You Too Can Create Newsworthy Research
by Marcia Yudkin
Take a close look at the front section of specialized
magazines, and you'll often find little articles
highlighting results of some study or poll conducted by some
private company or other. Research data is also often cited
by general-interest publications like USA Today and network
newscasts. You don't need a Fortune 500 sized budget to
undertake a newsworthy study, or to receive coverage for it,
either to your industry or the general public.
The scope and rigor of a study or poll are usually not the
criteria governing whether or not it's considered worthy of
attention. Rather, reporters and editors judge the
newsworthiness of research according to its pertinence for
their audience, its novelty and its surprise quotient. If
the study results seem likely to provoke a "Wow!" or
"Interesting!" in the audience, then they have a good shot
at earning media coverage.
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Working backward, then, to how you would design a research
question or poll with a promising potential for ink and air
time, here are some guidelines.
The answer to the question is not obvious and not already
Those interviewed would want to know how others answered
It pertains to a topic that is either perennially or
currently of interest to a particular audience or the
It's probably a qualitative question rather than
answerable with "yes" or "no."
The answers will subtly promote you, the sponsor of the
research, without seeming overly self-serving.
For instance, if you're a moving company, asking "What
quality would you rank as #1 in importance when you're
looking for a moving company?" would not be as compelling as
"When you're moving, what household item are you most
concerned about getting lost or damaged?" If you're a chain
of Italian restaurants, a good question would be "Which
Italian dish gives you the greatest feeling of nostalgia?" A
management consultant might profitably ask executives, "What
mistakes do you see your vendors making in today's down
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As for how many people you need to query for your study, it
might be less than you think. One hundred, give or take a
few, may be perceived as plenty, especially if the
population you are asking is a relatively exclusive one.
When Internet stocks were booming, a newsletter publisher
got featured on CNN and CNBC with his findings about how
little stockbrokers knew about the Net. He interviewed 103
brokers for his study. Usability guru Jakob Nielsen got wide
coverage for a study of 20 journalists' inability to find
company information at corporate Web sites.
When you have your questionnaire or interview results, spend
the effort necessary to make your data sound catchy. The
newsletter publisher headlined his press release, "Want
Advice on Which Internet Stocks to Invest In? 'You're Better
Off Asking Your Teenager Than Your Broker,' says MBA
Professor's Survey." Jakob Nielsen announced his findings
equally effectively with the attention-getting headline,
"Corporate Websites Get a 'D' in PR."
Marcia Yudkin. All rights reserved.
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