Creativity may be the cornerstone of any good PR campaign, but when it comes to research, most pros could use a strong kick out of the phone poll and focus group rut. Simply by stretching your imagination, firms can gather vital information while simultaneously saving clients time and money, says Dr. Walter Lindemann, the former senior VP and director of research and management at Ketchum. There are several simple and low-tech means of digging up consumer insights.
Creativity may be the cornerstone of any good PR campaign, but when
it comes to research, most pros could use a strong kick out of the phone
poll and focus group rut. Simply by stretching your imagination, firms
can gather vital information while simultaneously saving clients time
and money, says Dr. Walter Lindemann, the former senior VP and director
of research and management at Ketchum. There are several simple and
low-tech means of digging up consumer insights.
One West-Coast utility company, for example, collected valuable feedback
from 5,000 customers by piggybacking phone inquiries. Lindemann explains
that during a drought emergency, the company wanted to find out if
customers believed the water policy plan was working. Since the
customer-service line was already ’ringing off the hook,’ Ketchum
trained the phone operators to first address the inquiries and then
conduct a survey. ’It was a ’self-selective’ bias sample, but we were
able to compare those findings with our own scientific 350-customer
poll,’ says Lindemann.This type of phone polling might cost dollars
2,000 to dollars 3,000 versus dollars 12,000 to dollars 18,000 for a
focus group study, Lindemann estimates.
The fax machine can also be a pollster’s best friend. ’Because busy
professionals can be difficult to survey by phone, you might get a
better response by faxing it to them,’ says Lindemann.
While most professionals use the Internet and e-mail every day, many
have not realized the full potential of these new media tools. For
example, Delahaye Medialink formed its New Media Measurement Team in
January 1995 - before many pros had even gone online. ’We jumped on it
when we noticed that high profile events, like the Clinton/Lewinsky
matter and the Intel/Pentium crisis, were beginning to have their
genesis on the Internet,’ says Shaun Ennis, a director of marketing.
Medialink’s Infotrend computer system can analyze and complete a report
on thousands of electronically transmitted media stories overnight
instead of three to eight weeks if compiled by hand. Not only is the
system cost-efficient, it offers clients indisputable savings. An
Infotrend report might cost a client dollars 3,000 to dollars 5,000,
versus approximately dollars 20,000 for a traditional customized report,
Other agencies are tapping into new media research by monitoring
news-type web sites and specialized discussion groups. ’We will want to
analyze online discussion groups so that problems can be dealt with
before they get blown up into a public media matter,’ Lindemann
E-mail has also been put to use by agencies to speed up the research
process. Surveys can be sent over e-mail or via disk. ’This way, you can
add other informational documents or instructions to the disk,’ notes
Graham Hueber, director of the national research and measurement
department at Ketchum.
Even such basic research techniques as survey polling and focus groups
can be conducted online for lower cost and better efficiency, according
to Geri Mazur, Porter Novelli senior VP and director of research. ’Only
two years ago, those on the Internet were not a representative
population for research, but that has changed,’ she points out.
Another technique for beyond-the-box consumer research findings is a
kiosk survey. ’Using a kiosk equipped with a touch screen computer is a
cost-efficient way to reach a large number of people in a relatively
short amount of time,’ says Hueber. You can also use the kiosk to
display information about your client and its products.
Pros should also take advantage of a trade show or association meeting
to survey a hard-to-reach industry group. You can distribute
questionnaires, plan one-on-one interviews or conduct group sessions
during these events, suggests Hueber. In-person surveys can also measure
the effectiveness of a press or promotional event. During a meeting, for
example, questionnaires can be distributed both before and after the
session - pre- and post-responses can be linked and compared.
Finally, you can use the same survey to generate publicity and uncover
strategic insights. Porter Novelli’s Geri Mazur says this is one way for
firms and their clients to get more bang for the buck. For example,
during an educational campaign for vitamin antioxidants, PN conducted a
survey to measure public awareness. The results - showing how little
people knew - was used as both a news hook as well as a benchmark for
tracking. The agency then repeated the study three years later to
measure the amount of awareness the PR campaign had generated.
DOS AND DON’TS
1. Look beyond traditional research tools for more imaginative ways to
2. Learn more about new media research such as e-mail surveying and
monitoring of web sites.
3. Take advantage of the opportunity to query incoming customer service
4. Use meetings and events to gather additional information.
5. Fax or e-mail surveys to busy professionals.
1. Shy away from new technology.
3. Forget to share your research with other company departments.
4. Forget to ask the client for any proprietary research they have
conducted on their own. You don’t want to waste time and money