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15 April 2021
Caroline Walker, Director of PR & Content

Using research for PR

Using research for PR

Storytelling is a fundamental part of PR and journalism and when crafting stories that carry fact and meaning, using data adds credibility to a story. Research findings can underline the importance of an issue, giving the story more weight and, in some cases, form the basis of a news story alone.  

Traditionally, PR professionals have commissioned research agencies to survey sample groups or purchased industry reports to source these facts. Yet, in an age where mobile and online surveys are easy and inexpensive to run, we are increasingly seeing brands polling their customers and using their own data to create news stories. This activity can also foster relationships with existing customers, securing feedback on your brand and products. 

Focus your research
While it can be tempting to find out as much as possible from a research project, lengthy questionnaires turn respondents off and give you a smaller sample size or, potentially less reliable responses. It’s better to focus on one area, understand your audience’s attitudes and understanding of a particular topic, and limit surveys to between 10 and 20 questions. When developing research campaigns, we work with clients to choose an area that best represents their services – supporting thought leadership activity – and is topical to gain media traction. 

It’s also important to consider the demographic of people you are polling. Typically, for a consumer campaign, a sample size should exceed 2,000 respondents from a cross-section of genders, ages, household income and locations. However, it can be beneficial to poll specific groups such as homeowners or professionals in a particular industry. If interesting, we sometimes split findings to highlight difference of opinion between different demographic groups, e.g. only 20% of business owners in the North West are currently investing in AI compared to 60% in London and the South East. 

To run an effective research project, we recommend using the questions to gather useful insight for wider marketing purposes as well as for PR activity. It could help understand consumer needs, to support product and service development, or provide insight that could be shared with clients and prospects via your sales and client relations teams. 

What’s your headline?
We know how important headlines are for grabbing media attention. Lead with your strongest statistic. Especially high or low results make for the best headlines, and we look for findings that will shock or surprise. Avoid “No sh*t Sherlock!” stories – stating the obvious is not interesting. 

When developing a research questionnaire, we always think backwards, considering the stats we want to report in the final press release to engineer the right wording. Accurate reporting of survey results is key, it is misleading to stray too far from the wording in the original survey question. For example, if you want to report “three quarters of Brits plan to holiday in the UK this year”, your question needs to poll UK consumers and ask: “Where do you plan to holiday this year?”, with appropriate multiple-choice options including “UK”. You will not be able to report the response as: “three quarters of Brits are holidaying in the UK this year”, as the question specifies plans – the difference is subtle but important. For this reason, when working with a research agency, we always run final press releases through them to check compliance. 

Releasing your findings
Once collected and collated, make your research work hard. This is your brand intelligence and can be used across all internal and external communications for at least a couple of years as long as you properly reference the sample size and date of activity. 

Creating a research report can effectively showcase your findings and help to share surrounding insight from brand spokespeople. Using infographics and graphs to make the information easy to digest, the document can also be handed out at events and meetings or circulated to your email database. As well as opinion articles and blogs, we have also incorporated facts and figures into corporate videos, which sit on brand websites, exhibition stands and social media platforms. 

For PR purposes, a press release is still the best way to distribute news to the media and secure that all important media coverage. Clarity and brevity work best. While it can be tempting to include all findings, over-saturating the release only muddies your story. If the research creates several interesting stories, it is often better to stagger the release across a series of press releases, generating more coverage opportunities. We also tweak press releases and tailor our approach to individual journalists to secure articles in a range of target publications – depending on our clients’ audiences. This could include sector specific press as well as general business pages and regional press. 

Running a headline-stealing research project? Contact Caroline Walker on 01732 779 087 to discuss your media strategy. 



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