By Chris Blake, Account Director
Last week we posted the first part of 10 Ways to Ensure Your PR and Marketing Surveys Fail. This week, we’re wrapping up with Part 2.
Surveys have long been an effective PR and marketing tool. If done right, they can build great brand awareness while solidifying brand identity. They can help generate discussions and debates that provide your client with a platform for thought leadership. They can bring important but ignored issues that your client addresses to the fore. And they can open the door for more media coverage down the road.
But for every survey that makes its way into USA Today or the Wall Street Journal, it seems there are hundreds of surveys that generate little to no coverage at all. Here are five more reasons why we think that is:
6. There’s Not Enough Conflict
Conflict is the PR and marketing professional’s best friend. Why? Because without it, there’s no story (not an interesting one anyway). When developing a survey, you need to know where the conflict will be in every question. Sometimes, the conflict is created when you compare the answer to an external known. Other times, the conflict is created when the answer to one question is compared to the answer of another question.
7. They Aren’t Being Properly Pitched
Here’s the thing about pitching surveys—especially those that measure attitude, opinions and other broad slow-moving trends: they require patience. Unless you’re measuring something that will quickly change after a certain event or new information has been brought to light (e.g., how many people saw the Game of Thrones series finale), what you’re handing to reporters can often wait a week or even a month. Often I see companies announcing an interesting, relevant and informative survey in a press release that doesn’t result in any media coverage. The fault isn’t in the survey but in the way it must have been pitched (if it was pitched at all).
8. There’s No Follow-Up
Some of our biggest survey successes came after a misfire or two. Sometimes it’s what you learn from the first survey that helps inform the next. Once again, clients that understand this are the ones that benefit the most. Rather than issue one-off temperature reads, we often devise a themed survey series that tells a much larger story over quarterly installments. Over time, we’ll even have reporters ask us when the next installment will drop, because we’ve created as credible source of ongoing information for them.
9. They Don’t Focus on the Human Elements
Most of the surveys we create are for B2B tech clients. But even business tech-driven stories need to contain enough human elements to tell an interesting tale. Without them, there’s no drama or broad appeal. This can be tough to pull off for B2Bs, but in these cases, it often pays to go further downstream. Example: one of our clients is a digital marketing tech provider that sells to marketing professionals. The client was a B2B, but its clients were B2C. So while most of the surveys we see other marketing tech companies release gauge the opinions, practices or priorities of marketing professionals, we focused on those of the consumer. Granted, the client was a B2B—but their clients were B2C, which made consumer attitudes relevant to the B2B. This isn’t to say you must always find a way to incorporate the consumer. If the topic is business technology, don’t just focus on the technology. Go after how the technology is impacting not the organization but the business user. This will render even B2B surveys more human, which reporters are.
10. They’re Too Expensive
Here’s where we believe a lot of companies get it wrong: surveys don’t have to be expensive. In fact, you want them to be as cost-effective as possible, so you can keep doing them. This can be especially tough with B2B surveys as they require more targeted survey panels, which adds greatly to total cost. One corner you can cut is going with a market research firm or using an online survey tool that will field your survey without doing all the more expensive add-ons like development and messaging. (This often means it’s up to you to make sure the survey is constructed in a scientifically sound manner. Also, beware: top tier outlets like the New York Times tend not to trust surveys that aren’t attached to an established market research firm, though this isn’t always the case.) General consumer surveys tend to be much cheaper, but as I discussed above, they also tend to give you more mainstream appeal and greater chance for success.
MSR Communications has developed scores of award-winning survey campaigns on behalf of clients that regularly land in the pages of the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Business Insider and Wired, including the top tech, marketing and other trades. Check out our case studies here!