When I started in PR some 20 years are things were very different. Dare I say it, and I feel very old, saying this, we used to fax press releases when I started in PR. Back then – my first PR job after leaving a local newspaper job was in working in the press office for Royal Mail. It was very much about getting positive stories about the organisation in the papers, on radio and on TV and managing any negative PR. Nowadays PR is very different – and changing all the time. As PR people we’re having to update our skills all the time and make sure we understand and are able to use all the available channels to communicate our messages. But I’m realising more and more that PR is about generating good content that can be used by the media, on clients’ websites, on on- line news sites (paid for and free), on blogs as well as an ever-growing number of social media channels. I also see PR playing an important role in SEO through good content generation and especially through link building. A good story in a national publication with a link is extremely valuable. In my team, we consider it a failure if a story doesn’t make the on-line edition of a publication – as we all know – once on line it’s there forever while a piece in the newspaper soon become fish and chip paper. I’m not sure if any chippies still use fish and chip paper – there are probably health and safety rules against it nowadays!
How many of you have used research-led stories before? If not, why not? What were the barriers? We did a small survey before the event and this was the answer to the question. I’ve printed off the rest of the survey for you which we’ll be looking at a little bit later. But I do believe that this sort of PR can bring PR execs and Marketing execs closer together – especially if it’s research that will help to inform marketing strategies.
People are interested in stats – that’s why editors like them. The lesson is: you need to own the data if you want to be associated with the story. That means, your data need to either come from within your organisation, or be commissioned by you. The data should be verified by someone who knows what they’re doing like a statistician or an analyst. Also you need to be open about how you carried our the research - journalists can be suspicious, and they’re not easily convinced by stats that highlight the benefits of your product if you’re not willing to be open about how you reached the conclusions.
Editors get hundreds of press releases every day – you have about 90 seconds and 200 words to grab the editor’s attention. Compare these to introductions to press release – one with stats and one without. Everyone loves statistics.
To sell newspapers, editors need to have great content that’s original, engaging, compelling and worth readers paying for. That’s where PR people come in. The only problem is that there are lots of not so good PR people out there who are just churning out press releases because that’s what their clients want them to do. The PR agencies are too scared to tell their clients when stories aren’t strong enough or not newsworthy and have no hope of ‘making it’ in a newspaper. Editors have to make quick decisions about whether to use stories or not. That said, with newspapers, radio and TV having to become leaner and leaner, the journalists left are being pushed to increase their output which presents more opportunities for PR people to get coverage.Here are a few examples of research led stories that have done really well. I like this one by Benenden Healthcare about temper loss. People were asked what made them lose their temper and how many times they lose their temper – the statistic is a little absurd as I can’t imagine that the average adult loses their temper nearly every day. Nevertheless it’s an attention grabbing story and there’s a nice quote from Benenden Healthcare. They offer a form of private healthcare and have a hospital here in Kent. Does any one know them? Why do you think this story is good for the? They offer an anger management service! This research was commissioned by a company called One Poll who I’ll talk about later.
If you are trying to get tabloid coverage (this story made the front page of the Express) think about how you can work celebrities into your story. This research did it brilliantly. It was commissioned by a on line dating company called www.for2.co.uk – and fantastic that the piece included the url. There wasn’t a link unfortunatley from the on-line piece.
I found another story on line which I quite liked – it was commissioned by loan company Wonga – I can’t quite see the connection between loans and appearance. Nevertheless, they got some good on line brand exposure. The Mail On line claims it has 50 million users and is the second most widely read English language site on the planet. So, if you are a global company exposure in the Mail could be quite valuable. Anyone know what the most popular one is – It’s the New York Times. Can anyone guess the third – it’s The Huffington Post. Does anyone know the most widely read English language newspaper in the world – it’s The Times of India!
This one was by insurance company e-sure. Once you get your data you can really maximise its use. For instance, you can compare different genders, counties, north of country vs south, ages etc The fantastic thing about all the social media channels available is that you will have lots of interesting facts to share across all of them. Benenden Healthcare – on its Facebook site – did a poll to find out what it’s Facebook fans thought of the results of the research eg where they shocked by the results. If you are going to commission research think about all the ways you can use it to get the best value for money.
Start with the type of headline you would like to get out of the research. While you cannot predict what the ultimate stats will be, you can imagine the headlines that could result and tailor your questions accordingly.It really depends on your budget – there are companies like One Poll and You Gov that will help you with the questions and even write and issue the press release for you.
