This is an interesting question. I have lost count of the amount of times I have said in a new business pitch or spoken to a client about how surveys are a great way to get into the media. But why are they? The main reason is because journalists love stats. Stats bring a story to life, they can add the essential elements of a story – bad news, human interest and relevancy.
That said, surveys can be expensive and time consuming, so if you are going to encourage a client to part with some of their marketing budget for a survey you need to be certain it will generate the required results. This can be easier said than done.
I believe the secret to a successful survey is to know what headlines you want to achieve at the very start. Below are my 10 tips to help with the successful production of a survey.
1. Sit down and write 10 – 15 headlines that you know would be perfect for your client to appear in a story underneath.
2. Work closely with your client to agree on the five strongest. Write your questions for the survey which will tee up stories to achieve the headlines. For example if you want the headline to be ‘60% of the UK say The Times is their favourite newspaper’ ask the question ‘Is The Times your favourite newspaper?’
3. Understand who you will be targeting with the findings. If you want to get into the nationals you will need at least 1,000 respondents. If you want to get into the trade titles, 100 respondents will be the minimal responses required.
4. Who the respondents are also make a difference as well. If the people who read your target publication are C level then the respondents should be C level. This obviously costs more.
5. Timing is essential. The most successful survey I ever ran was based upon mobile data usage during a football tournament. I timed the findings to be ready on the day of the final so I could contact the media the following day with a topical story.
6. Build a story around your questions. Why do this? Simple, when you offer the survey findings to a journalist, you need to also offer them a something to back it up so they can build a bigger story. For example, try to find a case study to back up your findings, get an expert who will collaborate with the findings and talk to the media and don’t forget to get some visuals to back it up.
7. Have the findings ready. A good journalist will realize that you will send the press release out far and wide but there may also be another story which they could build upon. This is always a great result as it can potentially give the story a greater shelf life and hopefully more hits.
8. Offer the findings to your top tier one titles along with an interview with your spokesperson two days ahead of distributing the findings. If they cover the story, others will follow.
9. Use the findings as the basis of a viewpoint. The production of a survey can be great for the news pages but it is essential you use these findings throughout a sustained period of time. If the findings are interesting enough you use them to position your client as a thought leader and someone who understands their customers problems and knows the answer.
10. Work closely with your client but make sure you don’t lose focus on what you are trying to achieve. You are the expert. You understand what makes a story and you know what the media wants. Be strong with clients to ensure that the story isn’t lost and it doesn’t become too focused on them or their products. The reality is that the client is the dullest part of the survey, so you need to work hard to ensure they are mentioned but don’t engulf the story or people will turn off.