CAMPAIGNS: JUDGE AND JURY; Lighthearted surveys aim to drive us all to distraction

A survey which examined the habits of Somerfield trolley drivers revealed facts whose only apparent raison d’etre was to get the Somerfield name in print, says Alan Preece, general manager PR, Asda.

A survey which examined the habits of Somerfield trolley drivers

revealed facts whose only apparent raison d’etre was to get the

Somerfield name in print, says Alan Preece, general manager PR, Asda.



Surveys, surveys everywhere, but none that make you think. That’s the

way it often seems when you open up the paper to find the latest bit of

nonsense based on the views of a carefully selected panel of what seem

to be total idiots.



We’ve all seen them and most of us have used them. They form a decent

filler for page 16 of a pitch document and their true beauty is that

they can be applied to virtually every single business. They should have

their own protection league - the Society for the Appreciation of

Surveys and a motto ‘who pays wins’.



Surely, however, if papers want to write about surveys and readers want

to see them the subject matter should be treated like any other news

source. The journalist should be asking why the survey was commissioned

and, more importantly, what is the surveying company going to do about

the results. Perhaps, in this case, we can look forward to Somerfield

shoppers being handed L-plates on their first shopping trip and

collecting three points for each speeding offence in a main aisle. Maybe

the link between car driving and shopping trolley habits will lead to a

new line of police investigation where serial chocolate digestive eaters

are taken in for questioning whenever a red traffic light is jumped.



It would be interesting to know if there is any real end product because

this looks like a survey that was dreamed up solely for PR purposes. In

some ways it is symptomatic of the way our industry is seen with means

justifying ends, style succeeding over substance and frippery over

functionality. For the PR team it’s another day at the office and

another piece of national news coverage to be pleased about. There’s no

harm done, it makes good copy and we’ve all been there before but

perhaps we should all be looking for something closer to the true heart

of the business rather than fiddling at the fringes.



A good starting point is usually the market research material gathered

or generated for business development purposes. It is central to the

decision making process and material customer benefits usually flow from

research findings. A focus on this area places the PR team at the centre

of business thinking and makes any subsequent press article totally

relevant material - that’s where the real skill of PR should be.



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