Credible PR Surveys

Polling has become part of the regular toolset of PR Agencies. A well designed poll, however small, can attract significant media attention. But the increased use of polls by PR Agencies has meant that journalists are less willing to take any survey results. Some agencies have resorted to visual techniques like Infographics, which can help communicate a story. But the best way of ensuring polls are considered fit for a news story ultimately depends on (a) an original or creative idea (b) execution of a credible survey.

 Here’s our top ten tips for PR Agencies for execs to design their own surveys.
1) Keep the questions short                                                                                                                                  
Its generally best to keep both individual questions and the questionnaire as short as possible, always concentrating on the key objectives of the survey and the potential headlines you want to generate. 
2) Use Closed Questions
For most surveys closed questions will generate the results you need. Open ended questions can generate some credible quotes, but in general are of limited use for media content. Ultimately if you need to report % and mean scores, there is little point in asking open questions.
3) Credible Stories
Quirky or fun stories make good headlines, but unrealistic surveys do not. Whatever the angle, the survey must be seen to deliver something objective and credible.
4) Forced Answers
Too many PR surveys are still based on leading questionnaires. For example, limiting the realistic choice of answers or excluding don’t knows. This approach will increase your chances of getting the “right” answer but it also risks being found out by more inquisitive journalists, or delivering skewed answers.
5) Sample Size
Nationwide surveys (nationally representative or gen rep) typically should be 1,000 interviews. Some polls are 2,000, although in reality 1,000 interviews often will suffice. The sample size for niche groups, such as young mums, or Business Decision Makers can be as few as several hundred to be credible, although larger surveys are best if the budget is available.
6) Think International
Conducting international surveys is more affordable online than it used to be. Consider a pan European or surveys with a mix of countries to represent different regions. Surveygoo can reach consumers in over 40 countries, so there are plenty of opportunities to go international.
7) National or regional?
National surveys are popular but regional or even city based surveys can be used to focus on the regional press. Be careful not to combine national and regional surveys without a sufficient sample size. 1,000 interviews provides scope to compare London with the North East, but often not enough interviews to compare London with Birmingham. Consider 2,000 interviews, or a national poll of 1,000 but topped up with additional interviews in the regions you are more focused on.
8) Do you really want rank order questions?
Ranking a question in order can sound like a good idea, but sometimes PR execs struggle with how to report the results. Are you interested in the rank order, or do you just want to know what % mentioned x,y and z.
9) Single or Multicode questions
Think carefully whether each multiple choice question should have a single code or multicode answers. If you only have a few answer options, a single code is better. If you have a long list of answers, offering multicode is likely to result in a greater spread of answers (e.g. each with lower %). Consider limiting multicode to the top three or five answers.
10) Be realistic with b2b surveys
You are not going to reach C suite respondents in large companies via an online panel. Consider whether you need to reach the most senior job titles, or whether other Business Decision Makers are not only more realistic to reach via a panel, but actually may know more about the subject (e.g. internet security is something an IT network manager will know about rather than the CIO!)

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