The public has, I’m glad to say, an apparently insatiable appetite for research based news and articles. Why is this? It is because we evolved as communal apes and we like to know how the rest of our peer group are thinking/ behaving. If we agree with the majority, it gives us a sense of belonging and rightness.

And, if we disagree with the majority, it proves our superiority and independence. So, for most individuals, there’s no downside to reading about public opinions.


One strong symptom of this is the incredible pull of ‘listicles’ – how could any reader ignore the list of “20 incredible kitchen gadgets you must own”. We’re semi-evolved simians and we’re genetically programmed to be curious, to accumulate snippets of data like this.

Apart from having a nice ‘top ten’ list of results, what else can we do to get the best value out of market research for PR?

Don’t start too close to the topic

If you’re writing about vacations taken in Europe, it’s tempting to carry out research among people who take their vacation in Europe. But that’s probably starting too close to the topic: it’s better to sample All American Adults or at least All Adults who take vacations.

Then you can ascertain the attitudes/ misconceptions of the people who do not vacation in Europe and look for differences in how they plan and book their vacation time. Stepping back from the topic often gives a broader vision; and a more engaging report.

Don’t be too predictable

Would you really believe a release that said “New research from the Council of Optometrists demonstrates that drivers need to get more frequent eye tests”?

Probably not: it is too obvious, too predictable.

Too many PR surveys set out to prove a point and, in so doing, lose the chance to be interesting, surprising or attention grabbing. In this case, it is probably the truth that, with an ageing population, many drivers can’t read a numberplate at 75 feet; but it’s also quite boring and self-serving.

Establishing a tangential linkage between your client and the survey topic is often better than a brutal, direct link. If you want to find out something newsworthy, find out why people don’t get their eyes tested (e.g. some are too vain to wear glasses, despite knowing they should). Or, for a listicle, ascertain the top ten ways people break or lose glasses (driving off, leaving them on the car roof was most common).

Don’t second guess the public

Predicting the public’s views is a risky game. So why do too many PR clients approach market research agencies with pre-written releases, asking for the figures to prove their point? It’s no more work to do the research first, then actually interrogate the data to find out what it says. It’s more intellectually honest and often, because the public can surprise you, will give a whole new spin on what you write.

What use is market research in PR?

There are seven major reasons for using market research as part of a PR exercise:

  1. To associate your client with a topic or area of expertise
  2. To prove a contentious point
  3. Allow a client to comment on a topic without actually commenting “The public say…”
  4. To draw in the reader (as above – people are curious)
  5. To add ‘currency’ to the PR – ‘new’ results are a rationale for why this is news, even if the underlying message is timeless
  6. Make media more likely to run it – PR’s built around survey results still have better take-up
  7. Simply to reveal new and interesting facts about the way people think and act

That last one is my favorite. It’s the one that market researchers get up in the morning to do: find out new stuff about people and try to understand it and then tell other people about it.

This might be anything from “Why are SUVs, which are large and impractical, so popular?” through to “What kind of person still prefers using a manual toothbrush?”

There is an infinite number of issues we could research … and many of them will produce attention grabbing press releases. It makes good PR and I strongly suggest you try it.