If you found this post from our national PR polling company in the neverending ocean, that is Google, boy are you in for a treat.
We may be a tad biased, but we have got a whole team of writers here at our research firm who believe this is the holy grail for conducting a custom PR survey.
Here is what we’ll cover in this ultimate guide (click the title to skip ahead):
- Chapter One: What is a PR Survey?
- Chapter Two: Why are Surveys Important for PR?
- Chapter Three: The Process of Conducting Custom Surveys
- Chapter Four: Example of a PR Polling Survey Question
- Chapter Five: Choosing Your Survey Audience
- Chapter Six: Accessing Survey Respondents
- Chapter Seven: Recommended Number of Responses
- Chapter Eight: Benefits of Working with a PR Polling Company
- Chapter Nine: How to Choose a PR Survey Firm
- Chapter Ten: Getting started with a Public Relations Survey Company
- Chapter Eleven: The Turnaround Time for a Market Research Survey
- Chapter Twelve: Deliverables to Add to a PR Polling Study
- Chapter Thirteen: Cost of a Custom PR Survey with a Third-Party
- Chapter Fourteen: Real-World PR Survey Success Story
But first…do yourself a favor and get a refill on that lukewarm coffee.
Heck if you’re reading this, and it’s close enough to 5:00 p.m. that adult beverage might need a fuller/chilled replacement. Now is the time. No judgments.
Need a quote for your PR survey? Contact us through our website or email us at [email protected].
Chapter One: What is a custom PR survey?
It is a form of quantitative market research where opinions of the general public are gathered.
It is intended to be statistically reliable and is released to news outlets through stories and other sources to gather attention by sharing valuable information about beliefs and habits.
It is called many names such as omnibus surveys, PR polling, public opinion polls, polling questionnaires, and so many more. They are all the same!
Chapter Two: Why are surveys important for PR?
As the digital world continues to explode, receiving more press coverage is becoming increasingly difficult. To stand out against the masses, your press pitches must be unique and contain information that can’t be found anywhere else.
In fact, Inc., reports that by giving journalists access to original research, you can feel more confident that you’ll receive a press mention and earn maximum distribution.
Additionally, surveys are a great digital PR strategy for getting higher search rankings. When media outlets like The New York Times, USA Today, and Forbes source your survey data, they will link to your website.
A backlink from these high domain authority websites signals to Google that your content is more reputable. As a result, search engines are more likely to rank your content higher because they can trust that your content will meet users’ expectations.
Recommended Reading: 9 Ways to Get More Backlinks for Your Website
Chapter Three: The process of conducting custom surveys
PR polling studies are mainly conducted through online surveys because:
✔️ They are affordable
✔️ They are timely
✔️ They offer high-quality data
The ROI of online surveys is much higher than what can be achieved through a mail, phone, or in-person methodology.
Now that you understand the basic definition of PR polling, let's walk through the 14 step process of conducting a survey with an experienced market research firm.
For a short overview, read: 5 Steps to Conducting a PR Survey.
Step 1. Discovery 🔍
The point-of-contact from your team reaches out to a PR survey company and shares your needs and expectations of the market research (we'll share what information to provide the third-party later on!)
The research firm will send over a calendar invite to answer any questions you might have to help you make the best choice for a partner.
It typically lasts 15 to 30 minutes and is conducted via a conference line dial-in or video call.
Hey, even though we work with our clients from all over the world, we still crave some face-to-face time.
Step 2. Proposal 📄
Next, the PR survey services firm builds out a proposal for you. In our case, we offer up a thorough document that highlights your objectives discussed on the discovery call, our recommended approach, a timeline, and a fixed cost.
Prefer something more a la carte? Our proposals often include several different packages so your project can match any budget.
These are built into bronze, silver, and gold market research programs for your public relations survey.
In most cases, this proposal will make it over to your inbox within one or two days after the discovery call, even faster if requested. We don’t mess around.
Recommended Reading: 7 Components of a Market Research Proposal
Step 3. Kickoff meeting 📅
Now you are ready to roll. You have chosen your market research company, and we’re off.
The kickoff meeting lasts about 30 to 60 minutes. An agenda is sent before the call to keep everyone on task.
The purpose of a kickoff meeting is to:
- Confirm objectives
- Discuss initial survey questions
- Talk about the timeline
It can be done in-person, through a conference call, or even a video chat through screen share.
During the kickoff, you meet your PR market research team for the survey, which includes a pairing of analysts, assistants, and marketing coordinators.
They’ll have some great ideas on survey questions to get your data featured by big-name publications but also listen to your unique needs.
Step 4. Workplan ☑️
What is measured gets managed. Any good PR survey project needs a market research workplan. This workplan is distributed to the team within 24 hours after the kickoff meeting.
It’s a one-page document exchanged and updated throughout the project. It includes the tasks, responsible parties, and dates of completion.
This way, everyone knows exactly where everything sits on the timeline.
Step 5. Survey design ✍️
It is undoubtedly the most crucial step in the entire public relations survey process — garbage in, garbage out.
You must write the survey questions with an end in mind, and this is where market research companies can lend their decades of expertise.
Survey writing is part art and part science.
The key is to THINK ABOUT WHAT HEADLINES AND STORIES you want to tell in your press release, whitepaper, website copy, and other shareables.
Knowing what you want in the end will help you plan for it.
Length of a PR polling survey.
The recommended sweet spot for survey length is about 10 to 15 questions. There is a lot you can cover with this 3-to-5 minute survey length or length of interview (LOI).
Asking additional questions and having both primary and secondary objectives allows you to hedge secondary headlines.
More on the recommended number of questions you should ask in a survey, here.
Planning for secondary headlines.
The results of a survey can be anticipated, but there is always a risk of the unknown.
Planning for other headlines to hang your hat on is recommended, in case your core objective does not turn out to be confirmed through the response data.
Plus, these additional findings and insights make your press release all that much more informational for news sources and readers.
