4 tips for using research to make headlines at Christmas 

by | Dec 17, 2018 | Analysis, Public Relations

It’s that time of year—Christmas is at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Amidst the Brexit saga and Donald Trump, everyone is in desperate need of some light-hearted stories.

Fun research is a great way to bring a story to life—not only does it create relevant content but, when done effectively, around times like the festive period it can really inject feeling into a story. Here are four things to bear in mind when running research to assist in generating your (Christmas) stories:


Timing is key. If you want to get ahead of the curve then start your Christmas research early—this can be as early as October or, if you’re really keen, July, as many brands and businesses begin to plan their Christmas strategy in the early summer months.

Of course, organization to this degree isn’t always possible but, leaving it to the last minute is going to do more harm than good—you’ll scramble around in a panic, put together research that isn’t extensive enough and find that you won’t be able to match up to your competition.

When conducting your research, ensure that you allow the time to plan your questions in depth so that you get everything you need from your survey and more. Scrutinize your results, and pick out the most interesting and most relevant insights before sending your story out to the world.

Ask the right questions

If you want the right stats for your story, you need to ask the right questions. Different stories will attract different publications, so the more titles and topics you can pull from your research, the more widely they will be read. For more emotional stories, open questions will create longer answers and evoke more emotional responses but, for those punchy pieces, short, closed questions will give you those hard-hitting stats; for example, only 38 percent (2 in 5) put brandy on their Christmas pudding!

Your research may evolve continuously until the day of survey launch because of trend shifts. Pay attention to the latest developments and utilize them to your benefit and prepare to have to adapt your surveys quickly. If a big Christmas ad has just been released, ask people what they think about it. If a new iPhone is being put on the shelves, ask people if they are going to buy it and why. This sounds simple but people read the news for relevance—so keep it relevant!

Relevancy may be key but, it doesn’t mean that your questions all have to be dry. From a creative content perspective, what will get your story noticed is if it is both informing and engaging. A worthwhile story won’t only tell the reader the facts and figures, it will also entertain. When thinking about your research, don’t neglect questions that will add spark to a story.

“Nearly a third of people (29 percent) will drink white wine with their Christmas dinner”: think about the respondent—keep it lighthearted!

Not only is research used to generate a news story, it is an experience for the respondent – and you should make it an enjoyable one. Try and make the research questions generate emotion for a respondent’—get them thinking about their own Christmas; what does Christmas means to them? What’s their favorite Christmas song (are they part of the 27 percent that would choose Fairytale of New York by the Pogues?) What do they usually do at Christmas and how has that changed over the years? Evoking emotions such as nostalgia, happiness and humor are a great way to hook your respondents.

With all of the bad news people are reading, it’s great when you can allow the research to develop into a story which is invigorating to read.

This doesn’t always necessarily have to be on the subject of the holidays but, whatever it is you’re researching, keep it lighthearted, relevant and emotive. Remember that lots of agencies will be running similar surveys so the more original you can make this, the better.

“Monopoly is the most popular board game at Christmas”: statistics are great for brand awareness and brand usage

Alternatively, if news generation isn’t your thing, brands are always interested to see what impact their campaigns are having. A great way to use research to gain this insight is to track brand awareness and brand usage.

This year, many people are asking whether Christmas adverts have had the expected impact. A few years ago, everyone was talking about the John Lewis TV ad (The Bear and The Hare or Monty the Penguin), and although these ads are still enjoyed by many, they perhaps don’t resonate with the masses as they once did. This year more people are discussing banned ads, as they were more relevant to the zeitgeist of 2018 (and not to the masses and the older generation of TV watchers).

Brands need to use research to track the impact of their campaigns and affirm their business decisions. There are multiple ways to do this; the easiest is through online brand tracking. This can be done around any campaign, at either a particular time of year or across the entire year. You can also hone in to specific audiences to give more in depth responses—you can do this through gathering video responses and gauging people’s reactions to an ad.

All in all, these are just a few ways to utilize the holiday period to gain more insight for your clients and generate some fun news stories along the way!

Francesca Edwards
Account Director Francesca Edwards has worked with VIGA since launch and in the research industry for the past 5 years. She manages a range of client relationships and currently works with a number of PR and market research agencies.


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