95% of Surveys are run by Businesses looking for PR
Contributing to the news is one thing; creating the news is something else entirely.
In early 2017, the Daily Mail warned readers that the world is facing a “global epidemic of blindness”. Skim past the fear-inducing fluff that the Mail is famous for and it turns out that the headline is from a single report by a Spanish researcher.
A little further down the page—surprise, surprise—we learn that the very same Spanish researcher just so happens to have developed a new light filter product to protect us all from the blindness epidemic. What are the chances?
It’s easy to scoff at reports, studies and surveys, but this particular marketing strategy has stood the test of time. An authoritative newspaper and some sciencey-sounding statistics combine to make an irresistible sales pitch. Remember the bad old days when “More Doctors Smoke Camels Than Any Other Cigarette”?
Think that running surveys like this is beyond your business? It’s absolutely not. Google Surveys and Survey Monkey are two examples of websites that will do the hard work of finding and weighting responses for you. You can get statistically representative responses to a question in less than two weeks.
This tactic, known as “data outreach” by the Ninjas here at Exposure Ninja, is simple to execute and we’re going to share exactly how we do it. Use the internet to produce some cheap but meaningful data, then reach out to websites and influencers who might share that data.
To show what this looks like, here are a few examples of massively successful surveys that we’ve run for clients big and small:
eCommerce Data Outreach Example
eCommerce businesses can produce interesting survey data by reporting on trends and public attitudes to particular products. For one of our clients, we ran a survey asking the public what they thought of the health benefits and risks of e-cigarettes. We organised the survey through YouGov, who put our questions to over 2,000 members of the public. We published the results on our client’s blog.
The study got picked up by 266 different publications, with a total audience of over 80 million people. Each time someone reported on our data, they linked back to the original blog post. As a link acquisition strategy, this ranked as one of our best campaigns of all time when we calculate hours worked versus backlinks earned!
Lead Generation Data Outreach
Another client of ours identifies people who need legal help and sells these leads to law firms. Their most lucrative market is mis-sold PPI, a competitive market where they were up against some very well-funded competitors.
The government announced a deadline for all PPI claims and the Financial Conduct Authority launched a huge advertising campaign featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger to promote it. We waited a couple of months, then conducted a study to see how effective this ad campaign had actually been at educating the public on the PPI deadline.
We surveyed over 800 people and found that, actually, only 16% knew when the deadline was, despite the shed load of money spent on Arnie’s ads! This story was picked up by hundreds of websites including the Mirror, Unilad and Yahoo Finance, all providing very high-authority links to the original data on our client’s blog.
This graph shows what happened to their lead volume over time, as we repeatedly implemented this strategy:
By piggybacking on a current news story and providing data that proved our point, we were able to earn the kind of coverage that’s normally reserved for much larger businesses. The graph shows the website’s growth from around 10 leads per day to almost 200.
How to Run your Own Data Outreach Study
The secret to running a study that picks up attention is being interesting. When creating your survey questions, try thinking of the headline you’d like to produce. Headlines have to be sensational, or at least surprising. A survey that tells us something we already know isn’t going anywhere fast.
Before building a study, think about any existing data your business might have built up over the years. Something that might seem boring to you, such as the price of spare car parts over the last decade, can form the basis of an exciting news story about the soaring costs of motoring, for example.
Another shortcut is commenting on an existing survey that never got the attention it deserved. The wonks at the Office For National Statistics produce well-researched statistical reports that absolutely nobody reads. However, if you’re a real-estate agent, for example, I’m sure you could add an expert comment to one of their deep dives into property prices by region that suddenly makes the story pop.
If you’d like to build your own survey from scratch, here are the basic steps:
1. Think of the headline that you’d like to generate.
2. Is the headline related to a current trend and your area of expertise? If so, continue.
3. Think of a question you could ask the public that could create that headline.
4. Consider targeting your survey by demographics (location, sex, age, etc.)
5. Run a test survey in the office with a couple of mates. Fix any errors you uncover!
6. Use Google Surveys or YouGov to get your survey results.
7. While you’re waiting for the results to come in, identify journalists who you can pitch to.
8. The results are in! Write up a blog that analyses the results.
9. If you have a designer, ask them to make your dry data into something beautiful. Infographics can be a great way of collecting links.
10. Send the results to the press, both via individual journalist pitches and a formal press release.
When deciding between a cheap option like Google Surveys and an external polling service like YouGov, it’s important to consider how “sciencey” your results need to be. In general, if you’re after an opinion on a superficial topic, nobody will mind if your research is a bit rough around the edges. If you’re asking a “Your Money or Your Life” question that might influence people to take financial and/or health actions, consider spending a little extra on a professional survey company.
When you have the data, compile it into a blog post and put it on your website, with a catchy headline. The aim is to make something shareworthy here. It needs to be simple, surprising and worth talking about. A little further into your blog, when all the casual readers have dropped off, you can include the geeky info about how you conducted the survey, the number of respondents and so on.
Next, you’ll need to promote your study. There are a few ways that you can do this, from reaching out to journalists and editors personally to paying a PR firm (be careful) to promote the study results for you.
Press release distribution services can be a useful tool here, as they’ll send your story to lots of news outlets. If it’s interesting enough, these news outlets will run the story. If you’ve never written a press release before, use Google “press release template” or contact Exposure Ninja for some help. Journalists can be a bit snobby about press releases so make sure you’ve got your formatting right.
Remember that a press release is just an advert. The mistake that people make is in thinking that it’s an advert for your business. It’s not; it’s an advert for your story. The goal is to get journalists to publish the story, not buy from your company.