Again, the survey writing step is critical.
Our PR market research firm will send you a Word document with all of the questions. Your team offers edits and feedback on the draft. We revise and return with comments.
Sometimes this process takes only 1 or 2 drafts. Sometimes it takes 4 or 5 drafts. We don’t take the next steps until you are fully satisfied.
Our team is excellent at educating brands on how to make surveys work for their PR strategy.
Step 6. Survey programming 💻
Speaking of the next steps, now we jump into survey programming. Once the questions are finalized, this can typically be turned around in a day for a short survey.
We take the questions and place them into our survey software hosted on the surveys.driveresearch.com domain.
What to look at when programming a PR questionnaire?
- Grammar and spelling (no brainer)
- Sequence and question order (does everything flow correctly?)
- Skip patterns or logic (depending on answers to one question, should it skip others?)
- Answer order (proper research examines randomization, inverse, and/or alphabetical orders)
Need a break from reading? Watch this video! Our market research firm shares helpful tips when coding a survey.
Step 7. Testing 🧪
Once the programmed version of the survey is complete, the link runs through a rigorous internal process. Our testers are cruel as they use our online survey testing checklist.
Our testers relish finding mistakes and errors. They bathe in the potential of finding a skip pattern or logic mistake. It is what they live for.
All key project members review a test link of the survey for final sign-off. If there are any updates found, those are made to the survey link before fieldwork begins.
Step 8. A test drive or soft-launch 🚗
Get it? A Drive Research test drive? Sorry, we probably didn’t need to hammer that pun home.
It is an important step and one that speaks to our systematic process and crazy attention to detail.
Why start with a full-launch when you can be more cautious and ensure everything is working as planned before hitting go?
Once you've skipped a soft-launch, you’ve reached the point of no return.
We carefully review the incoming data as part of the soft-launch, which is planned for about 5% of the sample.
- If you are fielding 1000 responses, we’ll aim for 50.
- If you are fielding 2000 responses, we’ll aim for 100.
Those initial soft-launch responses are run through the wringer for quality, logic, and comprehension.
Viewing the data from the eyes of our clients.
Beyond the back-end system review for errors, we also view the data from the client lens.
- How are the answers shaking out?
- Will the objectives be addressed, or is the data skewing in an unexpected direction?
These initial results will be very telling.
Our PR survey agency looks at open-ended responses.
- Are the respondents comprehending the questions correctly?
- Are they giving us the detail we need?
- Do the themes and findings weave together nicely for the story?
It’s vital to soft-launch to review both functionality and context.
We hate those firms that press “go” too quickly for clients without a soft-launch.
It’s almost like saying “Too bad. Sorry, we didn’t catch this earlier. We can’t field this with a new audience. You lose.”
With any new car purchase, always give it a test drive first.
Step 9. Full launch 💥
So the soft-launch responses look good? Great! We’re ready to kick the tires and light the fires.
Now our team jumps into the main course. We open up responses to progress towards your total number responses.
You may be wondering, how many people do we need to survey? Keep reading!
With a general population sample, this moves quickly. Our market research firm typically can obtain a full dataset of respondents within a day or 48 hours.
Heck, with a name like Drive Research shouldn’t speed be assumed?
Step 10: Online portal 👀
This online portal is an outstanding benefit of working with our PR survey software. Once fieldwork begins, we share a passcode-protected interactive client reporting dashboard with your team.
Boy, that was a mouthful, but it speaks to the awesomeness.
You have the ability to login and view the up-to-the-second results from your survey at any time.
- Logging in during your morning cup of coffee? ✅
- Out to lunch at your favorite sandwich shop on your mobile? ✅
- Getting away from your inlaws at your Thanksgiving dinner? ✅ We got you.
Here are a few examples of our online reporting dashboard.
We provide overall results (full sample size) and even cross-tabulations of results by audiences.
Maybe you want to look at cuts by age or generation, cuts by household income, or cuts by gender.
Our PR market research firm can set all of these up for you.
Example 1: Overall Results
Example 2: Breakdown by location
Step 11. Fieldwork audits ⚙️
While collecting all of the responses from the panel, our team is also behind the curtain reviewing the data with a fine-toothed comb.
Our PR polling company reviews survey responses for:
- Time to complete to identify speeders
- Duplicate IP addresses
- Nonsensical open-ends
- Other irregularities in the data
If they do not meet our standards, we replace those cases at no charge. We have zero tolerance!
Recommended Reading: Your Survey Fieldwork is Complete - Now What? Use These 9 Data Cleaning Tips
Step 12: Charts and graphs exports 📈
In addition to the interactive reporting portal, those custom links also give you the ability to download your charts and graphs for your PR study in four formats:
With the online links, you can hover over data points for more detail, or fully explore and analyze open-ended responses through word clouds.
These are included as part of the base package for the market research.
Step 13: Topline report with cross-tabulations banners 📊
Are the charts and graphs not enough for you? Are you not a numbers person? Do you define MATH as Mental Abuse To Humans?
We’ve got you covered.
Our topline summary report is a 3-to-4 page narrative summary of the essential findings and takeaways.
This Word document is a perfect executive summary for your PR survey. It includes the background and methodology and bullet-point summary of insights from each question with added interpretation and context.
Plus! A banner Excel file.
Along with the narrative summary, our market research company puts together a banner Excel file.
What is in it? It an Excel file of all of your cross-tabs, which compares results across categories for each question.
It’s an easy-to-use document that showcases comparisons by demographics such as age, income, gender, the region of the country, and other vital items.
It also includes significance testing at the 95% confidence interval to highlight noteworthy differences.
It’s the easiest way to digest the results and integrate the findings into your press release or other shareables on the PR end.
Step 14: Full comprehensive report 🎉
Do you crave more data? Do you want to peel back the onion even further to dive in? This comprehensive report is for you.
