The New Source Of Thought Leadership Content: DIY Surveys


Providing meaningful insights for clients stems from an ability to do two things: finding out what really matters to stakeholders, and then measuring how much it matters. Across multiple industries including retail, food, and health, I see an increasing recognition that leveraging data can result in a much clearer understanding of market landscapes.

The phrase ‘Big Data’ has quickly become an outdated, catch-all phrase for online marketers, but it is undeniable that the pure volume of data and the speed at which is delivered is still increasing at an exponential rate. Gartner predicts that by the year 2020, enterprise data will experience 650% growth, and according to IDC, the world’s information is almost doubling every 18 months.

The quality of data is also constantly changing – ‘good’ data can rapidly become ‘bad’ data. In business, the need to make decisions quickly, with reliable, actionable, and high-quality data is paramount to remaining relevant and ahead of the competition.

Public relations professionals and other marketers have long valued data for its capability of validating stories in the eyes of the media and the wider public. Yet, its place in print might be one of the reasons that data is neglected as a source of generating thought leadership content. Creating a bespoke survey to support a new business pitch or a proactive campaign with thought leadership, evidenced by quantitative research, should be embraced as an effective strategy.

Arguments against commissioning this type of research, such as the time it takes or the cost of hiring an expensive market research firm, can now be left behind. Digital survey providers enabled by today’s technology mean that individuals can develop surveys themselves, centered around a brand or market, that deliver results almost instantly.

As partners and colleagues of the media, it’s important for public relations professionals to help the media adjust to and enter the digital era – while also ensuring their brands are doing the same. I know that many PR pros do this in a number of ways – from sharing videos, images, and infographics with their friendly reporters, to generating their own content on brand blogs and social media sites. So what else can PR be doing to create digital era-worthy thought leadership content?

While the word ‘research’ doesn’t sound exciting, we are in an age when not only is content king – so is data. Glassdoor published its 25 Best Jobs in America report earlier this year, with Data Scientist taking the top spot. The term “big data” is everywhere; because our society has access to more connected data than ever before. This means PR professionals should also be leveraging data on behalf of their brands and clients to improve media exposure. One informative and fun method for gathering this data is to conduct DIY surveys.

The steps below are key for optimizing DIY surveys designed to create thought leadership inspiration:

Create A Narrative Within Your Survey

As is the case with any content, you need to know your story. Since gathering survey data will help you bolster an idea, make sure your survey’s narrative structure and flow help set you up for thought leadership success.

Start with a few broad questions that will help reveal your audience’s general background and point of view. These basic questions also weed out any participants who fall outside your market. After this, drill down deeper into the crux of your story with your remaining questions.

Keep It Simple And Succinct

A common pitfall to avoid is asking too much of survey respondents. For example, many first-time survey issuers create a grid with 40 attributes, which is far too much for a respondent to absorb. So, what happens? The respondent answers haphazardly, dramatically diminishing the value of the data.

It’s much more effective to feed respondents one or two attributes at a time, ensuring greater focus and thus better data quality. A good guideline is to limit the number of questions to no more than 15; however, if you can keep it shorter with five to 10 questions, that’s even better.

Ensure The Data Is Robust

As respondents move toward taking shorter, more efficient surveys, companies must adapt and learn to do more with less, focusing on continuously improving their data quality. One way to ensure this quality is to use a survey tool that can validate respondents using their email address, blocking fake or disposable IP domains.

It’s important for PR pros and marketers to remember that this kind of research doesn’t just generate data – it creates insights for the brand, its leaders, and even product teams to help them build on their messaging, products and values.