I used to work for Rentokil – I was their UK PR manager – and I’m glad to say I’d left when this happened. Rentokil allegedly circulated statements to journalists (based on their own research) that claimed the average train carriage was infected with 1,000 cockroaches, up to 200 bedbugs and up to 200 fleas, and that there were similarly significant pest problems on public buses. Ben Goldacre questioned these statistic as he found them alarming and scaremongeringRentokil was forced to make an apology to Transport for London – bizarrely they’d just signed a contract the London Underground too.
Does anyone know Ben Goldacre? He started digging around and questioning the results and wasn’t satisfied with the responses he got. Articles followed as did tweets and lots of on-line discussion.
Rentokil made a public apology on its blog which was rather ‘woolly’ and sparked many negative comments on the page. And the thing with on-line – it’s there forever…Has anyone here come unstuck by using statistics they couldn’t back up? I know I’ve used statistics in press releases that clients have provided and not questioned them hard enough about the source.
As a CIPR member there is a best practice guide I and other members should adhere to.
Here is some more guidance from CIPR. This information should go in the ‘notes to editors’ section of your press release and will give your release and the statistics credibility.
I obtained a quote the other day from OnePoll – my client wanted some national brand awareness and as they offer specialist vehicles for wheelchair users we were looking at some research into people’s misuse of parking bays and attitudes towards disabled people. OnePoll seems to know what they are doing and have had some good results for clients. They quoted £3,000 for helping to put the questions together, asking a panel of approx 1,000 people ( all drivers) to answer the questions, drafting the press release and “selling in” to the media. Would a few mentions in the national press justify the expense? Could you have just bought advertising space? In truth, you can’t buy editorial space – or you shouldn’t be able to buy it! Also, you can, providing the results put across the message you want use them across a variety of channels. Other companies can just do the research for you – fees for questions range from about £250 per question. So shop around and consider which part of the process could be done in house if budget are tight. Alternatively, a small survey on Survey Monkey with a prize could be just the thing for giving you a hook. My company is doing some work for Vauxhall who wanted to promote a Winter Preparation workshop. We came up with the idea of asking how prepared people were for the winter weather. We offered a free car service worth £150 and got around 70 people to answer it in a week. Statistically valid? No – but it gave us a hook as we found the majority of people weren’t prepared. We also sneaked in a question about women relying on a male relative or friend to check their oil/tyres etc. The piece made the local papers – the pieces weren’t huge but they mentioned the brand and gave the social media team some good content to play with. Alternatively – you might actually want to commission some research for marketing purposes – not just for PR and if there’s an element of newsworthiness in the results you may be able to use that.
Market research methodology We carried out a short survey about research-led PR to give us a feeling for how marketeers felt about it and their experiences. The methodology used was an experimental research design, using convenience sampling of CIM Kent members with a 5% response rate (based on 800 and 40 replies). This comprised both CIM and CAM studying and qualified or Chartered Marketers. A quantitative survey was issued via email and social media (link) to 11 questions. The survey ran from 01 November 2012 to 15 November 2012 inclusive. Classification data was requested for sector, organisation size and geographic location. Gender data was not sought on this occasion, to keep the survey to 11 questions. Thank you to anyone who completed the survey – the results were very interesting. I’d like you – in your groups to look at the survey and see what jumps out at you as a possible headline and introduction. You have 10 minutes to come up with a headline and intro and then each table will present theirs. We’ll vote on which headline people think is best.
I hope you enjoyed the session – it has been a pleasure being here and talking to you
Research led PR 20th Nov2012with notes
Research-led PRSuzi Christie BA MCIPR Dip CAM (Digital M)
• The media and what makes a story• Good and bad press releases• Examples of research led-PR• When things go wrong• Commissioning research and cost vs return• How to start
A press release without stats is like black and white vs colour
• Joe Blogs launched a new book this week about discrimination • Or• An expert in discrimination says legislation isn’t working and x% of ethnic minorities feel that there is as much discrimination today as ten years ago.
When writing your questions –start with the headline in mind
CIPR Best Practice GuideIntegrity: Integrity is essential when using statistics inPR, as indeed it is key to all elements ofprofessionalism. It requires that members are honestand truthful when using statistics. Members shouldhave regard for the public interest. They should beaccurate when disseminating information.
Typically, a news release might include:• purpose of the survey and what was measured or asked• audience or subjects represented, eg people,businesses, journeys• sample size and method of sampling to show appropriaterepresentation• response rates• fieldwork dates• whether or not the survey data have been weighted• results with accompanying commentary on key findings(and ensuring that any comparisons arebased on results that are statistically different from eachother)• Information on source data and any assumptions toaccompany any forecasts.
How much does it cost ? who should I use? – and ROI