It’s a full Powerpoint deck of slides detailing every result. This report includes:
- A table of contents (believe us, you’ll need it)
- Background and methodology
- A theme-based executive summary that answers all key objectives
- Breakdowns of all results in charts and graphs
It’s a more polished version for a deliverable. It can easily be shared with the entire team and includes all of the relevant information in one tidy document.
It is meant for both the readers who want a high-level story and for those who want all of the data.
Later in this article, we’ll walk through some value-added deliverables to help you get the most out of your consumer polls.
Recommended Reading: Topline vs. Comprehensive Report: What's the Difference?
Chapter Four: Example of a PR Polling Survey Question
Let’s say you are a mortgage company, and you want to be able to tell the story about how frustrated the new Millennial and Gen Z homebuyers are with the mortgage process.
It gives your brand fodder to talk about how your process is more straightforward and different.
How not to ask 🚫
Were you frustrated with your mortgage experience (application, communication, outcomes) for your most recent home purchase? Select one.
Issue: Remember, your goal with the research is to promote the high percentage of respondents who express frustration.
As a dichotomous question with two choices, you are forcing the respondent to lean in one direction or the other.
Even if they are a little frustrated, they may still select “no” because the overall experience was okay.
How to ask 🙌
Using a scale of 1 to 5 where “5” indicates very frustrated and “1” indicates not at all frustrated, how frustrated were you with your mortgage experience (application, communication, outcomes) for your most recent home purchase? Select one.
- 5 - Very frustrated
- 1 - Not at all frustrated
Benefit: Asking as a Likert scale gives you more considerable variance usefulness of the data points.
If only 20% of your audience selected “1” not at all frustrated, that means 80% of your respondents indicated at least some level of frustration (rating of “2” to “5”).
This clever way of asking the question allows your story to be told and double-down on your PR headline—all without any acquiescence bias or partiality in how the question was asked.
Our PR team of survey experts offers details like this throughout the survey design process, ensuring you maximize the value of every survey question.
Chapter Five: Choosing Your Survey Audience
Several types of audiences are available to survey for your custom public relations study. We detail all of those audience and demographic options for you below.
The choice is yours. Choose wisely!
Example Audience #1: Business-to-Consumer (B2C)
Consumer surveys are the most common audience utilized for PR surveys.
Common verticals that request surveys with consumers include:
- Grocery stores
- Consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands
Plus many others!
Example Audience #2: Business-to-Business (B2B)
Public relations surveys are not always administered to consumers. Our national market research agency works with many businesses, organizations, and brands that communicate in the B2B space.
These B2B surveys require our firm to reach out to business professionals to ask survey questions regarding their business or professional role and environment.
Recommended Reading: How to Conduct a B2B Survey? A Step-by-Step Process
Example Audience #3: Demographics
A PR survey can be conducted with any demographic segmentation or bucket you are interested in.
It includes adults of any age group (those 18+) and even minors if your study needs to survey those under the age of 18 for a variety of reasons, such as choosing colleges.
If you have a specific profile or ideal customer avatar (ICA), an online panel company can target, find, and qualify this audience for your needs.
Common demographics our clients look for include:
- Income level
The list can really go on and on.
Example Audience #4: Specific types of behaviors
Beyond demographics and profiling data, your qualification criteria can dig a level deeper.
Survey questions may be designed to hone in on specific types of purchases, behaviors, and even feelings or sentiments around a topic.
Here are some examples of these types of questions that can be utilized to qualify or disqualify respondents for a PR survey:
- Parent of a child aged 3 to 8 who has purchased Cheerios in the past 3 months
- Female aged 35 to 54 who has purchased Suave shampoo in the past 6 months
- Republican male who agrees or strongly agrees the economy is headed in the right direction
- Female who lives in NYC who has downloaded the Instacart app but never ordered
Example Audience #5: Firmographics
Have you never heard of this term before? It’s okay. It’s the fancier way of saying demographics in a B2B market research targeted at business professionals.
Much like a consumer survey, many options exist in terms of firmographic questions to qualify an audience and laser focus your sample.
Here are a few examples of firmographics:
- Role or title
- Number of employees
- Business revenue
- Manager or non-manager
Chapter Six: Accessing Survey Respondents
Leave it to the experts on this one.
Most PR and communications survey companies in the U.S. have access to email databases (or market research panels) or respondents they can access at any time to collect feedback.
These panels often take years to build and are continually added to help grow the base. They consist of people who have already voluntarily signed up and rose their hands to participate in market research.
More about online research panels.
Panel participants sign up to participate in future studies and offer a ton of information about their demographics, buying patterns, and behaviors, so they stand the best chance to qualify for paid surveys.
They are invited to participate through email as each new study arises. The panel companies keep a close eye on frequency and fatigue, so a variety of participants can complete each survey.
What is the incentive to participate?
They are often offered a reward in points (i.e., like a credit card point system) or gift card raffles. Even those who disqualify earn points (albeit fewer), to keep them coming back.
Those who qualify and complete the survey are awarded more points. These points can be redeemed for prizes, gift cards, and trinkets.
Are panels representative of the U.S. population?
The best PR survey services companies care about the general make-up and representativeness of the panel for market research.
Through the simple click of a button, the pool of respondents that respond to your survey can be structured to be Census representative on critical demographics.
Chapter Seven: Recommended Number of Responses
Since the ultimate goal of public relations surveys is to have the data featured as part of a story in a news publication(s), 1,000 responses have been the established gold standard.
The number of responses to surveys is loosely based on statistical confidence.
I say loosely based because confidence intervals, the margin of error, and sampling error all assume a survey uses a probabilistic random sample.
For instance, at the 95% confidence interval, a sample size of 1,000 produces a margin of error of +/- 3%.
This means if the survey were conducted 100 times with another random sample, 95 out of 100 times the results would yield within +3% or -3% of the stated totals from the analysis.
This 3% is the accepted standard for national studies.
Some national and international brands we partner with for PR surveys opt for sample sizes of 2,000 over 1,000.
