Data Is Your Friend – Surveys That Create Stats That Become News

Quite rightly, it is the job of the news media to ask hard questions. And in the practice of PR, one that we get asked pretty often is: “So what?”

That query is a challenge for PR people and their clients, and not having a good answer – as to why your company, product or market is relevant and timely – is an issue. However, obtaining a reasonable answer to “so what” isn’t a big issue, once the door to original research is opened.

Data-driven narratives are extremely relevant, representing an effective way for companies to deliver key messages. Bospar frequently recommends that companies execute their own original research, because doing so helps position them in the context of current trends while creating news hooks that drive coverage.

Creating a news-centric survey is easier given a basic grasp of survey design and a plan to package your data into a media narrative designed to generate viral headlines and longer-term coverage. Pre-survey planning should also integrate survey questions designed to uncover a “killer stat” that delivers a big news hook and answers the “so what?” question.

Thinking first about the answers you want – even the provocative ones – will lead you to the creation of effective questions designed to illuminate the relevance and value of your company’s product or service. And those provocative answers make for interesting stats that will draw reporters in.

Brief and clear questions are key, as survey takers should clearly understand the questions and their intent. Graphics and explainers can also be helpful in terms of clarifying questions, and all survey design should be aimed at getting the answers you want to pitch to the media – including the “killer stat.”

The Killer Stat

Your killer stat is the most important data point revealed by your survey. Compelling and consistent with your company’s narrative, the killer stat brings a story together and makes it pitch-able.

For example, a personal finance software company once asked couples about the number one thing that caused fights – which consistently turns out to be money and finances. This company’s product was a turnkey solution for money management, and by pitching specific survey data, they obtained lots of earned coverage, particularly around Valentine’s Day. Their product was an obvious solution, and the package made for a complete story.

Killer stats, such as “money is the number one thing couples fight about,” make data come alive. They’re most intriguing to the media when they’re new, surprising or outrageous.  By linking a solution to a killer stat, a solid foundation to survey questions is established.

Packaging

Packaging your killer stat, along with other revealing and important data, is a critical step. Options include creating a report or white paper as source material for pitches and releases and syndicating that data across multiple channels.

In addition to the media, industry and financial analysts may have an interest in your company’s data, and packaging it into infographics, b-roll and video news releases may be appropriate. Repurposing the data across social media also makes sense. Not only does effective packaging help drive near-term awareness, but it also helps position companies as sources of industry knowledge and expertise, and because things can last a long time on the internet, one’s company can be associated with good research for a long time.

In the long run, surveys that answer the “so what?” challenge can help companies become thought leaders, and in the long run, killer stats will make data your friend.

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About the author

Curtis Sparrer is a principal of Bospar PR. He has represented brands like PayPal, Tetris and the alien hunters of the SETI Institute. He is a member of the Forbes Communications Council and has written for Adweek, Forbes, the Dallas Morning News, and PRWeek. He is an active member of the National Lesbian Gay Journalist Association.  Business Insider has twice listed him as one of the Top Fifty in Tech PR.

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