Good research is still an essential underpinning of an effective public relations campaign. The current landscape is saturated with “studies” and not all of them credible. Plus, technology and consumer behavior continue to impact how research gets done.
Yet as much as the world around us changes, some things stay the same. It’s still about thoughtfully executed research, applied to client challenges in the most strategic possible way. We recently welcomed a representative from Harris Interactive, a global market research firm, to our boardroom to explore how today’s multi-screen world is changing the research industry – and got a few good tips on how to utilize research effectively in PR. Here are a few things we learned.
The Big Debate: Phone vs. Online Surveys
No real surprise here. According to Harris Interactive, people hang up about 96 percent of the time during a phone survey. It wasn’t too long ago that phone surveys were regarded as the gold standard. While this is definitely a sign of changing times, to members of Gen Y like me, this seems like a no brainer; who would waste any time on participating in a phone survey these days?
On top of that, they confirmed that phone surveys are three to four times more costly than online surveys. In an informal poll of our boardroom, only two of the 15-plus staff members in the room even had a landline. So, online it is.
This trend toward online surveys presents a bit of a disconnect with some of the major news media outlets that still insist on phone surveys. It’s likely though that, with time, these outlets will focus more on core questions about research methodology and respondent base – rather than the survey channel itself.
Good Data Has a Long Shelf Life – So Spread It Out
Many organizations that conduct a survey for themselves or a client often issue a press release announcing all of the findings in one shot. But why not spread it out? Good, credible research data is typically good for up to six months, so there’s no reason to rush. If it makes sense for you or your client, consider releasing one or two news-worthy data points at a time. Analyze the information in your survey and strategically plan how to present it from a timing perspective. That way, your statistics and findings can go a long way.
The Future of Surveys is on Your Cell Phone
It’s no surprise that mobile devices have emerged as the next target for many large market research companies. Cell phone surveys have been in the works for a long time, but aren’t quite ready for “prime time” in the research world for a variety of reasons. Studies on the transition to mobile research are ongoing and complex due, in part, to the fact that cell data is not comparable to census information. Plus consumers can be hesitant regarding what they perceive as “solicitation calls” on their personal mobile devices.
Despite these barriers, this transition is already underway. So we can anticipate mobile surveys becoming more of a go-to in coming years.
Know Your Methodology – Especially When Pitching a Reporter
Our Harris presenter could not emphasize enough the importance of this piece of advice. It’s simple enough – make sure you know the foundation of your research methodology when pitching a story to journalists, because they will demand that background. Who and how many people took the survey? How was it fielded? When was the data collected? How was it analyzed? On what are you basing your conclusions? Is there another obvious way to interpret the numbers?
Understanding more about how to best utilize research can help PR pros uncover the next big opportunity for clients. Are you using research in the most strategic way possible?