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How to Collect and Project Manage a Successful Research Project

As part of the CIPR South West virtual learning series, Joey Green and Anita Kershaw, from Censuswide research consultancy (link), hosted an event on how to collect and project manage a successful research project.

I went along to the virtual event and heard the wisdom they had to impart on planning, managing, and delivering a productive research project. Joey Green, the Creative Lead at Censuswide, has a prosperous background in PR, and so her insights were effectively structured towards members of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR).

As a PR novice myself, it really helped to clarify the daunting prospect of managing a research project, and so I wanted to would share an outline of what I learnt.

Here are the highlights from the event:

Coming up with your idea

First and foremost, how do you generate and develop ideas for your research project? How do you know what’s going to land with your audience.

  1. Research. Find out what people are talking about (places like Reddit are great for this). Browse all your favourite media channels for ideas and inspiration. Remember, good research gets people talking, but what people are talking about can also inform good research. It goes both ways!
  2. Figure out your headline. Don’t finalise your headline until your research is complete, but you should list ten or more ideas for headlines so that you’ve got a direction to head in.
  3. Don’t be too obvious. You want your research to surprise people, because that it what makes for good news stories, so always try to put a new spin on an old tale.
  4. Consider using a tried and tested formula. They’re popular for a reason, so don’t hesitate to use the formulas that have proven to work.

Decide upon a formula

The formula for your research is dependent on what best fits your topic, so consider it carefully against your project goals. You have several options here.

  1. Pinpointing specific numbers. Example – ‘Surveys show that over 1000 people think…’
  2. Highlighting ignorance of specific audience. Example – ‘1 in 5 people don’t know that…’
  3. Profiling people and highlighting differences. Example – ‘Men are five times more likely to…than women.’
  4. Human interest. Example – Explore people’s awareness of a topic, provide them further information, then ask for their opinion/ reaction.
  5. Hijacking news stories. Example – Using current news stories to inform or inspire research around a topic.

Constructing your questions

When it comes down to writing your survey questions, there are a lot of things to consider. However, there are some things you should always be doing:

  1. Know your desired outcome. Keep your top-line in mind and know what you want your back-up stats to be.
  2. Relevant. Ensure all your questions are relevant to the desired outcome.
  3. Avoid jargon. Be clear about what you’re asking and use language that all respondents will know.
  4. Avoid lengthy questions. Long, complicated questions will incur drop-outs from survey takers. Keep it simple and to-the-point.
  5. Provide a ‘nudge’. This can be a line underneath the optional answers which helps clarify challenging (or ‘vague’) questions.

‘Tick One’ verses ‘Tick All’

Which to choose? Well, there are pros and cons for both, but here are some basic tips that will help you decide:

On a whole, you’ll have a clear winner if you choose the ‘Tick One’ format.

BUT

If you want a specific answer to appear high in the stats, the ‘Tick All that apply’ format will make it far more likely that you’ll receive a higher percentage on that answer.

Who do you want to target?

This answer to this is entirely dependant on what you want your research to achieve, so consider the story and who it impacts. Generally, there are two target audiences: consumers or businesses (B2B).

You’ll want to divide your overall respondents into smaller categories when it comes to assessing the data, so include questions that will allow for ‘splits’. Common splits include: age, gender, region, and city.

Examples of consumer splits: relationship status, number of children, annual household income.

Examples of B2B splits: job title, company turnover, industry.

You can also slice and dice your research findings by geography, including region and nearest city.

Final takeaways

  1. Work backwards from your intended outcome. Always keep your goal in mind, but don’t be too rigid. Remember that the research comes first, and the results follow.
  2. Where possible, be bold. Bold stories sell, so whenever the opportunity to make a statement presents itself, seize it.
  3. Consider topical news hooks you can tie you research to. Keep an eye on the media and take inspiration from the conversations that are circulating. As with any story, a news hook is key to your research attracting interest.
  4. Put collaboration at the heart of your project. A research project centres around people, so keep them close wherever you can.

If you’re thinking about expanding your knowledge around research projects, or maybe managing your very first, CIPR have some great tips to share. You can find more at the CIPR website, where they run a full-day course on PR research management (link – Display event – Introduction to PR research (cipr.co.uk)).

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