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.