The PR Pros Guide to Public Relations Surveys in 2021

The PR Pros Guide to Public Relations Surveys in 2021

Public relations market research is data that is designed to be shared. Shared in news releases, press, media outlets, social media, and much more.

As a result, public relations surveys eliminate the boundaries of how to ask questions.

In fact, the way to ask questions is more loosely defined since the results are used to drive eyeballs and attention.

Headlines. We need headlines! And that is what custom PR surveys get.

As a result, your organization is able to increase brand awareness, backlinks, and overall website traffic.

Without further ado, here is your ultimate guide to public relations surveys.

Article Contents 📃

This in-depth article answers all the questions you ever had about public relations market research including:

This is the only article you’ll ever need to read to get up to speed on what it is, how it works, the benefits, and even some examples.

You’ll walk away as a true expert once we are done with you today. Bank on it.

What are public relations surveys?

As opposed to traditional market research, which typically remains confidential and in-house, PR polling or PR surveys are purposely designed to generate insights to be shared in content outreach.

What is a public relations survey?
Public relations (PR) polling is a survey administered to a general or specific population of respondents with the intent to share the results through company outreach, branded content, press releases, news sources, and journalism outlets.

Market research was always thought of as anonymous, confidential, and proprietary.

In the past, these were common phrases uttered in board rooms across America.

  • "Don't share the results."
  • "Make sure the data says in-house."

Data and market research were always thought of as in-house, built for strategy, and built to inform and make decisions internally.

It follows a very precise and calculated approach that offers little to no creativity or wiggle room on how questions are structured, what questions are asked, and the process in which to ask them.

As a result, market research is often viewed as boring and stale.

Public relations surveys flip this preconception on its head. It can be fun, exciting, and creative. 

Take that… all of you who think market researchers and statisticians are just math geeks. (#NoShame)

For a more detailed definition, watch this short video below.

Why are public relations surveys so popular?

Public relations surveys have quickly become the secret weapon of PR pros. And for good reasons too.

Being that they are conducted online, it comes down to accessibility and affordability as one of the most cost-effective market research methodologies.

Think about trying to run a consumer survey 30 years ago...

In the old days of market research, most surveys were completed by mail or phone. Those were the only options.

It created expensive and long timelines to complete a market research project which gave a bad rap to the industry.

The Disadvantages of Mail Surveys ✉️

One option was to mail a paper survey to 10,000+ random U.S. households hoping that at least 1,000 people would respond.

It would take weeks to design the survey, print the copies, assemble, add postage, and mail through the USPS.

Then researchers sat and waited weeks until responses were eventually mailed back.

When the responses did come back, the data was manually entered into a computer before the report or press release could be created.


The Disadvantages of Phone Surveys ☎️

A phone survey was not much easier or affordable. Think about the number of people that a call center would need to employ to call enough households to obtain 1,000 responses.

Say each phone interview lasted 5 minutes. That’s 83 hours spent on collecting survey data!

This isn’t even taking into account the time spent dialing and leaving voicemails to those who did not answer their phone. 

Yikes again.

The Advantages of Online Surveys 💻

Enter technology and evolution. 

With the introduction of online surveys taken via computers, tablets, and mobile phones, market research can be done cost-effectively and quickly, without losing the quality obtained through other types of methodologies.

Online surveys are the most common forms of quantitative market research and are a perfect fit for PR market research.

This methodology opened a lot of doors for original or exclusive research for brands.

Let's discuss this a bit more.

How it works. The benefits. And examples. We got you.

How do public relations surveys work?

The process for this type of market research is now completed fully online. A survey is designed, programmed, and fielded to a target audience. 

This can be completed for both business-to-consumer (B2C) or business-to-business (B2B) audiences. 

Many surveys are completed using general population sampling.

These samples are designed to be Census representative so the sample of respondents to your survey matches the population.

Some examples of consumer targeting you can request for surveys include:

  • Age groups
  • Genders
  • Residing in specific regions of the U.S.
  • Household incomes
  • Children in the household
  • Highest attained education
  • Ethnicities
  • Others

Some examples of business targeting include:

  • Roles or titles
  • Responsibilities
  • Departments
  • Business size
  • Industry
  • Others

For this article on public relations surveys, we will focus on the traditional topic of consumer polling.

Consumer research is typically the more common audience researched by brands in the U.S.

In the meantime, here is an example of how public relations research works in the B2B space.

