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The six ‘Ws’ (and one ‘H’) of research-led PR

Richard Merrin, Managing Director of Spreckley Partners in the UK, shares his experience on Research-led PR.

First of all…why?

Any PR worth their salt knows that journalists, in both trade and national media, covet new statistics to fill column inches. Figures offer credibility for claims made, give insight into specific markets or audiences, and often mean your client’s message has a wider reach and longer lifespan than a corporate story or launch.

While the imminent ‘Summer Slump’ is notorious for spawning quirky studies to fill the news pages, thought provoking new research actually provides sales and marketing value all year round for your client.

Research-led PR can demonstrate your client’s knowledge and its expertise, as well as playing all the findings right back towards the marketing message.

It’s all about the soft sell.

What?

One of the best ways to ensure that you’re asking the right questions in a survey is to create your ‘dream’ coverage. Put yourself in the journalist’s shoes, and write a ‘news in brief’ or larger piece – complete with findings – that will enable you to work backwards towards the exact questions to put into the questionnaire.

Also consider the main deliverable you want to deliver to the client. Is this just a press release, or a series of analytical white papers? This will determine the detail of your questionnaire and the questions you ask.

Who?

The volume of respondents also needs to represent a good sample of your market. For example, 1,000 responses would be ideal if you are asking UK consumers, but if you’re looking for the views of IT decision makers in public sector organisations, much fewer responses would make more sense.

With consumer research, consider an incentive – from an iPad to Amazon vouchers – to boost responses. Make sure the prize draw relates to the topic of the survey for extra points from the Marketing Manager!

When?

Does a particular quarter, period or time of year relate to your survey? Consider also tying in your research with a national day/week, important date for your client or even an event.

Surveys are also a great way to generate news when your client is going through a ‘quiet’ news period. After all, PR is a proactive profession!

Where?

Where is the market you want to study? Is this a geographic market, or a particular industry sector?

Also consider if you can survey more than one market or geography and compare results. For example, how do UK consumers behave compared to US consumers within a particular market?

How?

How you execute market research depends completely on the deliverables.

Specialist research partners, social media, business and personal contacts, existing databases and bought-in lists can all be used to find respondents. Ask if you need to retain control of the research method, in which case a tool like SurveyMonkey may be the best fit.

You could even join forces with another company – perhaps a partner or customer – for twice the distribution power.

Remember…content is king

Research-led PR really is one of the best ways to generate a wealth of credible, original and thought provoking content, across your client’s company.

It can form the basis of a fully integrated marketing campaign, from design and sales literature, through to field marketing and lead generation. In fact, the possibilities really are endless.

And when it comes to next year’s PR plan? Run the research again!

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