Market research is an incredible tool for learning more about who your customers are, what makes them tick, and what problems they face in their day to day lives.

But market research also has a hidden benefit — when executed properly, it can be turned into powerful media campaigns that increase brand awareness and position your brand as an industry thought leader.

They solve the problem that many brands face when they “don’t have any news to share”. A carefully planned and executed market research study can give you a newsworthy story that the media and their readers will find interesting.

If your brand is looking for creative ways to get into the news, this step-by-step battle plan is for you.

We’ll cover: 

  • Why surveys are effective at generating media coverage
  • How to plan your survey
  • How to turn your survey into content
  • How to distribute your survey
  • How surveys fit into your thought leadership strategy

Ready to go? Let’s dive in!

Part 1: Why Surveys Are So Effective 

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One of our core beliefs when it comes to executing successful media strategies is the harsh reality that unless your Apple or Google, the media doesn’t really care about what your company is doing.

They don’t care that you moved out of beta or hired a new VP of Sales from Salesforce. What they care about are their readers and their readers want to be informed, inspired, and educated.

Despite this being known, many brands continue to follow a passive approach to media relations, pushing out news when they have it only to realize the media doesn’t want to cover their news anyway.

We believe there is a better way.

We believe instead of “waiting for news,” your objective should be to create it. By taking this empowered approach, it comes down to how creative you can be and how good the stories are that you come up with.

Market research reports created with the intention of generating media coverage are one of the most effective ways of creating your own news.

Here’s why: 

  1. Positions you as a thought leader and expert source.
  2. Creates data that supports a trend that relates to what you do.
  3. Creates data that highlight the problem you are solving.
  4. Boosts your Share of Voice (SOV) and supports your push for a conversation monopoly.
  5. Datasets have a high long term value as journalists and marketers can continue to cite the data in future content.

And of course, there is value unrelated to media that comes from developing a deeper understanding of your market.

If your thought leadership could use a boost, read ahead to find out how to plan your market research survey.

Part 2: How to Plan Your Survey 

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Here’s a step-by-step plan you can follow as you map out your survey: 

Step 1: Begin with the end in mind 

When you begin planning a survey, it’s important to get a clear picture of what the final product will look like.

To do this, you will want to begin by mapping out the ideal media headlines you hope the survey will generate.

For example, if we are running a survey on how American’s perceive the pharma industry, you’d begin with a headline like: X% of American’s Don’t Trust the Pharma Industry 

By beginning with the end in mind, you can then work backwards as you plan the questions you will ask respondents.

As you map out these headlines, it’s also important to think through how the survey will align with what your brand does. It doesn’t need to be a direct tie-in but it should have strategic alignment and should be something your customers would find interesting and helpful to read.

 Step 2: Decide the type of survey and who will manage the process.

There are many different types of surveys you can run, but broadly speaking, they can fall into two categories: B2B or B2C.

B2B surveys will target business professionals of certain roles or niches. Due to the specific nature of the survey, the B2B survey pool can be harder to build, have lower response rates, and therefore makes this type of survey much more expensive than a B2C survey. Additionally, B2B surveys will typically appeal only to reporters and outlets that focus on your specific niche and will not have mass appeal.

Whenever possible, we recommend B2C surveys. B2C surveys connect with the general population, so right off the bat your sample size is larger and the topic can be much broader than a B2B survey. Presenting media with a survey about what your end-user has to say also helps the media because your end-user is more likely to be a reader of their content.

Now when it comes to who will manage the actual survey process, we strongly recommend hiring a third-party firm.

You need the findings to be credible and having a third-party firm manage the process and validate the findings offers a major credibility boost.

With that said, you don’t need to hire a major firm like Pew or Gallop. There are lots of talented market research firms out there that are a google search away. We also have a list of providers we regularly work with that we’d be happy to share with you, just reach out and ask! For a B2C survey, you can expect to spend anywhere from $2,000 – $3,000 for 1,000 respondents from the US answering 20-30 questions.

Now we’ll dive into the most important part — creating your survey questions!

Step 3: Map out your survey questions 

Your questions will steer the entire direction of your survey so it’s critical to really take the time to think not only what you are asking but how you are asking it.

Here are some of the other best practices for creating questions: 

  1. Avoid leading questions.
  2. Allow for neutral or N/A responses.
  3. Avoid compound questions.
  4. Use simple language.

With the questions done, send them off to your survey firm (and ideally collaborate with them) and launch your survey to respondents!

 Step 4: Telling a story around your survey data 

Now that you have your data, it’s time to put your creative hat on and tell a compelling story around the insights you’ve gathered.

You will want to narrow down to one to two lead core data points. These lead points will be what the survey and your media campaigns will center around.

To identify the core data points, ask questions like:

  • What new, contrarying information did we uncover?
  • What’s the actual story that could come out of this?
  • What would the media find interesting here?
  • What trend does this support?

