Advice from research expert Regina Corso

Last year saw more than 3.3 million Facebook posts, 448,800 tweets and 500 hours of YouTube video uploaded every 60 seconds (source: Smart Insights). Additionally, 70 percent of B2B marketers said they planned to create even more content this year (source: Content Marketing Institute).  

Given this content deluge, how can your brand stand out from the competition in 2018? To find out, we sat down with research expert Regina Corso, founder of Regina Corso Consulting.

Why is original research one of the most valuable assets a company can have?

Given today’s highly competitive environment, companies need to understand the rest of the playing field as a context for making smart decisions. From surveys to in-depth interviews (IDIs) to focus groups, the beauty of original research is that it’s just that: original. Not only will it help you understand your audience better, it also will help amplify your company’s voice to ensure your message is heard above those of your competitors.

In addition, media outlets love new data, so, for example, a survey could be leveraged to “create” news, helping to position your company as a thought leader.


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How can companies use commissioned research to their advantage?

Say you’re launching a new product. Testing messaging via research can identify which messages resonate best with your target audience and make the rollout much more successful.

Original market research can provide important data points whose value as a proprietary asset goes far beyond just sizing up your audience. The same data points can be used to pitch media and as supporting points in press releases, blogs, social media, infographics, video and other content to demonstrate the needs met by your products or services. Those data points also can be used in board presentations, speaking sessions and awards submissions. That’s a lot of value from a single piece of research.

What impact can original research have on pitching and securing media results?

The media are inundated with pitches, so it’s likely yours are getting lost in the shuffle. Original research designed to be shared publicly, which we call Brand Journalism Research, provides the media with timely, compelling and unique content that will ultimately give them more reason to report on your pitch. Keep in mind, however, that the media have become survey-savvy, so they know how to distinguish between good surveys and bad ones. Here are a few tips to help you get reporters’ attention:

1.     Do your homework. The media see and report on data-focused stories all the time, so the key is to find the white space and tread on new grounds. In healthcare, for instance, a lot of surveys have been done on value-based care, but did they survey a specific audience such as health plan executives? Look for the holes in stories and see where your data can help fill them.

2.     Tie the research back to what you’re selling. The media tend to cater to surveys that inform lists, like top healthcare concerns, or comparisons, such as physicians’ opinions vs. hospitals’. However, make sure that the survey you’re conducting ultimately ties back to what you are trying to sell. If you make too much of a stretch, the media will notice and likely pass on your pitch.

3.     Talk to them first. If you have a good topic in mind for a survey, reach out to a reporter with whom you have a relationship and get their thoughts. Ask them what stories they’re working on currently that could benefit from supporting research, or see what type of research they haven’t seen that they’re eager to cover. Use that feedback to inform your survey topic and questions—then you know you’ll have a data point that is guaranteed to get media coverage.

What types of research are most valuable, and what do you predict for 2018 that will further increase research ROI?

Different types of research serve different purposes, so the type that will be of greatest value to you depends on your needs and goals. In terms of what’s most successful for media coverage, it’s hard to top survey research. The media want to see numbers and percentages, two things you can’t get with focus groups or in-depth interviews. However, if you’re testing messages or a new product, qualitative research is key. It will let you explore your target audience’s reactions to content and drill down deeper into their attitudes, beliefs and emotions about the need for your solution.  

“Best of both worlds” research that combines both qualitative and quantitative feedback is gaining traction and I predict it will become more mainstream in 2018. This means you’ll not only get hard numbers from your research, but also quotes from open-ended questions that you can use to bolster content or a media pitch.

As you work on your PR and marketing budget for 2018, consider incorporating original research. It is one of the most effective ways to create a unique voice in your industry, become a thought leader, better understand your audience and, ultimately, stand out from your competitors with stronger content and media results.