how to create surveys for publicitySurveys offer a powerful tool to publicize and promote your organization. Surveys often win media attention, especially if they cover current topics or controversial issues.

But crafting the right questions and collating the answers into meaningful insights is by no means a slam dunk. Some surveys produce reams of undecipherable, uninteresting information that garner little or no media attention. Even if they contain loads of data, the presentation of survey results may neglect to organize and present the data in a way that showcases meaningful conclusions.

PR experts offer these recommendations to create surveys and media pitches that win publicity.

Ponder your questions. Creating questions that produce meaningful results is a critical first step. Avoid “none of the above” answers, says Bri Vorse, senior PR manager with SuccessFactors. If many participants choose that answer, results for other options will be low, producing lackluster findings. Instead, ask them to pick the best option. Consider Yes/No questions. They produce higher and more compelling percentages. Don’t use fill-in-the-blank questions. Aggregating and reporting those answers is extremely difficult. Include appropriate demographic questions that enable segmentation of results by audience type. Avoid complicated question formats. Keep the length of time to complete the survey to under 10 minutes, less if possible.

Search for similar surveys. Search competitors’ websites for surveys they have released. If a survey resembles yours, conduct either a different survey or one that is more in-depth. Being aware of annual surveys will help avoid conflicts.

Seek contrarian results. Media outlets will ignore findings that repeat what everyone already knows. They pay attention to research that reveals unexpected answers or something people don’t know, advises Brian Lustig, a partner at Bluetext. That sounds obvious, but requires carefully planning when creating survey questions.

Support your products. Develop survey questions that are likely to produce results that support the organization or brand goals. Companies won’t release survey results that show market preference for features not available in their product or service.

Choose a survey methodology and instrument. Today, online surveys are the most cost-efficient method for developing and implementing business surveys. Online survey services such as SurveyMonkey and Zoho eliminate the need for programming or coding. They make it quick and easy to create questions and tabulate results. Assess a few different services before selecting your instrument. You might also benefit from a review of your questionnaire by a survey professional before you proceed.

Publicize the survey. In general, more survey participants mean more credible results. Use as many promotion methods as possible to attract the target audience to complete the survey. (National surveys seek a sample of about 1,200 participants to assure accurate results. Many business surveys use far fewer.) Email promotion and keyword advertising on Google Adwords are two of the more common promotional techniques to attract survey participants. Display advertising in trade journals also works well. Consider offering a “gift,” such as the results of the survey or a Starbucks gift card, to attract greater participation.

Validate Data. Make sure your survey sample is valid and that you have a sufficient number of responses to assure legitimate and credible results with a reasonable margin of error. Double and triple check all results for accuracy. Double and triple check all graphics and reports for errors.

Highlight the main points. Focusing on the top five survey findings related to a specific business issue increases the chances for media coverage. If reporters feel overwhelmed with the raw findings, they ignore the survey, says Abby Silverman, account executive at Shift Communication. But keep in mind that some publications may wish to view all the survey data before publishing results.

Call them. Calling reporters and providing a quick introduction to the survey can prompt them to open your email pitch. Ask if they are interested in surveys, if they prefer the raw results, or simply lack time to review them.

Present results. Make sure you have not only a press release or a PR pitch ready, but also a copy of the full survey or study to offer the media, writes Andrew Blum, principal of AJB Communications, in Muck Rack. Include graphics of the results with the press release and other distributions. (Include URLs that link to other downloadable graphics.) Following media relations best practices, make sure a company spokesperson is available in case a reporter seeks a quote or additional insight. The spokesperson must be fully conversant with the study methodology and results.

Repurpose. You can reuse surveys on multiple marketing channels. Results can be refashioned into blog posts, white papers or a SlideShare presentation. You can also post survey findings on Twitter and other social media networks, spreading the facts out over time for maximum exposure.

Measure earned media results. Use a media monitoring and PR measurement service to aggregate and measure all media mentions about the survey. An interactive media analytics dashboard from a media monitoring and measurement service will provide genuine insight into the impact of the survey, including reactions on social media.

Bottom Line: Organizations often conduct surveys to obtain media coverage and support their brand’s goals. Successful surveys require careful attention to creating questions, using standardized survey techniques, organizing results into a compelling presentation, following through on media relations, and measuring impact of media placements.