Show me the numbers – using market research to get coverage in the media

A quick scan of any publication, on and off line, quality and tabloid, demonstrates the extent to which market research surveys are used to create news on a daily basis. Everything from a recent large scale report investigating the class structure in Britain, to studies into what percentage of fathers read to their children at bedtime or how many people take their mobile phones to bed with them, make it into the media.

So, market researchers are sitting on a media goldmine and one good way of getting coverage is to do your own self-funded research to get those column inches! The press love statistics, but getting your voice heard – and your company mentioned – is not as easy as it might seem.
At Mustard we have been advising our clients on how to use research to get into the media for several years. We’ve found that the best approach is to think like the journalists – what’s new, what’s original, how will this be of interest to readers?
So here are a few tips from what we have learnt.

Be clear about your objectives
Firstly, think about what you want to achieve. You need to think about who you want to read your story and find out about you and why. It might sound fantastic to be in Time Magazine, The FT or The Economist, but if you are an agency, how many readers of these august organs will be able to put some market research business your way or be a potential employee? On the other hand, if you are looking to raise the profile of your company because you want the interest of financial backers or potential buyers, then that might well be the right audience. So, before you start, think hard and long about your objectives and why you are doing the research.

Be realistic
There’s nothing like the words ‘press release’ to send people into a spin of ambition and excitement. But, realistically, Jay Leno will have to wait. If you are a small or medium sized company with under 500 employees and you have not done media relations before, most of your time and energy will be spent just trying to get any journalist to engage with you. You are very small fry. Why should a correspondent give his or her ear to your pitch when they have stories pouring in from Apple, Vodafone or Google? In addition, most journalists outside the research trade publications have a very sketchy understanding of what market research is, so you have a double job to do – educate them about the value of research and why they should mention your company – as well as sell them the story.

Imagine the headline
Before you start writing a questionnaire, imagine the headline. Perhaps it will highlight a new trend or it will provide an interesting comparison. The media are looking for conflict – something surprising that will make readers stop and look. So plan your study around the outcome and don’t just go on a fishing trip.

Give the media the numbers
Sample size is all important. It is a standard requirement with the media that for a survey of the general population the sample must be at least 1,000 and nationally representative. In addition, most journalists don’t really understand qualitative research. It’s numbers that matter to them and even if you would make an important business decision based on a sample of five or six hundred and some focus groups, a journalist will not give that study the time of day.

Make it visual
Finally, the way we present a story visually makes a big difference. Creating and providing really great charts, infographics, and images will give your story impact. As a follow on to the media coverage make a short video about the study and put it on your website. This will be a great way of using it as a new business tool for potential meetings (but will kill any media interest dead in the water, so only do it after you’ve done the media relations).
In the space here I can just give a few pointers about doing self-funded research studies – and these studies are of course just one aspect of managing relationships with the media. I hope to delve a bit deeper into how to handle news and how to build relationships with the media generally in future articles.

This article was first published in Quirk’s