(Note: a version of this article was published by Bulldog Reporter on 12/6/21: “How to leverage surveys to score media coverage and grow your brand”)
Competition for media attention (anyone’s attention, really) is fierce. Companies and PR firms churn out news releases, often to deaf ears. They announce new products, services, locations, management hires and more.
Yes, these releases serve as important tools to help “put on record” the big events in the company’s life. They also provide a simple document to share with constituents and others. But, these things don’t really get the attention and coverage companies ultimately would like to secure.
What to do? Find a higher mountain top from which to scream? Send out better and more news?
Sadly, there’s no magic bullet (train) that will get you to the media mountaintop faster. Media relations success boils down to “creating” relevant news and sharing it smartly with your targeted reporters. Often, one by one. (Defining “smartly” really deserve another article.) This process is usually how the big feature stories we read evolve.
Of course, if you’re Apple or Tesla, reporters will cover most everything you share. But, a fraction of companies out there have this kind of cache.
Three Ways a Public Relations Survey Helps Your PR Efforts
So, what kind of news can you and your company create that achieves these three significant PR and brand-building wins?
- Secures a variety of earned stories you can use and amplify via several of your marketing channels (social, blog, website, email to your constituents, etc.).
- Helps to establish your credibility and expertise with media and your key audiences.
- Opens the door for additional opportunities with reporters and editors (future interviews, coverage for the next survey you issue, other).
Consider a public relations survey is the perfect tool. It may seem boring on the surface, but if you ask important, highly relevant questions about your industry of – and get interesting answers from – decision makers and/or consumers, BINGO. You have something of real value to offer media and their audiences.
You have insights, trends and consumer sentiment about relevant topics. And, you’re also in a terrific position.
Media Value Surveys for Their Own Editorial Needs
Our work this year (2020) with market research firm The Harris Poll further assured us how powerful surveys are. We created strategic media partnerships between Harris and AdAge, Fast Company, Crain’s Chicago Business and Yahoo Finance. Harris became the official polling service / provider for each of these media partners in exchange for offering their polling at no charge. That greatly elevated Harris’s brand. The AdAge-Harris Poll, Yahoo Finance-Harris Poll and others were born. The media partners knew the value in adding polls to their stories and running polls as the story, in some cases.
Say you’re a renewable energy company that creates wind and solar farms. How about surveying consumers about their knowledge, attitudes and opinions about: renewable energy, climate change, air and water quality, nuclear energy, seeing a turbine in their community, personal sacrifice in exchange for the benefits of renewable energy, and more?
If you’re a healthcare advertising agency, how about asking marketing managers at healthcare companies where they plan on increasing and decreasing their spending in the near future, what do they see as the greatest threats and opportunities to reaching consumer and healthcare practitioners (depending on their business), what they value most from marketing partners, and more?
How Many Respondents?
If you’re going to ask consumers, you will need several hundred (ideally 500 to 1k) respondents (via random sampling) to be statistically valid. (That’s where a polling company like Harris, Ipsos, Nielsen and others can be helpful). If you’re talking to people in a specific niche, such as healthcare marketers, many media will be ok with fewer than 50 respondents. Sometimes 25 will do the job with industry trade media. Depending on how large your client base is, you may be ok surveying them to increase control and reduce costs. I always recommend talking to editors at a few top trade publications first. Ask the minimum number of respondents they’d need to feel comfortable doing a story on the survey results.
Example of a Successful Survey
We designed and wrote a public relations survey our Core Spaces. Our (former) student housing developer client surveyed its 10k student residents this spring. More than 2,500 responded. We asked how the pandemic had impacted their learning, studying, families’ employment and income, mental health and more. We took and summarized the results and packaged them into a strong news release. During a week, we secured nearly 40 stories in local-market outlets; student-housing, facilities management, and university administration publications. These also included high-level outlets like Business Insider and MSN Lifestyle.
So, remember, there’s value in information. Use surveys to:
- Mine great information.
- Bring your own expertise to analyzing the data.
- Share all this with the media that matter most to your organization and industry.