Creating research reports that get PR coverage year after year is well worthwhile. You only need to look at the success of FTSE100 companies, national charities and think tanks to see their value - the Halifax Price Index is the go to for housing and money press, and no one would report on consumer trends without consulting the Office of National Statistics.
But if you are small, new, or operating in a highly competitive market it can be easy to write off giving it a go. But it's for exactly those reasons you should do it. It's a brilliant way to stand out, offer some insight others can't give and build your reputation and credibility.
You have to do it the right way though and there are some specific ingredients to making it work:
First of all you need to have an angle. Think of a Venn diagram when you are coming up with your theme - what do the press want to write about, what do their readers and your target customers want to know, and what do you want to say? The trick is to find the story that fulfils all of the criteria.
Be careful not to get too focused though - so for instance general statistics that help to set the scene about 5G uptake will still be of interest even if you are only interested in being associated with the security implications.
Data is at the heart of this so make sure who you interview and how many of those people you interview stands up to the test journalists will put it through. A survey of 50 people will not hold much weight unless the 50 people are all prime ministers, or CEOs of the FTSE. As a rule of thumb, in the UK, you need a minimum of 1000 consumers or 500 business leaders for the press to see it as credible national research. If you want to be global then you'll need bigger numbers, and be careful not to fall into the trap of calling a survey done in UK, Australia, France and South Africa global.
When you're planning your story think about the way you could slice the numbers to give the press some more meat to the bone. Can you dissect the research according to age so you can compare millennial mobile trends against baby boomers? Are there regional differences that feed the notion of a north south divide? Or can you contrast the opinion of leaders in manufacturing versus retail markets?
This approach helps you find controversy that the press likes and helps you take it to a mix of press (manufacturing and retail press in the last example) as well as general titles, maximising your coverage options.
Ask the questions no one else is asking. What can you uncover that other research hasn't? Think about the headline the questions you ask will give you.
For instance, you might ask businesses if they plan to invest is SaaS. If the majority say yes then it's a bit 'so what' unless you uncover which services they want to invest in and why, or perhaps what's preventing them from doing it - cash, security concerns, lack of board understanding. There are specialist research teams who can help you craft the right questions and if their name is associated to your story you will gain extra points for credibility.
Write questions that will be timeless. Are there things you can ask that will act as a barometer for the state a sector is in year after year. If everyone is predicting the shift to robotics in ten year's time then you could measure the shift year on year and look into what's accelerating it or preventing it from happening. This approach gives you a benchmark for comparison, which you can overlay with more topical findings.
Don't just summarise the findings. Though helpful they don't tell a story and it's the story that will help you get coverage. Add some analysis, make some predictions, give some opinion that help the press understand why things have come out the way they have. This will inspire their stories.
A valuable report will do more than get you coverage. Your clients and your prospects, partners, suppliers (and competitors) will all want a copy if you are helping them shape their business. Actually it can be this secondary purpose that's most useful in the long-term and where you will get sustained ROI.
Don't make heavy weather of what you have found. Use images, graphs, tables to bring the story to life and make it easy to digest. It's a critical component of producing something people will return to.
Original photography taken to a brief can really help you stand out on a busy press day. You never know what you will be competing against - a similar report, a bigger brand name, a breaking news story that takes over all front pages. Giving the press a good story on a plate is so important.
Sounds obvious but so very easy to get wrong.
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