This additional 1,000 responses reduces the margin of error by nearly a full percentage point from +/- 3.1% to +/- 2.2%.
Here are the margin of errors for a variety of sample sizes below at the 95% confidence level.
- n100 = +/- 9.8%
- n200 = +/- 6.9%
- n300 = +/- 5.7%
- n400 = +/- 4.9%
- n600 = +/- 4.0%
- n800 = +/- 3.5%
- n1000 = +/- 3.1%
- n2000 = +/- 2.2%
Want to oversample a specific audience or set up quotas?
Your market research consultant can easily manage it. Hard quotas are set up to cap particular audiences to a specific number of completed surveys.
Let’s say you want to collect 1,000 responses, but you want to oversample those under the age of 45.
A quota would be designed to cap a maximum number of responses for those aged 45+ at 250 responses among 1,000.
It would allow for 750 responses to be collected for the 45 and under age group.
The advantages of collecting more responses in your online survey
Advantage #1: More statistical reliability
As outlined in the margin of error chart above, additional responses equal additional statistical reliability and trust in your dataset.
It can put your internal team, clients, news sources, and journalists at ease. It’s much easier to poke holes or doubt in a survey of 200 respondents than it is to find fault in a study of 2,000 respondents.
Advantage #2: More reliability in cross-tabulations
In addition to aggregate reliability, your subsets of data cross-tabulations and segments become more reliable as well.
For example, if your total sample size is 1,000, and you want to compare the results of males and females, each of those two genders detail sample sizes of about 500 each.
So when comparing genders, those comparisons are less reliable in terms of margin of error. If your sample size were bumped to 2,000 overall, each of those gender subsets would now have pools of 1,000 responses.
Advantage #3: More attention
It is often an understated benefit. More responses make your PR study more eye-catchy for news sources. As a journalist, it’s easier to ignore a survey of a few hundred respondents than it is a few thousand.
Particularly, when your survey discovers unique and proprietary insights and tells a fantastic story. Studies with 1,000 or 2,000 responses are door openers.
When seeking earned media opportunities, the more data you have, the better the chance of being picked up with your public relations survey.
With any earned media, you need to put your best foot forward. If the difference of being picked up by WSJ.com versus not being picked up by WSJ.com is an extra 400 responses and $1,000, wouldn’t it be worth it?
Advantage #4: More credibility
In addition to sampling reliability and attention, credibility also plays a role. Your survey needs to be structured soundly, professionally, and not incur any bias.
If your survey topic touches on any sensitive topics, news sources may challenge the findings. Additional responses help quell any skepticism in sampling error almost immediately.
Disadvantages of collecting more responses in your online survey
Disadvantage #1: Additional costs
It’s a given. As your sample sizes increase, it means more rewards and incentives paid out to survey respondents.
The cost of a 200 response survey will not be the same as the cost of an 800 response survey.
View this in terms of ROI. Is it worth the additional cost? Most likely.
Disadvantage #2: Potential impact on the timeline
Is your timeline tight? Increasing your sample size from 400 responses to 2,000 will impact the schedule somewhat.
If you are surveying a wide enough audience, say, the general population in the U.S., the impact would be minimal - as little as hours.
However, if your incidence rate is low and the audience you are surveying is narrow, adding a few hundred responses to the sample size could slow down the end date considerably.
It could be days up to a week or more. Work with your custom PR survey services company to how long the market research will take.
Disadvantage #3: Potential impact on the feasibility
It is essential to understand maximum feasibility for your market and audience.
It is something you can ask them in the early going to help guide your decision around the number of responses requested.
If you are looking for females aged 18 to 24 who purchased a cell phone in the past 6 months, it may be determined that the maximum feasibility for this audience in 1 week of fieldwork is 780 responses.
Knowing this cap helps your organization assess your plan for sample sizes.
Chapter Eight: Benefits of Working with a PR Polling Company
As with any professional services business, working with the experts pays dividends.
A meal will always be better prepared by a 5-star chef than your Aunt Karen. No offense, Aunt Karen.
An accountant will know what to look for and how to help you claim a maximum return on your taxes better than your neighbor who studied accounting in college.
The same is true for market research.
Working with analysts who have dedicated their entire careers to scripting survey questions and analyzing data will offer more insights and best practices than if you were to attempt it on your own.
There are so many benefits of working with a PR polling company for your survey. We highlight the top reasons you should consider it here.
Benefit #1: Third-party to reference in press releases 🤓
Perhaps the most critical benefit to working with an independent or third-party market research company for your PR survey is the ability to reference the firm in your press release.
When reading a press release sharing recent survey results, you will always see the firm (with a link to their website) referenced in either the body of the press release or in summary at the end of the press release.
Why? We explain in...
Benefit #2: Adds legitimacy and reliability 💪
If you are a CRM business platform and you conduct a survey with sales directors across the country highlighting the state of the industry and sharing ranks on your brand and competitors' brands, readers are savvy enough to understand your angle or bias.
"Well, of course, they would say that…"
"The reason they mention that is because it benefits them…"
"I’m on to them…"
Whereas if the press release details findings directly and objectively through a third party, it adds legitimacy and credibility to the research data.
It’s almost as if the survey and analysis went through an independent audit and received the stamp of approval.
If nothing else, this is a must-have for your PR survey.
Objective journalists are far less likely to publish or comment on potentially slanted articles or press releases that shed particular light on the writing or sponsoring organization.
Objectivity is crucial!
Benefit #3: Guidance on the process 🙏
Beyond the inherent benefits of objectivity, a PR survey company offers guidance on the process. We talk about this as a theme throughout this ultimate guide and echo that here.
The guidance comes in terms of:
- Types of questions -- did you know there are 36 different types of survey questions?
- How to phrase or not phrase specific questions.
- How to target and qualify the right audiences.
- The number of responses for the study.
- How to interpret, analyze, and feature the results.
- What insights in the results are going to gather headlines.
