Using Surveys to Bring Tech Stories to Life

August 11th, 2017

When it comes down to it, there are just a handful of ways for a technology story to make headlines.

Top of the list is financial acquisition. The story of a big fish eating another big fish or a smaller yet more innovative fish for large sums of money invites journalists and industry influencers to pore over the details, pass judgment on the rights and wrongs of the business strategy, all while generating plenty of coverage in the process.

Next comes announcement of a major deal with a new customer. What better proof that an IT company is on the up and up than evidence its technology has won the confidence of some of the toughest, most skeptical buying professionals in the market?

There was a time when technology companies might also expect to attract press interest from launching a new product or the latest upgrade to an existing product.

However, decades of advances have seen only a very few technologies go on to stand the test of time. Most were launched in a blaze of marketing hype only to end up forgotten and unlamented.

Jaded journalists and weary industry observers have witnessed years of so-called game changing breakthroughs that never took off. They have all but given up on picking the winners from the losers. Today they have little time for the product announcements of anyone but the biggest brands.

The unpalatable truth is it’s a noisy world out there and – unless your product is unique, and way ahead at doing something demonstrably better than everyone else – it’s becoming harder and harder for emerging technologies to get noticed.

The first two story types are few and far between.

Yet vendors demand regular coverage opportunities to help get their message across, build relationships and positively influence sales.

This is where a survey can help. A single survey can generate a wealth of content and story angles leading to repeated opportunities for media commentary.

When embarking on a study there are some basic guidelines to bear in mind.

1. Choose your subject carefully

Obviously the subject needs to be one that your client is completely at home with and can discuss with knowledge and authority.  Carefully research what other studies in this area have made the headlines in the past 12-to-18 months. Strive to find a particular angle worth exploring more fully. The more original your area of research the more media interest you will attract.

2. Plan your questions with potential headlines in mind

Always remember a list of statistics on its own can be quite boring. The results collected should preferably run contrary to expectation – this is what creates the “Wow” factor. For example, think of a popular myth in your client’s field and aim to use your data to debunk it. If all the study does is generate a set of data that merely reiterates what people already think the study risks falling flat.

3. Aim to extract the maximum information possible

Most surveys comprise just 10 questions (not including a few qualifiers age/gender/job title etc. at the start). For multiple headlines identify two or three angles for the survey to cover and dedicate two or three questions to each. For added color maybe make one of the questions a little bit quirky for example does your company spend more each year on bottled water for meetings than on IT security?

4. Who is the study aimed at?

Are they consumers or are they professionals?  Do you want to expose differences according to their geography, gender, age or income? As far as possible the survey participants should match your target audience.

Surveys are relatively low cost. Finding survey participants is straightforward. You can leverage your existing customer and prospect database or perhaps consider a sponsorship, utilizing a publisher or association that represents a specific target audience.

Surveys of professionals – in IT for example – on the other hand tend to be more expensive. This is because they are already a tiny subset of the population as a whole and the proportion of those willing to spend time taking part in surveys even smaller. Access to them comes at a premium.

Some clients may occupy a particularly interesting niche in the market. If so, then there is the opportunity to extend the power of the survey further. Often they will opt to run the same study on an annual basis. It gives them the opportunity to offer the media regular updates on how their area of expertise is evolving over time.

The Takeaway

In summary, the IT industry is constantly evolving in new exciting ways. With relatively few ways to tell IT stories, one of the most effective ways is to illustrate how technology is intersecting with human lives.

As a result the tech media has an endless appetite for fresh data that helps to illustrate and bring industry trends or talking points to life.

A well-planned and executed study may unearth two or three different stories that can be turned into a mini campaign and lead to multiple coverage opportunities over a three to six month period.

Another benefit is that it is original content to turn into an online information resource that your marketing department can use to attract visitors your website. Want to learn how to harness the power of a survey for your own brand? Download our free e-book today.