Research on the cheap – Affordable ways to conduct research to inform comm strategies


Anyone who’s gone about earning their APR accreditation will tell you that the most enduring takeaway is the emphasis the process puts on research. And with good reason. Only by having an informed understanding of both your business and customers can you develop the right communications plan.

But here’s the problem – market research can be expensive, depending on what methods you use. Massive phone surveys, for example, require a call center or a significant team that is typically paid by the hour to gather the data.

There is good news, however. While most traditional research methods come with a tall bill, the Internet now provides opportunities to cut costs substantially. Here are ways to do valuable PR research within a tight budget.

  • Online Surveys: One of the new industries hatched from the Internet has been online survey services. Survey Monkey is a platform that allows you to create free to low-cost surveys to reach the site’s vast audience. You can even customize the type of audience you want. The basic free package lets you ask 10 questions for up to 100 respondents, while the gold and premium packages allow you to ask unlimited questions with unlimited responses at only a few dollars or less per day. Survey Monkey also offers an automated telephone survey service at just a few cents per call.
  • Contests: If your website already draws a large following, offer some kind of giveaway that your customers would be interested in. The catch? They have to fill out a survey form to qualify. Not a surprise, the bigger the grand prize you offer, the more contestants you’ll attract. A prize can be from your own company or a promotional business partner that wants exposure from the contest.
  • Free Downloads: Determine a digital product of value that you can give away to consumers in exchange for information. You can offer a free ebook, checklist – really anything you think your customers would be willing to answer a couple short questions in exchange for.

Sure, these methods might include certain biases and margins of error that more expensive measures weed out, but if your budget simply doesn’t allow for a full-fledged research effort, these methods can give you some insight as a foundation for building your communications plan.

Lindsay O'Bar

Lindsay’s work focuses on community relations, internal communications and media relations for companies like Kroger, Virginia’s Community Colleges and the Virginia Department of Transportation. By marrying research and strategic thinking, she helps clients thoughtfully engage audiences and the community while driving business results.

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