Having worked in PR research since 2007, I’ve witnessed first-hand the evolution of PR surveys from being quick, short polls, into in-depth and all-encompassing research projects.

PR surveys used to be exclusively designed for PR and Communications teams wanting to achieve page-lead newspaper coverage from a single survey. Today however, PR agencies and in-house teams are under pressure to use data to create and distribute a multitude of content across a wide range of platforms and channels.

Here at OnePoll, we’ve grown with the industry and always tailored our offering to provide PRs the best research and service possible – matching each client’s specific needs and desired outcomes.

We have conducted thousands of surveys for the PR industry alone. There have always been constants with each project. There are always areas that the research has to cover in order to ensure clients get the most out of their research and that the stats hold up to scrutiny once they go to press.

Here are my top 5 ways to ensure your PR research is up to scratch:

1. Ask as many questions as you can

If you’re going to venture into the PR survey jungle, ensure you get bang for your buck. A lot of the cost involved with research goes into the set-up of the project, so adding additional questions can be surprisingly cost-effective once you’ve decided on a rough budget.

The beauty of a PR survey is you can come up with all sorts of talkative angles that you didn’t think about at the start. So where possible, expand on topics that you think will give you the best contrasting stats as you never know what hidden gems will jump out at you to help with your story.

2. Mix up the question types

When conducting a survey, you want the panel to be as open and as honest as possible when answering. One of the best ways to achieve this is to vary the format of your survey questions in order that the respondent doesn’t become bored.

Use pictures where possible and rather than just simple ‘tick one’ options, see if the panel can give you more than one answer to a question, or ask them to rank things in order. This will engage the panelist and better engagement means better stats!

3. Avoid leading questions

One of the biggest challenges we face with online research is allowing panelists to be as honest and accurate as possible when providing their survey responses. As well as monitoring our panel closely, it’s important to ensure each question is worded in a way for panelists to express themselves honestly and in full.

Being corporate members of ESOMAR and closely linked with the MRS, we work hard on data and panel quality. Ensure you work closely with your research provider to make sure that your questions not only work for your needs, but also provide you with good quality data.

4. Analyse cross-breaks

Cross-breaks are a PR’s best friend. These give you the vital comparisons that are so sought after to generate that tasty headline. Also they give you a lot to talk about further down your story and can help you create something more visually appealing like an infographic or video for example.

As standard, ensure you have gender, age and regional breakdowns with your results. However, some of the best comparisons can be derived from looking at additional data splits, such as looking at specific ages within a gender. Make sure you use all the data available to you.

5. Ensure the survey is nationally representative (nat rep)

One of the most popular lines within a PR survey story is “xx% of Brits think…”. How can a survey claim to know what all Brits think?  By ensuring the survey is ‘nationally representative’.

This means that we take each segment of the UK population (using the latest ONS stats) and ensuring the right proportion from each demographics take part in the survey. For example, in nationally representative surveys, it’s important to ensure over 55’s account for 36% of the total panel sampled.

Bear in mind that this works when speaking to the general population and isn’t so important when talking to specific demographics, such as pet owners, or mums.