How to leverage surveys to score media coverage and grow your brand

by | Jan 6, 2021 | Analysis, Public Relations

Competition for media attention (anyone’s attention, really) is fierce. Companies churn out news releases, often to deaf ears. They announce new products, services, locations, management hires and more.

Yes, these releases serve as important tools to help “put on record” the big events in the company’s life and provide a simple document to share with constituents and others. But, these things don’t really get the attention and coverage companies ultimately would like to secure.

What to do? Find a higher mountain top from which to scream? Send out better and more news?

There’s no magic bullet (train) that will get you to the media mountaintop faster. Media relations success boils down to “creating” relevant news and sharing it smartly with your targeted reporters. Often, one by one. (Defining “smartly” really deserve another article.) This process is usually how the big feature stories we read evolve.

Of course, if you’re Apple or Tesla, reporters will cover most everything you share. But, a fraction of companies out there have this kind of cache.

Three ways surveys help your PR efforts

So, what kind of news can you and your company create that achieves these three significant PR and brand-building wins?

  1. Secures a variety of earned stories you can use and amplify via several of your marketing channels (social, blog, website, email to your constituents, etc.).
  2. Helps to establish your credibility and expertise with media and your key audiences.
  3. Opens the door for additional opportunities with reporters and editors (future interviews, coverage for the next survey you issue, other).

Surveys are the perfect tool. It may seem boring on the surface, but if you ask important, highly relevant questions about your industry of—and get interesting answers from—decision makers and/or consumers, BINGO. You have something of real value to offer media and their audiences.

You have insights. You have trends. You have consumer sentiment about relevant topics. And, you’re also in a terrific position.

Media value surveys for their own editorial needs

Our work this year (2020) with market research firm The Harris Poll further assured us how powerful surveys are. We created strategic media partnerships between Harris and AdAge, Fast Company, Crain’s Chicago Business and Yahoo Finance. Harris became the official polling service / provider for each of these media partners in exchange for offering their polling at no charge. That greatly elevated Harris’s brand. The AdAge-Harris Poll, Yahoo Finance-Harris Poll and others were born. The media partners knew the value in adding polls to their stories and running polls as the story, in some cases.

Surveys ideas

Say you’re a renewable energy company that creates wind and solar farms. How about surveying consumers about their knowledge, attitudes and opinions about: renewable energy, climate change, air and water quality, nuclear energy, seeing a turbine in their community, personal sacrifice in exchange for the benefits of renewable energy, and more?

If you’re a healthcare advertising agency, how about asking marketing managers at healthcare companies where they plan on increasing and decreasing their spending in the near future, what do they see as the greatest threats and opportunities to reaching consumer and healthcare practitioners (depending on their business), what they value most from marketing partners, and more?

How many respondents?

If you’re going to ask consumers, you will need several hundred (ideally 500 to 1k) respondents (via random sampling) to be statistically valid. (That’s where a polling company like Harris, Ipsos, Nielsen and others can be helpful). If you’re talking to people in a specific niche, such as healthcare marketers, many media will be ok with fewer than 50 respondents. Sometimes 25 will do the job with industry trade media. Depending on how large your client base is, you may be ok surveying themto increase control and reduce costs. I always recommend talking to editors at a few top trade publications to ask the minimum number of respondents they’d need to feel comfortable doing a story on the survey results.

Example of a successful survey

We designed and wrote a survey our Core Spaces, our (former) student housing developer client used with its 10k student residents this spring. More than 2,500 responded. We asked how the pandemic had impacted their learning, studying, families’ employment and income, mental health and more. We took and summarized the results and packaged them into a strong news release. During a week, we secured nearly 40 stories in local-market outlets; student-housing, facilities management, and university administration publications; and high-level outlets like Business Insider and MSN Lifestyle.

So, remember, there’s value in information. Use surveys to mine great information, bring your own expertise to analyzing the data, and share all this with the media that matter most to your organization and industry.

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Jason Sherman
Jason and the firm he founded in 2002, SHERMAN communications and marketing, help funded startups to Fortune 500 companies identify and cultivate their potential greatness – internally and externally.

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