72 Point News: Seven Tips For Immediately Improving Your Online PR Survey.
By Marie Haaland: Online PR surveys have a plethora of great uses. They can be run to gather consumer insights; support a PR or marketing campaign; provide relatable, current data for brand storytelling; and can be used to create fresh, original content. We find them an effective way to land in top-tier media on a daily basis, but their use can be expanded to many different areas.
That said, the data you receive is only as good as the questions you ask. If the questions are poorly-written or uninteresting, the data you end up with will reflect that.
What makes a great online PR survey?
Clear, well-designed questions are essential for any online PR survey — they should be easy for participants to understand and complete. The questions should then provide you with accurate, actionable data.
Below are seven tips that will help you with that goal, and will help make your surveys as strong as possible.
Tip No. 1: Consider why you’re conducting the research
Knowing what the end goal is will help you ask the right questions, and get usable data that supports your campaign. Having a solid plan can also help you to outline an order for your questions and ensure they all connect and flow together, creating a better respondent experience.
We always draft “sample news copy” when working on a survey-led earned media project, outlining a few potential toplines. It helps ensure we’ll be able to craft a newsworthy story with the results — and gives us a loose flow for the questions.
Tip No. 2: Avoid leading questions
Don’t lead your survey respondents to answer in a particular way — even if that’s the data you want from the survey, it’s poor practice and the data won’t stand up to any scrutiny from the media. Make sure respondents have the opportunity to answer truthfully.
For example, instead of asking, “Are strawberries your favorite fruit?” we’d want to give respondents a list of options — covering all the common fruits — and have them pick their favorite. This prevents bias from the question itself.
Tip No. 3: Avoid ambiguous language
When writing surveys, you want to ensure questions and options are clear and concise — don’t assume respondents know specific jargon or terminology. And if someone might not know a term, it’s always encouraged to add a short definition.
When running a recent international newsmaker survey, we discussed adding a definition for “side hustles.” While this is a fairly common term in the U.S., we were worried that international respondents wouldn’t be as familiar with it, or that it may mean something else depending on the country — it’s always worth thinking about what terms might need additional context, so all respondents are answering a question with the same background knowledge.
Tip No. 4: Use the right question type
By using the right type of question, you’ll ensure the best data. It’s also important to include multiple types of questions, as that’ll allow you to better capture — and keep — respondents’ attention throughout the survey.
A common mistake we see is people mixing up “yes/no” questions and five-point scales. Yes/no questions should only be used when there’s a direct answer, while scales are better at capturing nuance — when asking something like, “Have you traveled abroad in the past year?” you wouldn’t need a scale, as people either have or have not done that.
Tip No. 5: Use open-ended questions wisely
While these can provide great — and sometimes hilarious — answers, it’s never a guarantee. Avoid building a whole survey around open-ended questions; instead, use these sparingly to support specific stats you’ve pulled from the research.
It can also help to use routing ahead of open-ended questions, to ensure they’re relevant for respondents. For example, if you want an open-ended question about the struggles people have faced when training their dog, you’ll need to ensure respondents own a pet (specifically a dog), and that they’ve faced challenges while working on the training. You’ll have fewer respondents providing responses to the open-ended question, but it’ll be stronger text, and you won’t annoy people by asking them to fill in a question that isn’t entirely relevant to them.
Tip No. 6: Consider the length of your survey
If the survey is too short, you won’t have enough information to report on — and if it’s too long, you’re going to lose interest from respondents.
We find the sweet spot for a survey to be around 20–25 questions. This allows you to get in-depth with a subject, without losing respondents’ attention — but this can vary, depending on your topic and the types of questions you employ (some cause fatigue faster than others, like open-ended responses that require more work from the respondent).
Tip No. 7: Don’t overlook the incentive
To help encourage respondent participation — and ensure good, quality responses all the way through — it’s important to incentivize respondents. You’re asking for their time, and for their thoughtful responses, so it’s only fair to give them something, too.
Not only is it important to incentivize respondents, but you should also think about the amount you’re incentivizing and how that changes based on the demographic you’re looking to poll. As a general rule, the more niche the sample, the higher the incentive should be. For example, emergency room doctors are much harder to reach than dog owners, and the incentive should reflect that.