Using research in B2B PR

Posted on: 2012-05-14 in How To   |   Tagged: b2b pr commission survey research survey

An overview of commissioning research for B2B PR.

Let’s face it, journalists love statistics almost as much as I love Klaus. While stats might not sit on their chests in the morning purring and rubbing their little noses in their faces, they do make their jobs easier to do. Take today’s papers. A trawl through Google News reveals a host of stats-based stories making headlines. For example:

  • Survey reveals long term sickness absence on the rise, reported in the Daily Telegraph.
  • Nursing survey paints ‘a worrying picture’ on ITV News.
  • 62% of organisations have adopted GRC software in
  • British consumers are among the best in the world, in the Daily Telegraph.

So how do you go about creating stats-led stories that will make your B2B business irresistible to any journalist? Well, good stats-based stories are:

Based on valid data. That means a decent sample size - 100 is fine for a homogenous population, such as doctors or CIOs. But if you’re trying to extrapolate more widely, such as to the voting public, your sample (according to my opinion only) really should be in the 1,000+ vicinity.

Independent. The data should be verified by someone who knows what they’re doing (a statistician or an analyst or a research house). Journalists can be suspicious little weasels, and they’re not easily convinced by stats that highlight the life-saving benefits of your product if you’re not willing to be open about how you reached these share-price-boosting conclusions.

Topical. Try tying your research into something that journalists will be writing about anyway. Look at ‘days’ (such as International Talk Like a Pirate Day), events (such as the Olympics), anniversaries (such as James Bond’s 50th today) or hot government issues (such as a spending review).  

Owned by you. I once had a prospective client ask me to get him a page in the Daily Mail on how the gold price has increased over the last 30 years. While gold has done extremely well, this total twat (he turned out to be a racist and a conspiracy theorist obsessed with protecting his wife from being kidnapped by the Syrian mafia) couldn’t fathom why the Daily Mail would be under no obligation to attribute the story to him. The lesson is: you need to own the data if you want to be associated with the story. That means, your data need to either come from within your organisation (note the points on validity and independent analysis above) or be commissioned by you.

If the data owned by your organisation are nothing more than sales figures, then you might want to investigate commissioning research. There are a number of dedicated research services you can use in the UK, and we’ve even reviewed them for you. These people should be willing and able to help you design your survey questions. Here are my tips on designing research campaigns:

  • Work backwards. That means starting with the type of headline you would like to get out of the research. While you cannot predict what the ultimate stats will be, you can imagine the headlines that could result and tailor your questions accordingly. So, for example, if I were to commission a survey on the impact of PR on CIO’s and I’m thinking of asking CIOs which media they consume, my questions would be guided by the types of headline I’m after. So, Three quarters of CIOs read Computing would probably only be covered by one publication (I’ll let you guess). However Over half of CIOs get their news from Twitter would probably have wider appeal.
  • Conduct a straw poll. Before paying all that money to commission research, phone five people in your target demographic and get their responses to your questions. Based on these you can eliminate any questions that are likely to get neutral or boring answers.
  • Ask the media. Call your top two target journalists and ask if they think the survey could be of interest. You can’t expect them to commit wholeheartedly to running the story, but they will be honest as to whether it’s a go-er. They will also likely know if any of your competitors are doing something similar and be able to alert you to the fact before you spend your money.
  • Ask a minimum of five questions (another rule-sucked-out-of-my-thumb). A good story requires some meat, so asking a minimum of five questions should provide enough substance for most journalists. It’s also useful for insurance purposes. If one of those questions turns out to be a dud, you have four more to fall back on.
  • Look at demographics. If your data can be broken down by region, gender, age or industry, it has comparative power, which is of genuine interest to the media. So consider this when designing your questions. 

See all our posts on commissioning research...

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About this blog


The B2B PR Blog is a resource for both PR professionals and people working in B2B industries on how to devise and implement successful B2B PR campaigns. The blog is managed by B2B PR specialist Heather Baker, founder of TopLine Comms, and inbound marketingB2B content marketing agency and proud HubSpot partner agency and takes contribution from anyone sensible in the industry with something intelligent to say.  Follow Heather on Twitter @TopLineFounder or contact the B2B PR Blog editorial team via email on [email protected].


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