Another day, another survey from a financial services company. There are rather a lot of them. Nevertheless, a well thought-out, well written-up and well-targeted survey is a joy to behold. A real triumph of creativity and good timing. I absolutely love a good survey. However, there are loads and loads of bad ones, every month, from all corners of the financial services industry.
It almost seems like a survey, index, or study is the default option for panicking PRs who feels that they haven’t got something to say in any given month. My feeling is, if you don’t have anything good to say, try not to say anything at all. Far better to issue half as many news releases but make sure they tell better stories. Quantity of output is not a measure of how well you are doing PR-wise. Results are the only thing that matter.
The most common downfall for a survey is poor planning. You can tell just by reading the news release straight away, when a company had an idea for a story, commissioned the research, yet the results didn’t quite come out they way they wanted. The company thinks ‘damn, people didn’t answer how we thought they would – the figures don’t back up what we wanted to say’. So the company moves to the next stage which is to try and salvage what they can from the £5,000/ £10,000/ £15, 000 (delete as appropriate) that they spent on the fieldwork. The end result is a sort of cobbled together patchwork of stats that don’t really say anything.
Everyone gets in a big old mess and no-one stops to think how they could have done it better. My tip would be to write your news release first and then work backwards. A little mistake in the design of the questions can have huge ramifications further down the line, so get it right first time. If you’ve got the money, you can always run a test first with a smaller sample to get a feel for what the full results are going to be.
So clearly, bad surveys are a waste of time and money, and journalists just laugh at you. However, there is also a further type of ‘bad’ survey that I feel is worth flagging up, and this is a bit more controversial. There are surveys which turn into good stories and which get lots of coverage. Fine. But what if the story has no real link to the company and is simply there to generate headlines?
For example, let’s take a large bank that puts out a survey on what artist or band people would most like to listen to as hold music on the ‘phone. They could issue that story around the time of the X-factor final, get lucky and generate four or five bits of national coverage on the Monday, plus some regional coverage to follow later in the week. But so what? It’s likely that readers of the coverage will recall the headline of the story but won’t remember which bank, or even which type of company, did the survey in the first place.
So before you spend money on surveys, just think about whether they are going to deliver real value for you. If you are going to just get a namecheck or a ‘blink-and-you-miss-it’ quote, then maybe your money is better spent elsewhere.Read More