PRNewser Interview: How To Make Market Research Newsworthy


Conducting market research is a tried and true way to add legitimacy to your story, but where do you start?

PRNewser recently spoke with Annette Abell, Director of Client Development for market research giant Harris Interactive. Annette was formerly Harris Interactive’s vice president of marketing from 1999-2007. She also has 10+ years of business-to-business and business-to-consumer marketing experience in both the healthcare and professional services industries.

In this interview, Annette speaks about how to ensure your market research is newsworthy, some common misconceptions people have around market research, and the top ten tips for PR people to make sure their survey or poll is a success.

What makes a survey or a poll newsworthy?

News is in the eye of the beholder. I tell my clients that news is, “fresh and original.” Another thing I tell my clients is, “call me early.” Calling your research provider as early in the process as possible, even before you vet the idea with their client is crucial. A lot of time my PR clients will go their clients before speaking with me, which can lead to a disconnect as to what is possible. The earlier you can call you research provider, the better chance you have for success.

The research provider will think about how you can come at a topic from unique way. We do the brainstorming up front so you can go to your client with something that is sound and feasible.

Let’s say a survey on a certain topic has been done before. What are some ways you can make it fresh and original? There are many tactics you can use. For instance, say it’s an issue about babysitting. Instead of just looking at parents, maybe you can look at parents and kids. Look at both sides of the story.

Can you give us some recent successful surveys and why they were successful?

The most common comes to play in the healthcare space. Say you have someone with a chronic condition. Maybe diabetes, and you’re talking to someone with diabetes, their caregivers, and the most common other audience is physicians. You are looking at same issue from multiple vantage points, that is what is newsworthy.

In personal finance, for example, looking at both parties, like say husband and wife, they don’t always have the same view about an issue.

What tips would you share with PR people to make sure their survey is successful?

We actually have a list the top ten key ways research for public release is successful.

1) It’s newsworthy.

2) Make sure it’s fair and balanced. You don’t want to seem self-serving. Look at the issues in the greater context that they exist.

3) It should have shelf life, ideally you’re going to do a study that is going to change the way people think about things. They are going to refer to it years from now. Not all are meant to do that, some are fun and meant just for the headline.

4) It should be a good fit for your business. Maybe your end client is in one market and branching into a new market, and the research is to help them break into that new market section. Don’t do a survey that is so detached from what that brand is known for, that it doesn’t make sense. Don’t make people ask, “why would that company do this survey.”

5) Position your organization as a trusted source, the only source of info on this issue. With the larger brands it pays to think about how you can position yourself as the source for this info, and then own it.

6) Show that you’re listening. I have a couple of companies where their end clients only care about moms, because they make all purchase decisions with children. So they only want to survey moms. But I try to encourage them to survey both moms and dads to position your organization that listens to both parents.

7) You want it to be consistent with your sales and market strategies. I’d say most of my PR clients are connected to these strategies. If you’re brand is known for something, you don’t want to be doing a survey that seems contrary to it.

8) If you’re end client has a sales force, they should be able to use that survey. When I speak to clients about how info will be used, I almost never hear sales force.

9) You should not leave the survey with just anyone, you need to work it through PR pros. Make sure the info you collect is properly collected, disseminated and published.

10) It should be seminal. Your study should chance the way people talk think or deal with an issue. Look not only at what people are thinking, but why they are thinking that way.

What are some of the biggest misconceptions PR people have about conducting surveys?

I think a lot of people are evaluating their options based on the mechanics of a survey. They think, “I need the research provider who can field data, and get 1000 completes and then be done.”
They should be thinking about whether you’re going about this the right way. Have you considered all options?

Lets say you have a dream headline and a pre-conceived way to get there. People come in with pre-conceived ways of how to get things done. They ought to be forcing the research providers on the “up front home work.”

What is the number one thing clients have asked for in the last 6 months?

Should I go telephone or online? It continues to be an issue and there is a lot you need to take into consideration when you think about collection mode. Your media plan is critically important, as well as your subject matter and who you want to survey.

Let’s say you want to talk about politics or money. If you want to talk about a sensitive issue, you may want to go online. However, if you only want ABC or Associated press type coverage, they don’t pick up online data.

Besides PR agencies, who are some of your biggest clients?

We work with over 150 of the Fortune 1000. UBS, HSBC in financial services. Quite a few of the pharma/biotech/med device companies.

What can people expect form Harris in the next few months?

Our PR research team will be conducting a free webinar in April (link to come). We’ll talk about online vs. telephone polling, or word of mouth. We also have newsletters, which are written specifically for PR pros.

Who does Harris currently have partnerships with?

On the media end we have a good relationship with the Wall Street Journal, most people know about that. The day to day relationship is evident in the online health column and personal finance poll. We do the research for that.

We also have healthy relationships with Brandweek, USA today and the Financial Times, among others.

Harris Interactive Q2FY08 revenue grew 13%, what led to this growth?

We’re the 13the largest polling co in the world. Our size allows me to bring the best and brightest of Harris to the table. Based on the industry your in and the issue we’re talking about, I have so many resources to bring to you.

Being big and growing 13% is great, but how does that effect my clients in a positive way? That’s what I care about.