As a market researcher who cut his teeth on studies primarily aimed at achieving news coverage, the first 18 months of my career was a huge eye opener into the world of news media, and what it takes to get research led stories to land.
There’s an art and science to this almost alchemic process, which requires transforming skill, knowledge, expertise, and collaboration into a piece, newsworthy of being picked up by titles such as The Telegraph, Mail Online, New York Post and News.com Australia.
Achieving coverage, starts with the quality of research and there are key areas in how research is conducted that contribute directly to the coverage achieved.
1. You need the right sample
Conducting research among a truly representative sample of people is critical for the credibility and authority required by news media outlets. Nat rep sample should never drop below 2,000 respondents as this increases the margin of error. Additionally, less than 2,000 means that subgroups such as 18-24-year olds, or people from Scotland, would be too small for accurate analysis and we could not use the responses to represent the subgroups opinions.
Why not poll more than 2,000? The answer is simple, jumping to 3,000 or 4,000 increases costs far more than it improves quality or reduces the margin of error. It doesn’t add value to the news story to increase the number of respondents polled.
2. Do international research with care
Conducting research on an international scale poses many challenges. Just because some international countries are English speaking, doesn’t mean the research can just be reproduced. Areas that require additional knowledge and expertise include:
- Terminology - often questionnaires will need rewriting to account for differences in recognised terms, don’t think Potato, Potahto, think Aubergine and Eggplant.
- Language - questions take on different formats in other languages, international research requires an understanding of this as well as dialect nuances that arise from the same languages being spoken in different countries. For example, Barbeque translates to ‘Barbacoa’ in Spain, but in Mexico ‘Barbacoa’ is a method for steaming meat underground.
- Laws - the most important thing when conducting international research is understanding the laws and regulations that must be adhered to. Around the world there are real differences in what you can ask, how you can ask it, data privacy and more.
3. Think about niche research
Not all research for news coverage is nationally representative, there is a need to also gather opinion from specific subgroups of the population, such as single parents. Here things are more complex as to determine how many responses make a robust study, we first must identify the size of that universe such as the number of single parents in the UK, and then assess the feasibility of getting sufficient responses from that group. The smaller the group the harder this becomes, but a good rule for most subgroups is to never drop below 100 responses.
For really niche research, changing the method to telephone interviewing or qualitative community research would achieve better results.
Whilst the quality of research is a key ingredient in achieving news coverage, it cannot work in isolation. Collaboration of skill and expertise across creative media and content remains pivotal.
The opinions that research reveals lend themselves to a wide range of digital outputs, from games and interactive maps to videos and microsites. Data storytelling is necessary for online coverage where readers need to engage quickly.
Finally, the research needs expert creatives that know exactly how to write for news titles, to craft the results into statistically sound stories.
There really is an art and a science to every landed story and when done right, it’s a winning formula.
Written by Harry Gove, research director of OnePoll
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