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Top tips for getting value from PR research projects

question markResearch projects are a staple of many client PR campaigns, but they are also the marmite of the media industry so their success can’t always be guaranteed. Here at Spark we’d like to think we know a bit about successful research campaigns, so here are some top tips to ensuring you get maximum value from your research:


  • Make sure your story is of interest to the media - This may sound obvious, but a common failing is going to the media with research that isn’t very newsworthy.  For example, if you were the world’s only producer of gold headphones, pitching a story with a headline of “98% of consumers would like gold headphones” is unlikely to get you very far.  If the stats can point to a trend or issue that a publication’s readers can relate to, there is much more chance they will be receptive to your story.
  • Create in-bound marketing content – Research can also be developed to create in-bound marketing content, such as a more formal report.  Here you can provide a bit more in-depth analysis of the findings and ‘sell’ your solutions to the trend/problems highlighted. This content can also be used as the starting point for a webinar or seminar. From a PR standpoint having a content asset you can link to increases the chance of securing that all important (and measurable) backlink in an article.
  • Get social with your stats – Research is also a great way to create engaging content across your social media channels.  Social media teasers and infographics shared across the likes of Twitter and LinkedIn can certainly draw more eyeballs to your newly created in-bound marketing content.  So make sure that your PR and social media activity is aligned!
  • Research goes beyond just a press release – Once you have got the data, you should be making sure that you are maximising it for ongoing PR opportunities.  Statistics are great supporting material for features pitches and thought leadership articles as it provides real-lifedata points.  For example, for supply chain company JDA we managed to secure feature opportunities with both Drapers and Retail Week through crafting angles based on its recent Customer Pulse research.  This same research was also used to secure an opinion piece on The Guardian’s Technology in Retail section.

Research can be a big investment both financially and effort wise, therefore it should be seen as part of an integrated marketing campaign.  If you pick the right topic and execute it correctly it can pay for itself ten times over.

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Coverage Cup round up: double edition

Coverage cupThis week it is a double Coverage Cup round up – we got distracted by the excitement of the World Cup, hence the delay!  Top picks included coverage achieved by the Elsevier team in the oil and energy press, while  the JDA team secured opinion piece coverage in The Guardian. Elsewhere in the office, we secured comment in CBR’s ‘15 ways to explain the Internet of Things (IoT) to a five-year-old’ feature for a couple of different clients.  A selection of the coverage nominations are below – which do you think deserved to win?

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‘Life’s a glitch, then you die’

IoTThe Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the hottest trends in technology right now. The notion behind the buzzword essentially sees almost all of the objects we interact with on a daily basis connected and able to interact with each other. It’s an area that’s full of promise and a number of companies are in on the action.

The potential for IoT is endless – from fridges sending email to smart metering to name a couple. Apple has just announced its Home Kit which will allow users to control everything in their homes from their iPhones, which serves as an indication of what is to come.

It’s exciting times for those of us working in technology PR, we are involved in building the positive and firefighting the negative. How can we secure IoT? What are the risks involved? What could happen if IoT went wrong? What will the world look like if IoT works as it should?

More recently, the focus has turned to IoT security and the possible risks of having everything joined to a single connected network. It’s certainly an interesting area to explore, but I feel that the speculation about what could happen is pretty abstract.  But where does this all come from? I think the earliest roots of this negativity can be found in our pop culture.

In The Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror X segment:  ‘Life’s a glitch, then you die’, Homer is tasked with ensuring that all the computers at work are protected against the Y2K bug. All looks fine, but he forgets to sort out his own computer, which glitches at the turn of the millennium and spreads a terminal computer virus across the world.

Computers across the world start malfunctioning, rendering society completely impotent. Whilst in the kitchen, surrounded by malfunctioning home ware appliances, Lisa points out that everything has a computer chip inside it – from milk cartons, to fridges and microwaves.  This is close to the basic idea behind IoT.

However, they inevitably become compromised by the Y2K bug. Devices all over the world are rendered incapable of performing the tasks they were designed to do, and even start attacking their owners. The cataclysm escalates and effectively spells the end of the world.

Obviously, this is riddled with hyperbole, but the fundamental idea holds. There are high risks involved that need to be brought out into the open – the security angle will dominate IoT as with any other area of technology.

In technology PR we often have to deal with complex ideas that have to be heavily simplified. A common idiom in this industry is ‘explain it like you’d explain it to your mates down the pub’. The Simpsons is great for simplifying and creating an engaging story, our challenge is to do the same with the upside of IoT.  

(Image:  Hinkelstone via Flickr Creative Commons)

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Is your PR programme making people want to punch you in the face?







When I read Hubspot’s  blog post about marketing clichés some rang more than a few bells – we try to avoid them but ‘best of breed’ sometimes slips through the net.   PRs have always had to translate marketing speak into everyday language.  We already run the risk of creating a ‘punch in the face’ moment if we call a journalist at a bad time, so adding to it by pitching them a cliché-ridden press release is a real no-no.

However, telesales and PRs are no longer the only ones who have to stand by what we pitch.  Social media marketing means an ad or piece of collateral no longer comes from an anonymous source – companies expect their staff to retweet/repost advertising, marketing and PR materials.  They are not going to be keen if it alienates the very people they are trying to influence.  This change in the way we communicate means that we need to change the language we use to communicate – it has to be authentic, it has to be something you could imagine saying. 

The cartoonist Hugh MacCleod helps with the process of creating authenticity for a number of companies, such as Rackspace, Intel, Cisco and Roche Pharmaceuticals – his role is business transformation through art.  His website has some great pieces that resonate – for PRs the obvious is, “Have a story. And make sure it’s a good one. A DAMN good one.” 

Because we have to pass the journalist test, we have to be able to objectively evaluate whether something is a good story that will resonate rather than irritate.  Are journalists going to use our press release for a game of buzzword bingo? Will they ridicule it publicly on Twitter? Are we sending something that is knowledgeable and insightful; or smug, brash and bragging?  Does it talk about why a story is important in relation to what’s happening in the world and what people care about?  Does it lead with what is new, different, or unique?  But ultimately the ‘punch in the face test’ may well cover all of those things! 

(Image: via gapingvoid)

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Coverage Cup round up w/c 23 June 2014

Coverage cupLast week saw a broad mix of client coverage.  The  iPass team secured a great piece of coverage on the BBC as a result of  pro-actively pitching a business travel technology feature. Other notable mentions included the Damovo team for some contact centre research featured on  MyCustomer, while the Guavus team secured a great opinion piece placement on SC Magazine.  Which piece of coverage do you think deserves to win? 

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