PR TECHNIQUE: MARKET RESEARCH - Some unusual suspects. Research isa science, but there are some creative ways to tap market sourcesMatthew Arnold reports

Adding a dash of creativity to your market research methodology can

bring pizazz to an otherwise dry campaign and save your clients a

bundle. Creative planning and execution of research can be a

cost-effective means of generating coverage in and of itself.



For starters, asking the right questions can lead to a head-turning news

hook. '(Research) has to go beyond (producing) a workable story,' says

David Michaelson, managing director of research at Ogilvy. 'It has to be

something that supports the client's story.'



According to Michaelson, when dealing with research, it's important to

know the objectives and have a clear understanding of the target

audience. 'We ask questions like, 'What does the target audience

believe, and how can we get them to believe what we want them to

believe,'' he says. 'The idea is to back into those research gaps - not

to find out what is known, but what we don't know.'



Michaelson recalls a campaign he worked on for the Arthritis

Foundation.



'We asked ourselves, how can we document issues of pain in such a way

that pain is viewed as a serious problem? Most people say they don't

have chronic pain.'



Ogilvy developed a series of questions emphasizing less frequent

incidence of pain. 'What we found was that 89% or more of Americans

suffer pain every month.' That eye-popping figure generated widespread

coverage.



'Researchers are more narrowly focused on getting marketing results,'

says Barbara Leflein, president of market research firm Leflein

Associates.



'They're not really thinking about leveraging the research. We have to

look for the news hook and be creative about how to prove a point or

substantiating the message.'



Leflein did just that in a campaign for Response Insurance. The firm ran

respondents through a checklist of driving behavior. Seventy-six percent

of those surveyed practiced dangerously distracting behavior - such as

reading, writing, fighting and even putting in contact lenses - while

driving.



The figure was picked up by more than 250 news outlets, including

CarandDriver.com and the AP radio network. 'They milked that story for a

year,' Leflein says.



Hill & Knowlton scored client TiVo coverage with a campaign based on a

survey showing that spouses of football fans felt alienated from their

partners when they watched football on TV. So during football season,

H&K, with the help of celebrity spokesman 'Dr. Drew' Pinsky, promoted

TiVo - a personal TV service that runs on a digital video recorder -

under the banner 'The Coalition for the Prevention of Sports Widows.'

'It was a tongue-in-cheek way to have fun with the audience,' says H&K

senior managing director Erica Amestoy. 'The response was overwhelming.

Research helps bring these things to life.'



'I always counsel clients to build on what exists,' says Bruce

Jeffries-Fox, EVP of InsightFarm. 'A lot of PR firms don't talk to

mainstream marketing people. So I tell them, 'Go down the hall and knock

on the door.' It might produce insight into target markets. These are

things PR people ought to know.'



Screening for the right respondents can greatly increase the accuracy

and effectiveness of a report. 'We used to be very concerned with the

general population,' says Alex Jutkowitz, president and CEO of BSMG's

KRC Research & Consulting. 'That's very rare now. In public affairs,

we're looking at opinion leaders. On the consumer side, we've worked

with dot-coms looking to market entertainment, where we would try to

look for 18- to 34-year-olds that were into extreme sports and extreme

measures of humor.'



One of KRC's clients, a Web portal, asked the firm to target two narrow

youth markets. For one segment, respondents were asked if they had heard

of singer/songwriter Ani DiFranco, seen the film All About My Mother or

watched the XGames on ESPN. For the second pool, respondents were

selected based on whether or not they wore the brand FUBU, listened to

rapper Foxy Brown or read Vibe magazine. 'Those are things that once you

know what you're looking for, you go out and find those people,' says

Jutkowitz. 'It was a lot of dialing, lots of looking.'



But sampling by phone can be costly, especially when searching for

respondents in niche markets. 'There are a lot of other ways to gather

data,' says Hal Quinley, formerly West Coast general manager at

Yankelovich and now group president of public opinion and PR at Harris

Interactive.



A former client of Quinley's once asked for a product survey of gay

males.



So Quinley and his team headed down to a local gay pride parade. 'How

could you get a reasonable sample of gay males any other way?' he

says.



'We set up a booth, came up with a little giveaway and people were

perfectly happy to fill out a two- to three-page questionnaire.'



Increasingly, researchers are turning to the Internet, where highly

topical online discussion groups and list serves provide access to

otherwise hard-to-find target audiences. 'The advantage is that you can

get into some very low incidence groups very cheaply,' says Quinley.

'You can do a decent study much more quickly.'



With a bear market roaring out of hibernation and clients scrambling to

cut costs, research offers the savvy spinster an inexpensive means of

turning a slow news day into a bonanza for clients.



SELECT MARKET RESEARCH FIRMS

InsightFarm (owned by Burrelle's and VMS)

Livingston, NJ

(800) 631-1160

KRC Research & Consulting (unit of BSMG Worldwide)

New York, NY

(212) 445-8300

Leflein Associates

Fort Lee, NJ

(201) 363-1661

Harris Interactive

Rochester, NY

(877) 919-4765

Audits & Surveys Worldwide

New York, NY

(212) 627-9700

The Gallup Organization

Princeton, NJ

(609) 924-9600

Roper Starch Worldwide

New York, NY

(212) 599-0700



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