research. In contrast, I love creating these surveys. Why? Let me count the ways:
PR surveys are intensely focused on objectives. They force my teams to think and act in strategic ways that produce rigorous research tightly focused on a clear objective. More than other types of clients, PR professionals know exactly how they want to use the research they commission. If we do not tailor every aspect of the research accordingly, the survey will fail.
Public scrutiny leaves no room for error. Designing, executing, and analyzing research knowing that all aspects of the process are open to scrutiny (and public critiques, industry reviews, even legal challenges) introduces a devotion to rigor that typically exceeds most market research.
There are no hidden agendas. While the ultimate goal of a PR survey is to report data in a way that reflects well on the sponsor, PR professionals know that honest and credible data is paramount. Sincere efforts to uncover the truth is the key to building trust and shining a positive light on survey sponsors.
Turning data into stories is key. Market research desperately needs more focus on turning data into stories, and there is no other area of marketing more focused on stories than public relations. PR surveys encourage us to think about the importance of developing story lines with data, weaving together narrative and numbers to make that happen.
Of course it is always exciting to see the fruits of our labor cited in the New York Times, but ultimately our work is a labor of love. We love the challenge of answering real-world questions, finding the data to answer them, puzzling over methods and numbers, interpreting results, and communicating what it all means to an audience that cares.
PR surveys demand a type of focus and methodological rigor that few other types of market research do. They make us, and our work, better in every way.