Common pitfalls to avoid in survey research for PR
21 November 2018

Common pitfalls to avoid in survey research for PR

Surveys are great for many reasons. As noted by Research Now, the statistics they produce can be the perfect news hook for generating coverage. It also backs up key brand messages and enables your organisation to position itself as an industry thought leader. Yet, generating good quality, useful research can be time consuming, costly and full of pitfalls. So, what can you do to give your survey the best chance of success? We’ve outlined some of the most common mistakes to avoid.

Know what you want to get out of the survey

Don’t underestimate the amount of time and money it takes to design a good quality survey. Even small surveys can take months of work. They can cost thousands of pounds and end with an email chain of epic proportions. This is true for research projects in which survey designers don’t know what they want to get from the survey.
One way to avoid this is by getting a variety of perspectives from within the business early on. You might want to start with a brainstorm. Put a few meetings in the diary with various stakeholders to narrow down the focus. Make sure everyone is on the same page about the desired outcomes. As well as in-house or external researchers (who you can source from research houses such as YouGov and GlobalData, parties you could involve may include senior communications managers approving the budget and the spokespeople who will be commenting.

Asking the wrong questions or using the wrong wording

Asking the right questions is key to generating useful data. There is always more to think about than at first glance. Thorough planning is essential to generate good quality data. For example, if you were to design a survey to find out about AI deployment, you should clarify what you mean by ‘deployment’ before the first question. You should also clarify the period you are referring to (are you taking about whether the respondent has used/deployed AI ever before, or just in the past year?). Make sure you add options that will help improve the accuracy of the survey results. For example, it would be a good idea to add ‘n/a’ as an option in case the question doesn’t apply to them.
If you have enabled participants to choose ‘other’ as an answer, it isn’t necessary to include ‘don’t know’ as an option. It’s true to say that ‘don’t know’ can actually be an interesting finding in itself. E.g. if xx% of CTOs don’t know if they have an AI deployment, while there is sometimes a place for it, including the option can dilute your results and generate less powerful statistics. If you are struggling with any part of the survey design, it’s always best to step away, have a think and return to the questions with a fresh pair of eyes.

Not spending enough time checking

The quality of the research depends on how well planned the survey was. Final checks are crucial to securing great research results. Find people to test your survey as if they were a participant. This will help you identify any quick fixes and avoid wasting time (and money) on a question which doesn’t provide anything useful or newsworthy.
Survey research often takes more time and money than you might pre-empt. Done right, surveys are a great way to add credibility and value. don’t forget to set realistic goals and deadlines and leave enough wiggle room for amends!