- What is the core headline and attention-grabber?
If you can’t tell, the culture of Drive Research is built on thought-leadership and educating our clients through our market research company blog.
We enjoy the process that is market research, not just the outcomes.
This attention to detail and our systematic process offers us the ability to lend expertise in the areas you need it.
Recommended Reading: Benefits of Working with a Third-Party Research Firm
Benefit 4: Access to databases of consumers and business professionals 🗂️
If your brand does not do market research regularly, you probably are not sitting on a database of millions of respondents for a survey at your fingertips.
Not only do we have our national third-party panel, but because of the volume of studies we conduct, we also have access to over 250 other panel company databases in the world as part of our survey fulfillment process.
What does this mean for you?
It means discounted prices and maximum feasibility. We can find the most cost-effective, timely, and high-quality sample match for your study.
For example, if you need to speak to financial advisors, not only can we pull these contacts from our in-house database, but we also have a dozen B2B sample vendors in our network where we can obtain the most competitive bid for your project.
The lowest cost per complete without sacrificing in other areas. These cost savings are passed along to you.
Benefit 5: Discounted costs/bulk costs 💸
The ability to utilize not only our in-house B2C and B2B panel but utilize our partner network of 250+ panels offers a lot of benefits directly to you.
It saves you both time and money from collecting hundreds of quotes (in some instances) and is less expensive than if you were to reach out to the vendor directly due to our discounted volume pricing and paid subscription access to all 250+ databases.
Think about the time savings from having to reach out to 250 different contacts before making a decision on which online panel offers the best cost per response, timeline, and quality sample.
These are already criteria we know working in this space day-in and day-out.
Benefit 6: Fine-tuning language to convey results properly 💯
If you have an internal PR team drafting the press, infographics, or other shareables, our team is happy to review those before mass distribution.
Statistics can be tricky for some, and the last thing you want is to be misquoted for information because of how the data point was defined or explained.
It is easily solved by our team producing a topline report, press release, and many other deliverables to maximize public relations survey results. However, we also realize using your in-house team on these can help conserve costs.
Let our team have a final look to fine-tune the language, double-check your documents, and ensure there is no pushback or confusion from news sources or readers.
Chapter Nine: How to Choose a PR Polling Firm
Alright, you have gotten your crash course on what PR polling is, how it works, and the benefits of working with a third party.
Now, we want to guide you through how to find the best partner to work with for your upcoming survey project.
You might be overwhelmed with the number of choices out there, but here are a few factors to finding the best PR survey company.
Criteria #1: Case studies and credentials
The proof is in the pudding, as they say. A reliable partner will be able to share some good case studies, talk the talk, and walk the walk.
The partner will be able to provide some relevant PDF case studies or direct you to a few pages on the website with some case study articles.
You want to feel confident you are working with a vendor who knows what they are doing and have stood the test of time.
Criteria #2: Willingness to share
When it comes to the right partner, work with a company that works hand-in-hand with your team.
If you are approaching this for the first time or the one-hundredth time, there are always things to learn.
A right partner will be a thought-leader and educate you on new ways of thinking, actionable lines of questions, and other outside-of-the-box strategies.
Change is good, and new is better.
Criteria #3: Responsiveness
When you reach out for a quote, estimate, or proposal, and it takes them 2 days to respond, do you view that a good sign?
A two-day wait for a response may not be an eternity for most, but it is to us. Firms trying to win your business will never behave better than when they are trying to sell you a project.
That 2-day response time might be 3 or 4 days once you move forward with them.
Responsiveness is critical for our clients. If they have a question before they enter a board meeting in 1 hour, we get them a response.
Things come up, and answers are needed. It is a soft skill and not directly research-related, but we view it as a critical piece and factor for a decision.
Criteria #4: Attention to detail
There is no wiggle room for mistakes. When it comes to statistics and data, you do not want the reader or news source to have any doubt in the survey responses.
If they notice a mistake, they will lack confidence in sharing the story with their audience.
If you notice little typos, grammar mistakes, or even formatting errors in the emails or proposals, it’s usually a more massive sign the PR firm does not pay particular attention to detail.
It is bad news when it comes time to analyze and tabulate the data for your PR survey.
Criteria #5: Questionnaire design (idea to action)
Your partner should be the expert in the art and science of wording survey questions. You don’t have to be.
Your role in the survey process is communicating...
- What you want to learn
- What you want to get out of the research
- Your expectations
Focus on high-level objectives and topics of interest. A good market research partner will take that information and translate it into actionable survey questions for your review.
If your vendor asks you to send them the 3, 5, or 10 questions you want to include in the survey, run!
Run far away. Hire a consultant. One that can help you strategize on the effort rather than execute questions.
Criteria #6: High data quality standards
Ask about the auditing process and data quality standards of the vendor. Here are some things that the best PR polling agency will do as they review survey responses.
- Check the time to complete the survey to identify speeders (those who complete too quickly)
- Check the IP address of respondents (did the survey receive 30 responses from the same IP)
- Include a red herring question to flag bad respondents (i.e., select “3” for this question)
- Review open-ends for quality (are there any nonsensical or illogical answers typed in)
Criteria #7: Passion
Find a company that treats your survey as not just a job. It’s all good when the salesperson or business development contact sells you on their enthusiasm about your product, but does the research team match that excitement?
Interest = ownership.
If you find a partner that treats you as a true priority, the result will always be better.
Criteria #8: Perspective
Ensure your PR consultant views the project from your perspective.
- Can they put themselves in your shoes and understand your needs and goals?
- Outcomes of questions?
- When you need information?
- Do they treat your deadlines as priorities?
Look for a company that is on the same page as you.
There might be several opportunities for the PR company to make suggestions on how to utilize the consumer poll survey to capitalize and gather attention for your brand.
Here is an example of a poll being conducted on a news topic that draws interest.
