Do you have a few minutes?

by Richard Broughton – 15th November 2010

The power of the PR survey continues to achieve big wins from little investment

If executed properly, surveys and research studies can be a highly powerful public relations tool – with the potential to achieve anything from a local headline to comprehensive media coverage. So if you are thinking about dipping your toes in survey sea, what do you need to know? Follow our top tips and you won’t go wrong!

1. Know your objectives: If it’s a quick news story you’re after, great, that easy, but if you are trying to garner a comprehensive understanding of your audience’s opinion, well, that is going to take a little longer. Understanding and planning for this from the start is key. Knowing what you want to achieve before you commission your research will save you time, money and a lot of headaches in the long run. Knowing your objectives up front allows you to tailor your study to your requirements, otherwise you’ll be trying to tailor the responses to meet your goals and that will never provide the insightful results you are after.

2. Ensure your results are honest and beyond reproach: it is not always relevant or necessary, but using an established and well-known market research agency, such as Ipsos Mori or OnePoll, will give your research an impartial, more credible edge. If you need that level of impartiality but without the big name price tag, look at smaller agencies and academic institutions. The latter often has a commercial department, with the  job of securing income by leveraging off the institution’s reputation. Academia is especially useful at validating survey results and research findings. However, no-matter who you choose, ensure they are registered with the market research society (MRS).

3. Be flexible with methodology: An online poll is by far the quickest, cheapest and easiest way to get results, but if you are targeting  a demographic that may not be internet-literate consider using telephone interviews, face-to-face polling and even focus groups.

4. Make sure your sample size is appropriate: Using a decent sized sample is vital to your results holding up. If you only managed to question 20 people, if is doubtful your results will be considered representative of an entire industry. An ideal size is around 1000 respondents but that sort of figure is not easy to achieve (it’s incredibly hard in fact) and most surveys will manage to question around 200 – 500 people. Alternatively, consider using a demographic sample which will represent your target audience.

5. Take advice: Research agencies are experts in what they do and although you may feel you know your particular market far better than them, they should be used to working in any market and will understand the different approaches required to question MDs and engineers. Use their experience and knowledge and don’t be tempted to think you know best, chances are you don’t!