Commission a survey? Why PRs should think more than twice

I’m in business for myself. I’d like more attendees at my workshops and more clients for my consultancy. It’d be great to have some coverage in the press.

But how to get it? The answer for many PRs is commission a survey.

But these aren’t the statistically rigorous, carefully constructed surveys of the social researcher.

They are, at best, fluff. As Simon Oxenham in Management Today wrote earlier this year they are “The ‘research’ that isn’t actually research“. Many get called out, and rightly, on the excellent Bad PR blog.

Bad PR – is this the coverage you want for your client?

Of course, it may be argued that the blog responds to coverage – and coverage, presumably, is all the company and its agency care about. But is it really worth it? Recently, I saw an article on the results of ‘research’ to mark the launch of a film. Lots of words… about the ‘research’. Just one sentence identifying the film. Hardly cause for celebration.

I’m not against private enterprises commissioning research. A lot of companies do very good work under the heading of corporate social responsibility.

But if the research is to be done, then do it well. Produce something that isn’t just going to blow away like fluff in the wind but might have shelf-life and traction because it is truly informative.

You don’t have to be a statistical expert. Expertise can be hired – though (plug!) my workshops on the basics could well give you useful insights.

Of course, you could keep commissioning ‘unresearch’. But as we all know in PR, in this social media age it only takes one misconceived idea to be called out and ‘go viral’ to ruin a reputation.

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