Chapter Ten: Getting started with a PR Survey Company
After finding a potential vendor or list of vendors you would like to reach out to for your PR survey, it's time to get a quote, proposal, or estimate.
To save yourself some time and get you an apples-to-apples quote for the market research, include the following details when you reach out through a website, email, or phone call.
If you reach out and do not include some of the details, that’s okay. They’ll likely respond with a few additional questions.
Item #1: Estimated number of questions 🤔
I know. It is difficult. It’s so early in the process you may not be 100% sure what you want to ask and what you don’t want to ask.
Remember, part of the survey design piece is where the third party will fully draft out a questionnaire that touches on all of your primary and secondary objectives.
The sweet spot with a survey you are using for public relations among consumers or business professionals is 10 to 15 questions.
If you are unsure, this is a good starting point.
We don’t recommend extending the survey too far beyond this 15-question threshold.
It creates diminishing returns on the quality of the consumer data.
Respondents become less engaged, they drop off, or they try to speed to the finish line if they feel the survey is too long.
A short, 15-question survey avoids these concerns.
Item #2: Length of the interview (LOI) 📏
Directly tied to the number of questions is the length of the interview (LOI). Even though a formal interview does not take place, it is synonymous with the length of the survey, in minutes.
Using the 10 to 15 question length in the prior point, this puts you directly into the sweet spot of 3 to 5 minutes for LOI.
If you are finding respondents through a panel, several demographic questions can be appended to your survey data without having to ask the question to count towards the 15 scripted ideas. How?
Most market research companies keep a database of demographic data on survey respondents tied to a RID or respondent ID.
So if RID A837DB2D910 responds to the 15-question survey, the PR marketing research firm can easily append more information from the database to your custom survey.
It may include any number of demographic information that does not count towards your total LOI.
Appended data may include but is not limited to:
- Household income
- Child(ren) in the household
- Household size
- Household decision-maker
Item #3: Market area/geography 🗺️
Tell the PR survey company where you would like to conduct the research.
Your partner should be able to walk you through the feasibility of any geography and estimate the number of responses.
A lot of PR studies are conducted nationally.
It means the U.S. is the target market. Therefore any respondent who resides in the country would be a target for the survey.
Your geography can be designed to be much broader or narrower.
Need to conduct a PR survey internationally? Our market research company can survey respondents in any country in the world - like our case study from Chile.
Here are some of the different geography types which can be targeted:
- Designated market areas (DMAs)
- Metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs)
- ZIP Code(s)
- Radius around the address(es)
By providing the consultant firm with the geography you are looking to target, they will then run a feasibility check.
If you are looking for n2000 or n1000 consumers anywhere in the U.S. - no problem.
However, if you are looking for n2000 of consumers who live in 3 ZIP Codes in North Dakota, feasibility could very well be an issue.
The vendor will let you know if any potential issues or barriers arise when running a feasibility check for your market of interest.
Item 4: Audience you trying to reach 🔊
Now that you have the number of questions, LOI, and geography out of the way, tell the PR market research company about the audience you want to talk to in the online survey.
Based on the qualification criteria, the PR firm will generate an estimated incidence rate or IR.
The incidence rate is based on the probability of a survey respondent qualifying from the general population sample.
An acronym used for the general population is gen pop. With a general population (gen pop) sample targeting approach, 100% of survey respondents qualify to participate in a study.
A simple example of the incidence rate is this...
Let’s say you want to target only males in the U.S. for your online survey. It immediately makes the incidence rate, IR, or qualification rate of 49%.
Just less than half of the general U.S. population is male (49 out of 100).
A more complicated example of the incidence rate is this...
Let’s say you want to target males in the U.S. who have purchased lobster in the past 3 months. They must also earn at least $100,000 in household income, have children, and are aged 25 to 34.
The qualification rate or IR of this audience can quickly drop to 10% or below.
A more rigorous study impacts your PR survey in several ways.
It may reduce feasibility (maxing out at 400 responses instead of 1,000), extend the timeline (fieldwork takes 2 weeks instead of 1 week), and it will increase the cost.
Why does it cost more to reach an audience with a lower IR?
Can’t the online panel company email more invites until we reach our goal? Yes and no.
The way the online database works, is even those invited and disqualified are still paid a nominal reward or points as a thank you. It keeps them interested and engaged in the panel for future studies.
So the more respondents who disqualify, the higher the cost per incidence or CPI.
Item #5: Number of responses 💬
It is another familiar unknown in the market research industry.
How many responses do I need for my PR survey for my brand to make it credible and reliable?
Although it can depend on your budget, our market research company always recommend 1,000 completes for your survey.
The term completes means a respondent who fully completed the entire survey, no partial responses, or someone who dropped out half-way through.
Chapter Eleven: The Turnaround Time for a Custom PR Survey
Let me push this question back to your business, organization, or brand. How quickly do you need it?
Our polling survey company moves fast. The majority of our surveys run within 72 hours from start to finish.
The 72-hour turnaround time includes:
- Design and programming
- Quality checks to conclude fieldwork before putting together the analytics
Our public relations market research agency will work at whatever pace you need.
Some organizations have more stakeholders and require more time to review the survey questions.
Others can approve the survey draft more quickly.
Here are some typical timelines for our customer PR surveys:
- Accelerated: Kickoff through reporting (end-to-end) in 24 to 72 hours
- Average: Kickoff through reporting (end-to-end) in 1 week
- Extended: Kickoff through reporting (end-to-end) in 1 to 2 weeks
Chapter Twelve: Deliverables to Add to a PR Polling Study
Now, if you are conducting market research, you may only think that the market research company produces numbers for you.
Incorrect! The best national PR polling companies offer multiple services to help repurpose and add even more value to the study by using data for your marketing strategy.
Think..."Are there any ways and other formats we can share the information to improve the return on investment (ROI) of our efforts?" The answer is always yes.
Here are value-added services for your public opinion polling project.