The Process of Public Relations Market Research

steps involved in PR polling market research

  1. Contact a PR research company: visit a website, make a phone call, or send a form-fill.
  2. Share your objectives and target audience: detail your goals for the project.
  3. Receive a proposal: the market research firm will send you a proposal with the timeline and cost.
  4. Choose a vendor: now make your final decision on the best partner or fit.
  5. Kickoff meeting: the partner will schedule a 30-minute kickoff meeting to recap the project.
  6. Workplan development: this one-page document will provide a timeline with key deliverables.
  7. Survey drafting: as an outcome of the kickoff meeting, a draft survey in Word is developed.
  8. Survey sign-off: your team reviews the survey and makes comments, edits, and suggestions.
  9. Programming: once finalized, the survey is programmed into an online survey software.
  10. Testing: after programming is finished, the survey is tested by several users for correctness.
  11. Soft launch: once the survey has been tested, it is launched to a small number of live respondents.
  12. Full launch: barring any changes or issues, the survey is launched to a full pool of respondents.
  13. Online portal: once the fieldwork has started, the firm then shares an online portal link with live results.
  14. Quality audits: the market research firm should review the cases submitted for quality.
  15. Analysis: once the fieldwork is complete, the analysis and final quality checks are made on the responses.
  16. Reporting: your team will have several options for this including a topline, or comprehensive report.

Finding Respondents for PR Surveys

No matter the target audience (broad or narrow), a public relations survey company like Drive Research utilizes panels and databases of research respondents to participate in studies.

What is a market research panel?
Public relations survey panels are databases of respondents who have opted-in to market research opportunities. In exchange for their feedback, they are often offered a chance to win a gift card, awarded points, or some other incentive.

Online market research panels offer quick, easy, and inexpensive access to millions of people in the U.S. for your study.

They provide quick responses and feedback for national surveys in as little as minutes to a few hours.

Fast huh?

What are the benefits of and why should you consider PR surveys?

Results from PR polling can be powerful, convincing, and influential.

I know, I know. You think, "Market research? That's just data and numbers.” 

Customer satisfaction stuff. Focus groups. Or something you use to test a new product. 

What does that have to do with any of my public relations or content marketing strategy?

Bear with me. 

More and more companies are using market research for public relations, content marketing, and marketing copy purposes. 

Here are four reasons why.

1. Share exclusive findings 📤

One of the core objectives of PR market research is the ability to leverage the exclusive findings for public relations, news coverage, and press.

What do reporters and media outlets want from PR pitches? According to a study from, original research has the most appeal.

For context, 39% of publishers want content that has exclusive research.

of publishers want content that has exclusive research.

When partnering with a public relations survey company, questions are structured in a way to generate intriguing and shocking insights to catch the attention of a reader, potential buyer, and news sources.

The best survey companies design the survey with the end in mind to grab headlines.

2. Become a thought-leader 💪

A second benefit is to position your brand as a thought-leader on a topic or an industry.

If you are an organization looking to pitch itself as an expert in the financial services marketing space, why not create a survey project around consumer financial concerns, tips to alleviate concerns, etc.?

The study can be shared nationally as a newsworthy topic. 

3. Create lead-generating content 📝

Another benefit of public relations market research is lead generation.

By producing downloadable reports or whitepapers from the original research, it gives your organization the contact information of those who are interested.

Their contact information is given to you in exchange for the value of the whitepaper or report. 

A perfect opportunity for a follow-up from your sales team.

4. Increase site traffic and domain authority 🏎️

Again, the main goal of a public relations study is to garner media attention generally through online news stories or other brands linking to the study to build their own content.

To source these findings, others will link to your company webpage as the sponsor or the study. In other words, your website will welcome several new backlinks

Backlinks are powerful tools that can help your website rank higher in search engines, such as Google.

Not only do they promote an increase in referral site traffic, but they also help build your domain authority. 

If you practice on-site SEO and track your site rankings, collecting valuable backlinks is key.

Without backlinks, it becomes that much more difficult to rank within the top 10 search queries of Google. 

A public relations survey helps your site attract many new backlinks from just one study.

For example, USA Today featured a public relations survey conducted by our market research firm. It included a backlink to the Drive Research website to learn more about the study.

USA Today featuring PR Survey by Drive Research

How many survey responses do I need?

This is probably the most common question when it comes to public relations surveys. 

Do I need 100 completes, 200 completes, 400 completes, 1,000 completes?

In the days of a purely random sample among a probabilistic sample, this was a lot easier to answer. This type of approach allowed market researchers to calculate a margin of error

Here is a simple breakdown of how an increase in responses leads to a smaller margin of error:

  • 100 completes produces a +/- 10% margin of error. 
  • 400 completes produces a +/- 5% margin of error. 
  • 1,000 completes produces a +/- 3% margin of error.
  • 2,000 completes produces a +/- 2% margin of error.


margin of error for PR polling survey

The short answer is, the more completed surveys you reference the more credibility your study obtains.

More responses increase your chances of being picked up by news sources.

Something to note! The number of completes will depend on how difficult your audience is to reach, how large of a pool it is, and what your market research budget is.

