By Mark Simon, Managing Director for North America and Digital, Toluna
Every writer and public relations professional knows quantitative data can help support an already strong story. As a provider of insights for a number of industries, we’re seeing more and more interest in leveraging data from brands in retail, food, media and beyond. In fact, we noticed the earliest adopters of DIY research were agencies and brands because they quickly recognized the need to leverage consumer data for their client’s or brand’s advantage. While you may already be using data points in bylined articles and interviews with reporters, research can power so much more than supporting statistics in your thought leadership content.
As PR pros continue to be tasked with content creation, survey research can provide insight into timelier consumer issues as they relate to brands. DIY surveys as a tool for communications professionals can inform a number of activities from leveraging data to back up a thought leadership position, to setting the agenda during a crisis before the media can form an opinion, to enabling rapid response public relations by soliciting feedback following a breaking news event in your industry.
Survey research and survey platforms have come such a long way in recent years such that you don’t need to commission an expensive market research firm to develop data to support your PR activities—you can do it yourself. Survey research today is free, easy and oftentimes provides real-time results. Many DIY survey tools are modeled after those respected and acknowledged by market researchers, so users never have to worry that the data is erroneous. Further, by issuing a survey centered around your brand and market, you can gather data on the issues that matter most to you and your brand.
Sounds simple and straightforward, right? It is. But there are a number of best practices to follow in developing your DIY survey to ensure you glean the most useful and actionable consumer data to support your PR efforts. Make sure you’re following these top tips for optimizing your DIY surveys.
Build your story, build your survey: As is the case with any content, you need to know your story—or at least the framework of the story you’re hoping to tell. Since gathering survey data will help you bolster that story, make sure you have a narrative structure and flow within your survey that helps set you up for story-telling success. Start with a few broad questions that not only help establish the basics of your audience’s background and point of view but also weed out any participants who fall outside your market, then drill down deeper into the crux of your story in the remaining questions.
Keep it focused: A common pitfall to avoid is building surveys that ask too much of a respondent at one time, leading to the respondent answering in a haphazard manner, which dramatically diminishes the value of the data. A good rule of thumb is to limit the number of questions to between five and 15
Consider data quality: As respondents move toward taking shorter, more efficient surveys, we must adapt and learn to do more with less, with an eye on continuously improving data quality. One way to ensure data quality is to use a survey tool that validates respondents using their email address, blocking fake or disposable IP domains. It’s easy to verify this at the outset of your engagement with the platform.
Have fun with the experience: 76 percent of survey takers claim that a more interactive experience will keep them more interested and less likely to drop out. One way to check if you have an engaging survey is to take the survey yourself to understand first-hand how a respondent may react. More often than not, the experience may help you realize you need to tweak some questions.
It’s important for PR pros to remember that this kind of research doesn’t simply generate data, it creates insights for the brand, its thought leaders and even product teams to help them build on their messaging, products and content. Survey research can be instrumental in helping PR professionals provide broader perspective, and insight into what consumers want to hear about. Ultimately, the process of gathering DIY research can benefit your brand or agency clients, the media you work with and the brand’s customers, all in one, by generating accurate and actionable data.
Mark has been with Toluna since 2005, and took on the role of Managing Director for Toluna North America in 2013. He is also the Managing Director of Toluna Digital. Before joining Toluna as a founding member of the UK business in 2005, and later functioning as the Managing Director of the UK office, Mark worked for Greenfield Online, a pioneer in internet research (and subsequently acquired by Toluna in 2009). Prior to joining the digital research industry he had eight years of experience in data planning and direct marketing. Mark has a degree in Business Economics and French from Southampton University, England.