Ten Top Tips for PR Research

Whoops! How did we end up here?

I had a bad week trying to produce a research report  and I wanted to share some tips to those that travel this path after me. If you do these ten simple things you may produce a report that has editorial legs and at no  point will you feel out of control or overwhelmed by the process. Then again …

1) Define the 0bjectives

If it’s for PR, you will probably be looking for data that provides an opportunity to do thought-leadership PR. So your research needs to address an issue that is topical and relevant to your target audience, while playing to your businesses strengths.

2) Check media appeal

In developing your research project you will be quite focused on ensuring that the results indirectly lead people to your door and position you as someone who can help address the challenges and opportunities identified. But make sure that you also come up with results that excite the editor and ensure press coverage. You could give him or her a call and ask if there is a question that needs to be asked.

3) Platform for PR messaging

Check back with the client once you have the final questionnaire and make sure that the ‘hoped for outcomes’ provide a good platform for them to provide thought-leadership and putting across key messages about the industry, market, or whatever you are surveying.

4) The final report

Before you proceed have a crystal-clear idea what the final report will look like. Agree not just the visuals but also the document template covering:

  1. Number of pages
  2. Contents: Introductions, Executive Summary, Research Findings, Conclusions and Recommendations, About the Sponsor
  3. Word count and content criteria for writing each section
  4. Style and tone of voice
  5. Use of visuals

5) Shared vision

If the research agency knows what you are looking to achieve, they can tailor the results to meet your requirements. One of the mixed blessings of today’s technology is the power to dice and slice the data in lots of different ways; to the point where you are overwhelmed results. Beware information overload and go for just the right amount to make a compelling research report!

6) Say what you want

Clarify with the research agency how you want the results presented and to whom. Specifically, to make analysis and report writing as easy as possible, ask for a results report that enables you to write your report without the distraction of data levels that are not relevant to the immediate task. You can come back to that later.

7) Define results format

Sometimes questions have so many cross references that they cannot be presented in a diagram and come to you in an Excel spreadsheet instead. Oh dear! Avoid these if possible because they will make you go cross-eyed. If you do have to deal with them, ask for the decimal points to be rounded up and the charts formatted so that they fit on one page.

8)  Answer to open questions

The quality of answers to an open question depends on the quality of the question – i.e. is it easy to answer in a few words – and the quality of interviewer. Will he or she probe correctly and then record the answer in language that is comprehensible. Just beware! And if you are doing European surveys you will have to get these answers translated which will be an added cost.


When you set up your research be smart and put together a schedule that allows enough time for each of the component parts to be done thoroughly (SMART as in Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely). Don’t scrimp on the planning, nor on any element of the process because everything is interdependent. If you get one thing wrong, the rest will begin to wobble. And yes, this should have been the first tip …

10) Report and PR

Think twice before deciding to write up the research results yourself. Maybe this is best left up to someone who is experienced in the art of drawing out and presenting data in a way which is easy for the reader to digest. If you are client-side or the PR person, you can add value when it comes to writing up the Executive Summary and developing the press briefing materials.

So that is what I learnt this last week or so. Its been a good lesson because its done just what that old China man said about learning: ‘I hear I forget, I see I remember, I do I understand’. Phew … and do I understand!

And now, if I have missed anything out please post a comment and give us your tips to make a success of PR research projects.

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