But we all agree. The more, the better.

For a consumer study with a national audience aim for 1,000 to 2,000 responses. This is considered best-in-class and the benchmark for public relations surveys.

How long does the public relations survey process take?

If the number of completes is the most common question, this is the second most common question: How long does market research take?

The process can be completed in as little as a few days if working with a PR survey firm like Drive Research.

Once fieldwork is up and running, your team will have access to a reporting portal with real-time, automatically populated charts and graphs.

How long does it take to complete a public relations survey?
If the survey can be finalized quickly, the public relations research process can be completed in as little as 24 to 48 hours. However, public relations survey companies work at whatever pace you need.

Many times our clients like to brainstorm ideas with our team about the survey topics and what can garner headlines. This creative process should not be rushed.

Other times, the brand stakeholders like to review the survey draft more in-depth and make edits, comments, and suggestions on the questions. This can often take a few extra days to finalize.

The point is. The partner will work at whatever pace is best for you. 

But, the best-case scenario is turning around your public relations survey in 24 to 48 hours so that when the data is published it is relevant and up to date.

What are the deliverables from PR polling studies?

Beyond the core benefit of press, news coverage, and earned media, there are many creative and strategic ways to think about how market research can be used to fuel your PR strategy.

All of this content increases the value and ROI of your PR survey project.

Content is king. 

We know this and we live this at Drive Research (no, really...we publish new blog posts every day). 

According to a study by Buzzsumo and Mantis Research:

  • 9 out of 10 companies who do original research found it to be successful. 
  • 56% stated the results of content marketing research met or exceeded their expectations.

We like those odds.

stats on companies using exclusive research

Here are 6 ways to maximize the return from your PR polling efforts:

  • Press releases
  • Blogs
  • Infographics
  • Social snackables
  • Whitepapers
  • Webinars

1. Press releases 📰

When it comes to PR strategy, you likely immediately think about press releases and the benefits you can achieve by sharing original research or exclusive research with news sources and journalists. 

Sharing data and results from a PR poll or newly commissioned study will easily catch the attention of relevant news outlets. 

The press release highlighting the findings can be featured on vendor sites such as Business Wire or PR Newswire.

It increases the chances of your data being picked up and sourced by other major outlets.

How cool would it be to see an article by Forbes, NY Times, or referencing your company?

Third-party PR vendors can help make this possible.

Again, this press release strategy increases the number of backlinks to your website from credible sources.

The more backlinks your site has from other top media sources, the more credible your website is to Google in terms of search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine rankings placement (SERP). 

Public relations surveys offer an excellent opportunity to improve your SEO rankings and site authority by sharing relevant and insightful data.

This strategy can also provide an ever-important critical backlink to your brand website.

Hello SEO! 🚀🚀🚀🚀

2. Blogs 🌐

Naturally, when one thinks of content, it often relates to blogs or blogging.

A public relations survey can generate a whole series of blog posts.

Think beyond just a single summary blog post that highlights all the insights and findings from the market research.

Each data point from the survey has its own story to tell which should be separated into different blog posts. 

In doing so, your team is able to expand on separate findings for your readers and reference any breakdown of demographics.

Example of Using PR Survey Results for Content Marketing
Let's say a marketing firm conducts a PR survey to increase brand awareness in the healthcare industry. The study focused on the rise of telehealth with 1,000 U.S. adults.

One question, in particular, asked how likely respondents would consider booking a telehealth appointment with their doctor versus going into their office.

Findings showed that 62% of U.S. adults were likely to consider using a telehealth program. However, this percentage increased among millennial respondents, with 78% saying they would book a telehealth appointment. 

The marketing firm can use the many levels of these findings from this one question to create a blog post.

The blog post doesn’t only share the results from the question but also includes recommendations for how healthcare facilities can utilize this information in their marketing strategies among different age groups.

3. Infographics 🖼️

Another deliverable from public relations polling is infographics. Infographics are visually appealing and creatively display data and findings.

Rather than showing your data as boring old stacked bar charts or line graphs, infographics bring a fresh look to market research.

They work extremely well as part of content marketing strategies.

Infographics catch the attention of the reader and are very shareable. People love sharing them on social media (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc.)

It is very easy to take past market research and reformat it into a simple infographic to gain more visibility.

Example infographic


4. Social snackables 📱

Like infographics, social snippets are short and snackable shares of data and insights designed for social media.

These include an image with a supporting data point such as...

  • "Did you know from a recent survey, 82% of consumers increased their digital banking usage in the past 12 months?"
  • "96%: The number of manufacturing professionals who believe they still have more to learn when it comes to digital marketing."

These social shares are excellent ways to repurpose all data points from your market research.