After you’ve narrowed it down, you are ready to move into content creation and analysis of the survey results.

Part 3: Turning Insights into Content

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While you will lead with one to two core data points, that doesn’t mean you have to leave the remaining insights out from the report.

What you are looking to create is a full report that provides an in-depth overview of your findings.

The best way to think about the content is to follow a “hub and spoke approach.” The survey report will be the hub and other pieces of content will be the spokes.

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Instead of just creating a report and blasting it out to the media, we recommend the following be created for each survey:

  • One press release announcing the release of the findings.
  • One long-form blog post announcing the findings.
  • 4-6 blog posts that dive deeper into specific findings.
  • 4-6 byline articles that you can contribute to targeted media sites.

The report should be offered as a piece of gated content that users can download in exchange for their email.

With your content done, now it’s time to make sure as many people as possible find it.

How to Distribute Your Survey 

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Creating a compelling report is great but if you don’t get it in front of the right journalists, all this hard work was done in vain.

Here’s the distribution process we recommend following: 

Step 1: Build a list of all relevant journalists. This can be started while you’re waiting for your survey firm to curate the results.

Step 2: Two weeks before the report will be published, reach out one by one with highly personalized messages to the top 5 journalists on your list. Offer them the exclusive to cover it before anyone else. Make sure to not offer exclusives to multiple journalists at once — having two say yes will burn both bridges.

Step 3: If no one from your top list wants the exclusive, you can then move forward as planned with announcing the report by distributing the press release over the wire (we recommend Newswire) and launching personalized outreach to everyone on your media list.

Step 4: As you launch your media campaign, publish the findings and share with your existing customers. This will ensure that your customers see the report and increases the overall value of the campaign.

How Surveys Fit Into Your Overall Thought Leadership Strategy

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When it comes to establishing true thought leadership, it requires a multi-pronged strategy of content and various forms of media.

Over the past five years as we’ve helped 200+ companies become thought leaders and we’ve developed a methodology called the Thought Leadership Machine. Below are the four key strategies we focus on.

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Here’s how we view those different strategies: 

Market research reports fall into “Mathmen Ideas” category.

These are campaigns that happen once every 90 – 180 days and require more resources and attention than the other strategies.

Here’s what the other approaches are and what their ideal target cadence is:

 Founder and Executive Insights

Founder Insights are pieces of content published under your founder’s name that leverage your founder’s knowledge, experience, and time on the front lines. These compelling thought leadership articles aren’t selling your company — they are selling your founder’s expertise. And these insights are placed on targeted media outlets that speak directly to your target audience.

These pieces are typically called guest posts, op-eds, or byline content.

How byline articles help establish thought leadership:

  • Builds momentum almost immediately
  • Consistent cadence of new content
  • Establishes relationships with key outlets and editors
  • Opportunity to test the effectiveness of your message

Target Cadence:

If you are serious about becoming an industry thought leader, we recommend a minimum of one article going live every week. This byline article should be posted on your LinkedIn Pulse, all your company’s social media pages, and your company blog.

Momentum Announcements

The reality is that unless you’re Apple or Google, no one outside your company cares about your company’s announcements. A new hire, a product update, or even a funding round isn’t going to be groundbreaking news. But that doesn’t mean your announcements aren’t valuable. In fact, they’re a critical part of the process.

Why Are Announcements Critical to Thought Leadership?

  • Shows that your company is “making moves”
  • Builds up your online presence
  • Gives you a reason to connect with the media
  • Builds momentum

Target Cadence:

You should aim for at least one small announcement per month (such as a new hire, product update, etc.) and one big announcement per quarter (Funding round, major partnership, etc.). Announcements are typically sent out on a newswire and are a “formal” release of information.

Resource PR

This phase is all about becoming the ultimate industry resource to the journalists and media outlets in your industry. You can do this by monitoring journalists who write about relevant keywords and topics. Use that knowledge to proactively reach out to reporters and offer to be a resource or to connect them with someone who may be a resource in the future. The key is to focus on adding value without asking or expecting anything in return.

Why is Resource PR Critical?

  • Gives you the chance to build relationships
  • Appear in articles as the go-to expert
  • Generates collateral to share with your customers

Target Cadence:

Depending on where you are as a company, it can take a few months to build relationships and establish enough credibility for the media to trust you. That’s why it’s critical to focus on the other phases first because they support these efforts. Your target objective after 90 days should be 3-5 mentions per month.

Putting it All Together

If you’ve made it this far, you probably realize now this is no growth hack. When it comes to building trust and credibility, that doesn’t exist.

To be successful, you’ll need to dedicate time, energy, and resources to seeing this process through. While it can take time to see the full benefits of thought leadership, if you focus on developing your foundation from the bottom up, you will drastically increase your chances of success.

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