There probably isn’t a week that goes by when you don’t come across – on television or radio, in print, online or via social media – a research survey on a consumer or business topic. What factors lead a survey to pique the interest of reporters, analysts and social media influencers? Why do some surveys resonate with everyday consumers or workers, while others flounder and quickly fade into obscurity?
Surveys are conducted not just to generate external attention, but also to guide internal decision-making. To ensure your research survey is constructed, managed and communicated most effectively, below are 9 strategies to consider.
Ensure survey is not duplicative
Surveys are an effective tool to gain market intelligence and generate attention from key press outlets and influencers. As such, it is very likely that competitors and others in your space have conducted research that touches on similar themes. If you are building a survey designed for external consumption, scan competitor news sections to see surveys they have released, and conduct more expansive searches on anything that might resemble your survey.
If others have touched on your survey theme, it doesn’t mean you need to avoid it. Instead, develop angles not previously covered and, most importantly, understand when competitors put out annual surveys so you are not conflicting with that timing. If two surveys come out that are similar in theme but have different results, reporters will question the viability of both and may choose to avoid covering the data altogether.
Aim for contrarian results
Surveys that tend to be widely reported and viral are ones where the results buck conventional wisdom. The satirical publication The Onion once ran the headline, “Poll finds majority of Americans have never met William Dafoe.” The faux poll headline pokes fun at real surveys that come up with unsurprising results. And while this is headline news for The Onion, predictable survey outcomes are a death knell for generating survey coverage.
Generate questions that you believe might lead to unexpected answers, because results that counter expectations will prove most interesting to the market because you are telling them something they don’t know, not simply reinforcing their previously held assumptions.
Ensure data will have external and internal value
From time to time, I’m brought into a survey process near completion, and find that many of the questions have been designed for the company to gain useful intelligence for internal purposes. This could be research for a pending product launch or a company pushing into a new market. Often, the questions are suitable for internal intelligence, but rather useless for externalizing the data. This is due to the fact that the questions don’t follow a cohesive theme and are too scattered to assemble into a strong media story, lack the necessary filtering to break up results in a meaningful way, or lead to answers that are just plain boring. This is a wasted opportunity; research surveys are not cheap, and that means you want to squeeze every possible ounce of internal and external value out of it. You can’t go back and add something after the survey is complete, so take the time to think about questions and answers that can serve multiple objectives from day one.
Use surveys to support product/service launches
Contrarian and compelling results are great, but if they undermine business objectives the survey is rendered useless. For example, let’s say your company is in the process of developing or launching a new Cloud-based mobile videoconferencing solution for small businesses and want to conduct a survey showing that the small business market is demanding this type of product. Be sure to have enough knowledge of the market to surmise whether it is ready for the solution, because if survey results come back and are underwhelming, you will likely not want to externalize that data.
A better way to approach this scenario is to flip the questions and focus on what this market is looking for in a mobile videoconferencing solution from a price, features, and functionality perspective. This strategy not only generates less threatening results, but also provides valuable intelligence to ensure your product matches what the market is looking for.
For survey questions, KISS (Keep it simple, stupid)
A key objective of a survey is to generate deep, meaningful results. That said, the more complex the Q&A, the more difficult it can be to communicate survey results to the media. For example, let’s say you ask the following question: “One-third of executives who have been in their position more than five years have strong compliance measures in place.” These results are a tough sell because they introduce multiple data points and filtering into a single response, and it is unclear if this filtering even has any added significance. Develop questions that will generate clean, easy to consume data points that a reporter, analyst, business decision maker or the lay consumer can relate to.
Make data more ‘consumable’ with infographics
While there will always be an audience receptive to deep, granular survey data, most individuals do not have the time or wherewithal to sift through pages of text and numbers – no matter how compelling the results are. Instead, marketers are seeing better traction when the data is presented through engaging, visual infographics. Images and videos are used ‘tell a story’ through the data that can be consumed quickly and easily. Infographics also allow organizations to imprint their brand look and feel with the data, and direct audiences visually to data points that you feel are most significant or beneficial to broader story.
Go one step further with ‘snackable’ graphics
In the era of social media, even some larger visuals are not optimal for the condensed content formats of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Vine. To ensure that survey data can be easily communicated via social channels, create ‘snackable’ or ‘bite-sized’ graphics that are scaled down to a more shareable format. These graphics are sized to remove the extra step for consumers of the graphic to have to click on a lick or navigate to the full-sized graphic.
Use survey results to anchor thought leadership
Sure, many organizations conducting a survey might build a white paper or report around the date and put out a press release, but this leaves several other opportunities on the table. Don’t be the organization that spends $50,000 on a survey, has the results come in, and only then asks what they are going to do with the data.
If the results tell a strong story, extend the life of the results by building content around the data, such as byline articles that can be placed in target publications, webinars, conference speaker entries, and slideshare.
Create a home for your survey
Depending on budget and ultimate objectives, there is value in creating a digital home for your survey to live at for an indefinite period of time. If the survey is unique enough in nature, it is not uncommon for the data to be cited by press, analysts, and even other companies for weeks and months after the survey is released. If organic search leads individuals to a landing page that is dynamically updated with complementary and current information – rather than routing searchers to a dated, static press release – the benefits of the survey can have a long shelf life.
This digital home can include other types of content referenced in this column, such as infographics, white papers, byline articles and videos that support the data or relate to it.
Originally published Mar 12, 2014 3:58:10 AM, updated July 28 2017