The death knell of the traditional press release has been sounded. Yes, there is still some value such as SEO, and perhaps it might even get picked up – it does happen occasionally. But, if it’s earned media you’re after the release better be ‘muscular’ – newsworthy. The reality is most press releases never travel beyond the release distribution service wires and rarely earn the media their creators intended.

We at SWNS Media Group often hear account executives groan about the particular challenges of press releases in the multiplatform, social media-driven environment we all work and live in. Their gripes are certainly valid – media relations in today’s world IS hard, have always been hard. A few years ago I met a very successful, long-retired, entertainment PR executive who often struggled earning media attention even with is stable of high-profile, glamorous, sexy clients. His strategy – begging, by phone if you can imagine. On a good begging day, he could count on at least 50 hang-ups.

So what can you do when you need valuable, compelling content for your press release but the client, topic or news is neither? And the survey says…  create original research that yields compelling timely data and make your own news.  Using research to generate news is not new but it can be forgotten and it shouldn’t. All journalists like credible data and many even love it. Why? Because their followers, readers, listeners, viewers love it too.

It’s human nature. We want to compare and contrast ourselves with others, feel better (or worse) about ourselves. We want to know what others think, feel, do and say about almost any topic. But what about my incredibly stodgy, boring, finance client you say? The media want relevant data about business, medicine, science, health and other generally unsexy topics too.

It doesn’t matter if you are seeking opinions of everyday humans, a naturally representative sample of Americans, a particular demographic slice of the larger population OR answers from highly specialized thought leaders and practitioners in specific business sectors, there is a boundless appetite for data.

And one survey can go a very long way. Extend the life and value of the survey with social media. Tweet your stats. Your client can comment on the survey on LinkedIn, blog about it on their website. Commission a companion infographic and/or video to use on Snapchat and Pinterest. Start a conversation about the survey on your client’s Facebook page. Put that survey story supporting video on your client’s YouTube channel.

What about cost?  Isn’t research expensive? Well yes, it can be but it doesn’t have to be. Whether a custom designed survey or a do it yourself tool, many online quantitative research agencies offer affordable survey options using their software platforms and standing, double opt-in consumer panels. Some of which, like ours, even provide editorial consultation on the news value of your story.

To ensure survey-led news success, make sure:

  • your survey is current – recent. Don’t use an old survey for new news.
  • the topic is compelling to the target audience
  • the research agency or platform you use is credible
  • to survey the right people. Do you need to talk to anyone, social media obsessives, millennials, boomers, women, caregivers?
  • it’s not redundant. Check that no one else did the same exact survey of the same people last week.

A smartly crafted, creative survey can give a press release a stand-alone boost or it can play a key role in a larger, integrated promotional strategy. A survey may not always be the answer to your earned media challenges but it should always have a place in your toolkit

Top Tips for Successful PR Surveys
  • your survey is current – recent. Don’t use an old survey for new news.
  • the topic is compelling to the target audience
  • the research agency or platform you use is credible
  • to survey the right people. Do you need to talk to anyone, social media obsessives, millennials, boomers, women, caregivers?
  • it’s not redundant. Check that no one else did the same exact survey of the same people last week.
Survey Question Writing “Dos”
  • Do focus on a single topic or issue
  • Do be as brief as possible
  • Do keep questions grammatically simple
  • Do make sure your questions are easy to understand
Survey Question Writing “Don’ts”
  • Don’t “lead” respondents to a particular answer.
  • Don’t use “loaded” wording or phrasing that might have an emotive implication
  • Don’t use“ double-barreled” questions. Questions that could have two possible responses should be split into two questions and asked separately.
  • Don’t be ambiguous.
  • Don’t use “dramatics” or words that overstate the condition

*Post excerpted from an article in the 2016 PRNews Writer’s Guidebook.