PR Tactic: The Survey


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What is it?

It’s when you conduct a piece of research with the aim of finding and revealing newsworthy information. 


Why should you use it?

If you work in an area that has the potential to be newsworthy, then using a survey is a very good idea. The purpose of the survey is to examine a section of the population and reveal some underlying trend or usage pattern. If this pattern is in favour of your product, service or industry then it’s a good idea. 


Here is an example. Imagine that you have an organic spray tanning company and you want to conduct a survey. A piece of information comes out which shows the use of spray tan per head of population in the 15 largest economies in the world. You decide to use the methodology to see how Ireland rates in comparison. Now imagine if the survey showed that per head of population Ireland was the leading user of spray tan in the world. You would get media coverage for that story.

How should you use it?

There are two types of survey – qualitative and quantitative.


Quantitative deals with the volume of information. What percentage of the population is doing something. These surveys are based on a representative sample based on the population as a whole. They give hard data that is very useful for news generation.


Qualitative deals with quality information. What do customers think of a product? What are their insights to the market, how do they spend their time and their money. This type of information is useful to an organisation, but not usually for news purposes. It can be very good to inform a quantitative survey, and give a deeper meaning to the numbers.


If you want to conduct a survey it is essential to use a reputable survey company. Doing a representative sample that will give good results will take an investment. These are the key steps:

  1. Write a brief outlining: 
    • What would you like to achieve?
    • What premise or thesis do you want the survey to test?
    • Who are your audience?
    • What key questions would you like to ask. Be specific. It’s good to test serious and novel questions. In surveys questions are the key. How people respond to them will make or break the news. Professional market researchers are in the business of framing good questions.  
    • Write some imaginary news headlines based on what the survey results might reveal.
    • Pick three survey companies. There are always two to three prominent ones in each market. They also have a representative body where you can go and get their names. Pick the ones whose previous work you like.
  2. Meet three of them and ask for a proposal. This way you will educate yourself and really figure out what you need and what it will cost. Based on three proposals there should be some consensus. 


When should you use it?

It’s best to use it on the run into the busiest time of the year for your organisation. When do you need to be piqued in the interest of your audience most? That’s when you need to do a survey most.