Bonus 1: Infographics
The ultimate graphical shareable. An infographic is ideal for sharing your PR polling results on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
The infographic is an eye-catchy and engaging way to share the results of your survey.
Drive Research is a big fan of using infographics to display research results in a fun and aesthetically pleasing way.
Here is an example infographic our team created for a PR survey on gyms re-opening in 2020.
Bonus 2: Blog posts
Repurposing your survey results into other deliverables is recommended. Don’t think about just a single post that summarizes all of the results in one post.
Theoretically, each question from the survey tells its own story and could be a separate blog post as part of a series. Write these for both shareables on social but also for SEO.
Bonus 3: Website copy
Most likely, the PR study you recently completed offers a lot of value to your readers, customers, and potential customers.
Reformat the findings or the press release into a page or page(s) on your website.
In addition to blog posts and website copy, if you have a news section on your website, the PR you gather from the survey fits perfectly there.
Bonus 4: Social stackables
Remember, we’re all about repurposing. Each data point and insight from your survey makes for a nice shareable on social media.
Share the key insights with links to your website or blog. Share mini-insights with graphical PNGs. Even share your infographic.
Break those insights down by age generations, and you have even more nuggets to share. It is endless.
Here is an example of how our client, Seedership repurposed findings from a PR survey to share on social media.
Bonus 5: Editorial/press releases
It may be the fifth mention but one the most valuable. If you are struggling to get press and awareness of your brand, a survey is an excellent way to get on the radar of big-name news sources, sites, and journalists.
Survey data is unique and proprietary, and it’s something of value you can offer them that NO ONE ELSE HAS.
For example, our client ABC Creative was featured in yahoo Finance as a result of our PR polling survey.
Bonus 6: Whitepapers
Whitepapers are a creative way to generate leads and customers. Most of our brands put together a 3-to-4 page in-depth whitepaper highlighting the survey insights.
They place this on a landing page on the website and require a form fill to download (name, organization name, email, and phone number).
You can also use PPC and social media advertisements to drive traffic to the landing page to generate even more leads.
Bonus 7: eBooks
It is a similar strategy to the whitepaper, but more in-depth. Perhaps you can leverage some of the survey data to help educate your customers.
If you are a mortgage company, you may be able to build an eBook for first-time homebuyers. Your introduction page could feature some data and numbers from the national survey you just conducted with first-time homebuyers.
Chapter Thirteen: Cost of a Custom PR Survey with a Third-Party
The golden question, right? How much does an online survey cost with a PR polling company?
If you read through to the final chapter of this ultimate guide, you are probably immediately jumping too: “This all sounds great, and I see the value, but can I afford it?”
The short answer about the costs you don’t want to hear is: it depends. But it does.
Have no fear, though. We are here to explain and help you understand what factors impact the cost of a PR survey firm project for your organization.
We outline these items below and tell how they can drive the expense UP (⬆️) or DOWN (⬇️).
Factor #1: Domestic or international with translations
This first point relates to the geography of your survey. Do you want to conduct the study domestically or internationally?
Conducting the survey domestically ⬇️
If you're going to complete a survey with our market research company in the U.S., there will be no extra costs.
Unless you need our team to provide a Spanish translation for those respondents, which is very rare for a Census representative national survey for PR purposes.
Conducting the survey internationally ⬆️
However, if you need to conduct the survey internationally, there will be additional fees.
The additional charges are for translation and programming fees related to taking the English version of the survey and setting it up in other languages (i.e., Spanish, French, German, Mandarin, etc.)
There are also translation fees on the back-end to review any open-ended questions and convert those to English for interpretation.
Open-ended questions are free-text responses where respondents type in answers rather than select from provided categories.
These comments are often proofed and categorized into themes, which is called coding.
If you are running a survey with translations, it is a good idea to limit the number of open-ended comments or remove them entirely, so all the questions are closed-ended via categories.
If they are all close-ended, the analysis and interpretation are more straightforward. Since the categories are already translated for the survey outreach, the percentages can be easily applied through the responses without any additional work.
Did you know we can conduct a survey for your organization in over 200 languages? Don't believe us? Here is the list below.
Understandable regarding the cost impact here:
⬆️ Cost increases if: the additional language(s) are needed for surrey administration and/or analysis.
⬇️ Cost decreases if: your survey is conducted in English only.
Factor #2: Number of questions or (LOI)
A second factor that impacts the cost of your PR polling survey is the number of questions you want to ask, or what is also called the length of the interview.
A 50-question study takes your PR polling survey firm longer to draft and longer to program.
It also requires the company to pay a more significant incentive to obtain responses. A respondent may not be willing to take a 20-minute survey for $1, but will they take it for $5?
More extensive studies equal more substantial rewards. But in some cases, higher rewards can equal lower market research costs.
Using our advice above, try to aim for about 10 to 15 questions for your PR poll. It is about a 3-to-5 minute LOI.
⬆️ Cost increases if: more questions are added, and the survey is longer.
⬇️ Cost decreases if: fewer questions are asked, and the survey is shorter.
Factor #3: Number of responses
The next factor we examine which impacts price significantly is the number of responses you need to gather. Perhaps no other element has a more considerable impact on the budget.
From our discussion earlier in this ultimate guide, here is a short recap of what you need to consider in terms of completed survey responses:
- n100 (minimum), but not recommended
- n400 (reasonable)
- n1000 (gold standard)
- n2000 (best)
A total of 100 responses offers a +/- 10% margin of error, which is not ideal.
The results will be directional but not very reliable. Remember, with a PR poll, you want to be confident in the results, so this confidence can be passed to journalists and news outlets when discussing the results.
But let’s take a look at a few examples as we look at cost impact:
- n100 at $1 per response: $100
- n400 at $1 per response: $400
- n1000 at $1 per response: $1,000
- n2000 at $1 per response: $2,000
If that cost per response increases to $5:
- n100 at $5 per response: $500
- n400 at $5 per response: $2,000
- n1000 at $5 per response: $5,000
- n2000 at $5 per response: $10,000
With those examples, it’s easy to see how the cost of the sample can skyrocket as the number of responses increases.
