5 Tips to Get People to Answer Your Survey

Surveys are some of the most important information-gathering tools in a public relations practitioner’s hands. They can help you see potential problems, find out who your audience is, see how you and your client are viewed, as well as provide other essential information.

However, recently after needing to conduct a survey, I realized just how hard it actually is to accomplish. You must make sure that your questions are framed in a way that the person taking it understands it and wants to answer it, you need to define who should take it and where/how to distribute it, you need to take into account how to make people want to take it and how to extract the information you gathered from the surveys. Since I felt the need to research how to actually go about conducting surveys, I thought I’d share my research with others who may have the same problem.

1) Find out what you really NEED to know. Not everyone is willing to take a survey, and that desire to take it is even less if it is a long, drawn-out survey. So keep it short and sweet and make sure to only ask the important information.
2) Define what your scope. Scope refers to the people who are most essential to gathering the information you need. They are the ones whose opinions make the most difference. For example, if you are trying to figure out what clothing styles are in for teens, don’t survey retirees.
3) Don’t be afraid to do research, before you conduct your research. Often times, what you’re doing is not as original as you think and probably has been done before; the only difference is you need to find out the particulars of your own location and publics. But these other surveys and research can help you brainstorm and think of new ideas. Obviously, don’t copy them, use them as a blue print.
4) Avoid recall questions. Your questions should be easily answered while still getting the info you want/need.
5) Use the proper questions: closed ended vs. open ended. Closed ended questions are questions that can be answered yes/no or a single multiple-choice question. Open-ended questions are when you ask the person to elaborate and actually describe something. Both have positives and both have negatives. Closed are great for distributed survey because they are easily answered and that fact entices the taker to actually complete your survey. Open-ended are good in the fact that you can gather so much more information from the person you are interviewing because these questions make people think and elaborate. Problem is that these only work when the person is willing to sit down for an extended period of time and talk, and most people aren’t.

Those are the five most important tips that helped me form the surveys I have had to distribute recently. Many were from a writer from AbbyMilikPR and she has many more tips, if you are interested.

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4 Responses to 5 Tips to Get People to Answer Your Survey

  1. spaeprer says:

    After going through the task of collecting survey results, I think this post is a great start to anyone hoping to have successful survey results. It’s especially important, as Tim indicates, to do research for the survey research. One needs to identify their audience and make sure their questions are understandable by all who will take it.

    I also like open-ended vs. close-ended questions were addressed. Both pros and cons are shown for each but allow the reader to choose which will be most appropriate for their survey.

  2. jlsteph2 says:

    Agreed! Since our team started working on our survey and sending it out, I am also realizing just how difficult it is to get responses that will help the campaign. From my own experience, I know that I am much more likely to participate in a survey if there is some pay off for me, like something for free or a chance to win money. But for us, when we are unable to offer some kind of incentive, it can be especially difficult to get sufficient responses. Some things I’ve found that help are telling people approximately how long the survey will take, and letting them know their progress as they go along in the survey. That way, people are less likely to ditch the survey halfway through.

  3. afleisha says:

    Great tips. I think the challenge of executing a successful survey is getting the stakeholders to respond. I recently was contacted numerous times from a third party non-profit that wanted ASU students to take a survey about suicide prevention. I didn’t see the benefit for me to take the survey, until about the fifth time they contacted me. As a final attempt to garner more responses, they mailed a letter via snail mail with a dollar bill, in hopes of enticing stakeholders to respond because they received a dollar. I have to say, it worked in my case!

  4. dbaxley says:

    Thanks for the advice, I wish you would have posted this a month ago! I think you’re absolutely right when you say to conduct research before sending out the surveys. It’s important to be sure that you frame your survey correctly and send it to the right audience. One tip I can add is to pre-test your survey. This will ensure that your survey works correctly and the response categories adequately answer the question that’s being asked. Now if only there was an effective way of generating a TON of responses after you send the survey out…

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