Discover Why Research For Public Release Should be Part of Every Brand’s Communication Strategy.
I wouldn’t dare simply take an informal study on this, so I talked to the experts. As you prepare 2022 marketing or communications plans, I urge you to ask your teams this question as well: “Is polling in your plans for 2022?”
On my quest for good ideas to further 2022 planning initiatives, I recently spoke with Erica Parker, managing director at The Harris Poll. She helps lead one of the company’s custom insights and analytics function and works with many companies, organizations, institutions, associations and agencies to conduct research designed for public release. I sought her guidance because Harris has become the industry “go-to” based on the rigorous standards it follows, its proprietary techniques, the flexibility of its research offerings and its expertise. Identifying the white space of audience sentiment not yet expressed and then conducting a survey to validate or upend that hypothesis can be a way to grab headlines, demonstrate thought leadership in a particular space, support a product or service roll-out or keep content relevant across your channels.
As we look for ways to stand out in a crowded marketplace in 2022, data for public release can be a tremendous tool. Here are five ways you can integrate credible data and findings into the plans you’re currently developing:
1. Own a Thought Leadership Category
Parker shared much of her work is helping organizations stake claim to a particular subject or category so they can maintain consistent visibility on the topic. It’s a classic move to own the dialogue and become a thought leader for an industry.
In partnership with a company such as Harris, an organization can brainstorm the categories or general subjects for which it will provide the most value (i.e. a screenplay software formatting company commissioning a survey about what types of movies people most enjoy). You’ll want to develop an ingoing hypothesis and construct questions you can ask of a key audience in an unbiased way. The research firm helps you design and frame the questions which will work best; after all, you can’t cherry pick the results you will ultimately release together.
The study can take root on a small scale, such as consumer research all based on a 5-question omnibus of 2,000+ members of the general population; or Parker says some organizations want to own the biggest sized survey in their industry. Both the small and speedy or the mammoth and methodical can have their advantages.
Parker recalls recently working with universities on surveys yielding insights about what college students seek. Releasing this information during the recruitment season helped both operationally inform more precise activities in this time period as well as contribute to the larger conversation in academia about serving the needs of a next generation of students. Best of all, surveys can provide talking points for leadership to underscore priorities.
2. Provide the Credible Contours of Your 2022 Cadence Calendar
Everyone is in the content space these days, and credibility and consistency are the guiding principles on the journey. So, it’s more imperative than ever your content stand out and be trustworthy and convincing.
Data can be used in so many ways, and a signature function of branded research content is for use across an entire cadence calendar. It can help create a steady drumbeat ranging from data points in sales materials to regular reminders of what makes your brand relevant. If you make bricks, you likely want to share bellwether findings about the housing industry throughout the year, for instance.
Parker says that organizations, such as financial services company NerdWallet, leverage Harris On Demand polls to get a pulse of their stakeholders in support of a full editorial calendar. It’s another success story for marrying data as content building blocks with mission-critical business.
3. Connect to Relevant Publics
One of the most expedient ways to put your brand in a conversation with audiences you are serving or prospecting is to conduct a survey on what these groups believe. Undoubtedly, the “he said, she said” surrounding a topic or a breakdown or POVs by generation can yield bespoke data helpful to showcase varying perspectives.
The generational omnibus survey is among the most popular approaches. You pose a question and receive the breakdown of what Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z have to say on the subject. This can be helpful in proving how a topic such as eGaming or consuming soda is trending by age group.
Financial services companies have conducted surveys on wide ranging topics such as retirement readiness and have found drastic differences in the ways the various genders prepare.
You can also design a survey to discover what minority groups or even people of various income levels believe about a topic. Parker shared that several companies have been requesting more ways they can examine how BIPOC individuals may view an issue.
Many sophisticated companies pull the telescope out even wider to examine various views around the world. That‘s right, your multi-audience survey can also be multi-country.
4. Validate Public Sentiment Even for B2B Companies
Marketers consistently want to know what people are thinking, whether selling directly to them or indirectly to the companies selling to them. Curiously, your audience for a survey may or may not be the audience who consumes a particular product or service; sometimes knowing popular sentiment as a backdrop can help business to business companies gain more relevance and traction.
If you can’t invest in the specific ruminations of audiences from the B2B perspective, you can flip the script and get the general public’s sentiments as air cover. This works particularly well for framing policy issues.
Or you can use the insights to help your employees better serve your customers. For example, one fintech company that often works with financial advisors may highlight needs of the consumer that advisors can help address.
On the other hand, if budget does allow, you can show dual perspectives to build tension in the narrative.
Parker said that recent surveys asking patients and physicians similar questions have yielded drastically different viewpoints to inform a healthcare system’s thought leadership program.
Additionally, a “he said, she said” type survey has uncovered the burdens of COVID-19 on working mothers in a way no general survey could have done.
She pointed to recent work for Redpoint Global, a technology company renowned for its customer service and marketing. Together with Harris, the company conducted a survey to see if consumers and marketers have different perceptions about everyday transactions. After all, marketers often think they are doing a good job, but will their end-users agree? The study Redpoint Global and Harris did together was built to create tension in the narrative, to pit the perspectives of consumers versus marketers in showcasing competing expectations. The results were vital in showcasing the importance of creating a singular brand experience whether a customer is on the phone, on a computer or in a store.
5. Provide Valuable Content in All Four Areas of the PESO Model
As communicators blur the line of PR and marketing, data for public release can help fuel the full integrated model of paid, earned, shared and owned channels.
Those conducting paid marketing efforts often use research findings to share directly to prospects via paid LinkedIn campaigns. Whether you’re looking to punch up the proof points of an ad campaign or get precise in search engine marketing or paid Google AdWords, the data can help you tell a story and prove it.
Earned media is a goldmine for this kind of data. It can be the basis of an entire news release or series of releases or articles or simply be a subpoint to drive an argument to its full conclusion. Research findings can be fodder for a media exclusive or an analyst tour. We’ve even seen start-ups use data in their investment tours for the third-party credibility it offers.
Shared channels offer a variety of homes for data, whether it’s trickling out findings through mini-graphics or kinetic videos; and many leverage their owned channels with downloadable white papers based on their findings or podcasts breaking the results. Websites and webinars can be themed all around a new study to put your brand in the spotlight.
Our firm has worked successfully with Harris on surveys for clients ranging from automobiles to restaurants to fintech companies, and we’ve recognized the outstanding value their expertise and findings bring to a cluttered media landscape in search of reliable findings. Harris representatives work with you every step of the way from helping find that white space to own in your field or designing a paper to publish or even co-presenting on webinars or appearing alongside your executive team at events once the survey is complete and released. Our Public Relations Consultants Group (PRCG) consortium of agencies across U.S. states and territories is pleased Harris is helping sponsor our annual conference.
Still looking to be convinced there’s a creative way survey data can impact your 2022 plans? Asking the right questions to the right people will yield insights that can propel your brand to a new state of mind.
Written by Stephen Michael Brown, APR, Fellow, PRSA
Cookerly PR President