...that few of us believe statistics we read in the media. Indeed, surveys are often criticised as lazy, even dishonest PR. They’re an easy way to get a company’s name into the press and there’s no shortage of examples online. These surveys are designed to increase brand exposure and grab attention through sensationalist headlines like ‘family albums fade as the young put only themselves in picture', or ‘tidy your home or be alone'.
Much maligned though they are, why are they so effective?
Well, for starters, they’re a bit of light-hearted fun. We love attention grabbing headlines, lists and stats. Survey results and top 10 lists are great places to consume bite-sized but accurate facts. Whether they disgust us or delight us, there’s no question that simple stats make for good small-talk: “did you know that 14% of people use their finger to brush their teeth?” They’re entertaining, easy to scroll through, and less taxing on the brain than trawling through piles of research and survey data.
Despite their popularity, some PR surveys have questionable accuracy. Good research isn’t always about the number of people surveyed. PR surveys often use market research sites to pay their participants for each survey completed, so it’s no wonder if participants are tempted to become a little click-happy. Questions can be misleading and designed to serve the agenda of the company conducting the survey, and the available responses don’t always reflect reality.
It’s important to supplement survey stats with real life, quality examples. Without other, supporting evidence/qualified endorsement, such as case studies or a third-party expert’s opinion (NOT a spokesperson from the company that commissioned the survey), the PR survey too easily becomes a lazy attempt to elbow a brand name into the press.
Love them or hate them, PR surveys are here to stay. The best catch our attention by speaking to our passion points and interests, often highlighting things that everyone knows and nobody dares to say; we can’t stop talking about the stats they throw up. As for the worst, well, they make us feel terrible about ourselves. Just remember - don’t believe every number you read in the news.
Three of the ‘best’
Top 10 items stolen from hotels, commissioned by travel discount website
Top 50 things that make Britons feel great, commissioned by international healthcare group
Top 10 locations for proposals in the world, commissioned by ticket retailer
Three of the ‘worst’
Quarter of Brits will never feel good about themselves, commissioned by cosmetic surgery group
Top 50 tell-tale signs of ageing, commissioned by life insurance company
Nearly half of wedding guests need to buy better gifts, commissioned by gift card firm