If you have a budget in mind and are willing to share with the PR polling firm, they can design a package to fit your needs best.
⬆️ Cost increases if: more responses are requested.
⬇️ Cost decreases if: fewer responses are requested.
Factor #4: Level of reporting
With our PR polling company, several reporting options exist for your organization. There are 3 options to choose from with our team:
Level 1: Base package.
It includes an online dashboard of all of the charts and graphs from your survey using a passcode-protected link. You can log into the interactive online reports at any time and view up-to-the-second results.
These reports incur no additional charge to you, and we include a handful of cross-tabulation reports as well (data compared by specific demographics or behaviors).
These reports may be exported in Excel, PDF, Powerpoint, or Word to view offline.
We also find several clients who are looking to cut costs, take the Powerpoint slides, and format them into their brand template. It makes it cost-effective and straightforward.
Level 2: Topline report with cross-tabulations banners.
With the base package, our PR polling firm does not offer any interpretation.
In those cases, the sponsoring brand or client reviews the analysis and prepares its press releases, shareables, and other deliverables. It helps reduce costs.
Many opt for the Level 2 package with our company. The topline report is a 3 to 4 page (maximum) Word document which highlights the themes and findings from the poll in a bullet point style format.
The insights detail the key takeaways from the survey objectively and ensure all primary and secondary goals are addressed.
In addition to the executive summary topline, our team also prepares a full Excel file of banner runs.
The questions in the survey are listed in the rows, and the cross-tabulations are listed as columns.
These files are an excellent way to view the full results at a glance and compare results across demographics.
Instances, where results are statistically significant, are noted in the cells.
What this means is if males are significantly more likely than females to purchase tires for vehicles, this cell will be highlighted as statistically significant.
Level 3: Comprehensive report.
It is the Cadillac package of PR polling studies. Our full Powerpoint file includes:
- A background and methodology
- An executive summary of themes
- A comprehensive appendix of charts and graphs for all of the survey questions
- Additional tables and graphs for all of the cross-tabulations
In most cases, a 10 to 15 question survey can easily create a deck of over 100 pages for this comprehensive reporting package.
⬆️ Cost increases if: you request a higher level of reporting.
⬇️ Cost decreases if: you request a lower level of reporting.
Factor #5: Incidence rate (IR) or the respondents
Outside of the number of responses, no factor has more of an impact on cost. For this item, you’ll want to ask yourself how difficult this audience to reach is?
Random sample of gen pop. ⬇️
If you are looking for a random sample of the general population, the incidence (or qualification rate) is high. If you have no disqualifying criteria, the IR would be 100%.
Niche audience ⬆️
However, if you are looking for a niche or select type of respondent, the IR plummets, and more invites must be sent to non-qualifying respondents to find the respondents you need.
Here is an example of how IR goes from high (easy) to low (complicated):
- General population, everyone qualifies
- Homeowners with children
- Homeowners with children, household income of $100K+
- Homeowners with children, household income of $100K+, reside in Texas
- Homeowners with children, household income of $100K+, reside in Texas, age 55+
⬆️ Cost increases if: you are targeting a highly specific audience (low IR).
⬇️ Cost decreases if: you request an easy to target audience like the general population (high IR).
Factor #6: Audience (B2B or B2C)
It is somewhat related to the prior point around IR and the difficulty in targeting an audience.
In many cases, what makes B2B market research different is that surveying this audience will always be more expensive than surveying a consumer audience.
Costs increase even further when you narrow down or laser in on specific roles/titles, verticals, or company size.
However, working with a PR polling agency will help. They often have access to both consumer and business panels to make the outreach much easier and more feasible.
⬆️ Cost increases if: you are targeting business professionals.
⬇️ Cost decreases if: you are targeting consumers.
Chapter Fourteen: Real-World PR Survey Success Story
PR and marketing professionals are communicating in a noisy world.
Top-tier editors receive hundreds of pitches in their inboxes every day. However, on average, journalists open only 3% of the media pitches they receive.
That means these writers are receiving 100, 250, or 500 pitches a week for only 5 story spots.
How can your brand break through the inbox clutter? According to a recent study with 500+ digital publishers, most describe their perfect piece of content as one with exclusive research.
PR Surveys in Action
Drive Research conducted a public relations survey with 600 respondents across the United States.
The objective of the survey was to see how safe people felt returning to the gyms after quarantine guidelines had been lifted.
Key findings from the PR survey included:
- Three in five said COVID-19 severely impacted their workout routine.
- Three in four said they were not comfortable going to their gym when it re-opens.
- 97% expected gyms to take precautions and implement guidelines.
- Germs were the biggest fear when it comes to returning to the gym.
- Three in four said members shouldn’t have to pay if they don’t feel comfortable going to the gym.
Drive Research created a press release with key findings from the survey. We sent this survey to a contact list with hundreds of reporters from across the country.
The Impact of the PR Survey
Results from the survey were featured in 50+ media publications including USA Today and Yahoo Finance.
Not only did our PR survey help our brand get exposure, but it also increased our site traffic and domain authority.
Here was the impact of our gym survey:
- Increased website traffic by 520%
- 30 new backlinks for SEO value
- Thousands of impressions on social
Conduct a Custom PR Survey with Drive Research
Drive Research is a PR polling company located in New York. Our services extend across the U.S. and the world. Our market research firm has worked with Fortune 500 brands, helping deliver insights, action items, and ROI on their survey efforts.
Our research has been featured in top-tier news outlets such as, USA Today, Forbes, CNBC, Yahoo Finance, and more.
Questions about how to make surveys work for PR? Need a quote? Want an estimate?
Contact us below for a detailed proposal for your project.
- Message us on our website
- Email us at [email protected]
- Call us at 888-725-DATA
- Text us at 315-303-2040
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.