It is easy to create 20, 30, or 40+ of these snippets to roll out as part of your content strategy for your company or your clients through social media.

These can also be shared through paid ads on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn to gain further exposure to your brand and the PR market research through earned media.

5. Whitepapers 📜

Whitepapers are an excellent channel to share insights from PR polling surveys. 

Why sit on industry or user data which would be invaluable to prospects in your vertical?

This data can easily be reformatted into downloadable content that lives on your website and collects new leads for years to come. 

Example of Using Public Relations Survey Results for Whitepapers
Let's say a digital marketing agency ran an online survey with 500 cardiologists across the country.

The objective of the study was to understand the physician's thoughts on upcoming trends in testing, medication usage, and reimbursement. The survey also inquired about barriers to adoption.

The digital marketing agency created a 4-page whitepaper with direct feedback from 500 of the nation's top cardiologists. 

Think this would carry some value for other physicians or cardiologists?

As a digital marketing agency the new cardiologists who want to read this information would be high-value prospects.

As a next step, you offer the whitepaper on your website, free to download for those physicians who provide contact information. Then your account team can follow up with the physicians who download the whitepaper as part of a new lead generation strategy.

6. Webinars ▶️

Lastly, webinars are a more personable form of content marketing because it gives you time to speak to a group of individuals versus just having them read your content. 

Our clients who take advantage of webinars are typically the ones who produce high-value content with the feedback they receive from PR market research.

The webinar is just another channel to share this information through conversation and encourage sign-ups.

Recently, our public relations market research company partnered with a media agency to conduct a survey regarding community sentiment around COVID-19.

The feedback from the 1,200 response survey was used in a variety of ways, including a webinar. The webinar was able to catch the attention of 500 attendees. 

This is another form of lead generation that gives your team the opportunity to follow up with webinar attendees.

What is a real-world example of a public relations survey?

Our PR market research firm worked with loanDepot to conduct a national study with homeowners. The company is the second-largest non-bank provider of direct-to-consumer loans in the United States.

Several objectives were laid out for the PR polling survey including stress levels when buying or selling a home, drivers of stress, and emotions or feelings surrounding the home experience.

An online survey was administered to a national audience and the overview of the market research study is recapped here.

This was conducted as a PR poll through Drive Research our national market research company in New York State.

PR Survey Objectives

Drive Research conducted a 12-question online survey with those who own their home.

The objectives of the survey were to understand:

  • Stress levels in the home buying and selling process
  • Drivers of stress
  • Data to support the inability to sell a home
  • Internet usage and demographics

This was part of a new partnership for loanDepot with OfferPad – an online platform serving buyers and sellers of homes.

A total of 1,001 respondents completed the survey and screened to ensure they owned their homes.

This represents a margin of error of approximately +/- 3% at the 95% confidence interval which represents very strong data reliability.

The survey was blinded no mention of the sponsor of the research was made at any point during the process (in this case, loanDepot).

This ensures results are statistically reliable, unbiased, and factual using the general population of homeowners across the country.

The Approach to the PR Survey

An online survey was used to collect feedback for the client. The survey was administered through a nationally representative sample of respondents in the United States.

The survey was drafted in Word before being programmed and tested through the Drive Research online software. The survey was tested before a full launch.

The only survey took approximately 3 minutes to complete.

The Results of the Public Relations Survey

The big takeaway was more than 95% (nearly all) homeowners experienced some level of stress when buying or selling their home.

This was the major headline the sponsor ran with as part of the PR outreach.

This nugget was featured throughout the loanDepot PR and marketing.

PR Polling Survey Marketing Graphic

The public relations survey answered the following objectives:

  • Word or phrases associated with buying or selling homes.
  • The stress level in the process of buying or selling a home.
  • Drivers or causes of home buying or selling stress.
  • The number of homeowners where a purchase has fallen through because they could not sell their home.
  • Feelings and emotions around not being able to sell a home in order to move to a new home.
  • Internet behavior around buying and selling homes.
  • Demographics such as region of residence, age, gender, and household income.

A full comprehensive report was provided to loanDepot that highlighted all of the findings including crosstabs on several of these demographic and categorization questions.

Contact Our Public Relations Research Company

Thanks for sticking with us through this ultimate guide to public relations surveys. 

Thirsty for more? Have questions? Need advice?

Drive Research is here to help. Here are 4 convenient ways to reach us if you are ready for the next steps:

  1. Message us on our website
  2. Email us at [email protected]
  3. Call us at 888-725-DATA
  4. Text us at 315-303-2040

Author Bio George Kuhn

George Kuhn

George is the Owner & President of Drive Research. He has consulted for hundreds of regional, national, and global organizations over the past 15 years. He is a CX-certified VoC professional with a focus on innovation and new product management.

Learn more about George, here.

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Public Relations Surveys