23 Jan 2017

Strong survey metrics beat the sceptics

Beau Bass, Senior Account Executive at Spreckley

How big, how many, and how fast? Numbers help tell stories. As a result, surveys are a valuable tool that can form the basis of a truly effective PR campaign by generating data that, when teamed with a creative and visionary execution, can truly captivate your audience.

But creating a great survey, receiving the insightful responses, and achieving evocative coverage isn’t always plain sailing. Follow our top tips to ensure you create a meaningful and valid survey that will give you the best ROI.

  1. Planning

Before you put pen to paper, it’s important to identify the objective behind the survey and what you are trying to prove. This will help steer the types of question you need to ask.

It may be worth writing your ideal headline and working back from there. Doing so will help you to establish what questions will lead to this end result.

You’ll also want to carefully consider your target audience. Respondents need to be reflective of the campaign you are running, for example, it would be silly to ask the opinion of 18-24 year olds about their holiday preferences if you wanted to run a campaign on destination trips for the over 50s. Or, if you were running a thought leadership campaign on IT strategies in SME sized business, it wouldn’t make sense to conduct research asking questions to CIOs in businesses with more than a thousand people working in them.

  1. Media Audit

Conducting a media audit to determine what other research has already been completed is an extremely valuable exercise. After all, you’re hardly going to get amazing results if your competitor has just released the same information. Shedding light on what’s already been tried and tested will enable you to formulate a new angle and approach, while also helping you to gauge the media receptivity of different topics.

  1. Keep it simple

So you’ve established the context of your survey, the next step is to write your questions. But be cautious, there are some pitfalls that are easy to make on even the simplest of questions. The basis of any successful survey is underpinned by questions that are concise and specific. The aim here is to write a question that your reader will easily understand without having to read it again. To prevent any uncertain responses, only ask one question at a time and avoid words and phrases that are left to the reader’s interpretation.

  1. Factor in all options

Keep in mind that some respondents won’t be able to answer all questions. For these situations, offering additional options such as “does not apply” will make sure that the results aren’t skewed. Additionally, when you have a number of choices in one list, you should include the most likely options, but you should also use “other, please specify” as an additional choice. This will help guarantee that all bases are covered.

  1. Test

People can often behave in ways that you don’t expect, so conducting a trial can ensure that you don’t end up with useless results. By way of example, if you have a question with a range of predefined answers and the majority of people tick the “other” category, this demonstrates that you will need to refine your options to capture information more clearly. If you want to make sure your survey is concrete, you have to test the waters first.

  1. Size matters

Questions and trial completed, so let’s get this survey out to the field. But how many people am I sending this to? Many journalists will argue that there are numerous unauthentic surveys out there with questionable data. So it goes without saying, legitimate research needs a credible sample size. The BBC firmly believes this and requires a minimum of 1,000 people to be surveyed (the more the merrier of course). But remember, your sample size will vary depending on your audience: 1,000 CIOs discussing IT issues will be deemed far more credible than 2,000 consumers talking about eCommerce.

Following these guidelines, as well as adhering to the Market Research Society’s (MRS) Code of Conduct, will lead you on the path to a great survey.