But before you embark on a piece of research with an independent market research consultancy, you need to come up with a topic – good, compelling content needs a great idea to support it. And the only way to generate significant ROI for your content is to come up with a hot topic or unique idea that will interest your target audience. Sounds logical enough doesn’t it, but if no-one cares about the results of your research, then it doesn’t matter how hard you push it across your social media channels, because no-one will want to read it anyway.
Market research expert Jane Hales, managing partner from Sapio Research explains: “Marketing content is loved for SEO and used to develop marketing collateral that builds brand visibility and demand generation. Particularly for a slow news quarter or in a dry period B2B market research led content studies can unlock new opportunities to be seen and even lead to thought leadership.
“Content is the new black, everybody wants it but it’s time consuming to develop and hard to be original. The research process is one thing, but coming up with the ideas is probably the hardest and most critical bit.”
At Skout we help our clients come up with ideas based on their objectives and the best starting point is to always to consider what you want the outcome of the research to be. For example, if the end goal is to create media headlines, then you need the shock or wow factor to come out the research. For example, perhaps you’re a developer of security software and your end goal is to raise awareness of your offering in the public sector. In order to generate media coverage that’s likely to resonate with the correct audience, you need a headline that will make readers sit up and think, e.g. ‘Eight out of ten public sector employees leave their computer passwords on their desks’.
This sort of statistic is likely to be of interest to the media too as it’s a common problem and it enables the security software developer to comment on the wider issues facing the public sector when it comes to cyber security. Once you’ve got your headline, you can then work with a market research company to develop a set of questions to help you arrive somewhere near that headline. It’s not an exact science, but if you know what you want your research to highlight, careful questioning will help generate the findings you want it to.
However, while you can use research to support your arguments, it’s important to go into it with an open mind. A good objective approach is vital and will reflect what people really think – not necessarily precisely what you want to say. Part of the use of research should be about presenting findings that provoke thought and engagement; it’s not just about corroborating your corporate message!
Our friends at Sapio Research have given us a series of top tips to help get those creative juices flowing:
So, you’ve decided that a survey is the best way to achieve the great content you need, so how do you go about briefing your PR agency and research consultancy to make it happen. Here are just a few pointers you should try to include in your brief:
- The aims of the research and the type of headline you’re aiming for
- Who the research is targeting, in what region and who the respondents should be (and who to exclude).
- When does your campaign need to go live?
- Budget – how much do you have to spend as this will dictate sample size and number of questions you can ask
Or, you could task your PR agency to use their creativity to devise the brief on your behalf.
Research needs to be fresh, relevant and interesting to your target audience groups. It doesn’t need to focus on your product, proposition or even reinforce your marketing message. It doesn’t necessarily even need to be conducted with your target audience; consumers can work just as well – think laterally, and about what’s topical. Originality and understanding is what really interests audiences. Avoid themes that are self-serving as it leads to cynicism. Ask yourself ‘what are the key issues in the market and how do these relate to wider issues?’ Coming up with ideas is often best done as a collaboration between the brand, PR agency and research agency.
Packaging your theme
So, you’ve got your theme, it now needs to be packaged in a newsworthy way.
- The unexpected
- Clarity and unambiguity
- Personalisation (people are interested in people)
- Conflict (gap analysis)
- Consonance and predictability (I told you so)
This is where the skills of your PR agency come in who can look for the story behind the statistics. Gap analysis is a key skill for surveys – if only a small number of respondents are doing something, what does that mean for the vast majority that aren’t? A good research agency will know the difference between designing a traditional exploratory survey and one that validates and crafts engaging, newsworthy angles.
Once you’ve got your angle you’ll need to make sure your research audience is relevant to the story and your sample base is robust enough for the press to trust – small sample sizes don’t work for the media, so you’ll need to show that a sufficient number of people have been surveyed for them to take it seriously. You’ll need a larger sample base of consumers than businesses for example.
Running the survey
You’ll want to execute the survey quickly and cost effectively, so use a good quality online panel. Make sure you’re using a reputable agency that can answer questions about the provenance of the respondents or can explain how they guard against false information. It will be your brand at stake if you publish something wrong.
A market research agency should be able to help you (along with your PR agency) shape your idea and also help you craft your questions to achieve your headline. They should also be able to access your target audience group and check the quality of responses (replacing some if necessary). Also, check that they are able to work quickly.
Great content is the holy grail for many businesses, and generating ideas to reach your target audiences is always a challenge. However, a well-constructed piece of research that can be cut and analysed for a number of stories which can be used over and over again for PR, social media, as marketing assets and even video engagement or webinars is marketing gold. Our survey says, take the plunge and see how research can help fulfil your business’ content needs.