Ben Glanville, head of YouGov's Omnibus research team, explains the importance of planning and communication when commissioning fast-turnaround research for campaigns and media sell-in.
These days the national conversation can change in an instant – and for brands and agencies, it’s vital to keep up to date with the public mindset. From responding to breaking news stories, to researching a pitch, fast-turnaround research can get you the answers you need – quickly.
The key to getting the best answers is to ask the right questions, as Ben Glanville, head of YouGov Omnibus, explains.
When might you use a fast-turnaround survey?
Our clients use us in many different ways - from preparing for a pitch or testing the impact of a new campaign, to generating content for industry reports and media activity, such as our work for the NSPCC (case study below). The key is making the research count. By its nature, omnibus research is nimble –being fast and low cost – and it’s typically lower in detail too. This means getting the angle right to begin with is important for agencies who want to get the edge in a pitch, or enhance content to show an audience what the nation thinks, feels and wants.
One example we see regularly is when a brand or organisation wants to understand the effect, and therefore value to their brand, of sponsoring a specific event or project. For instance, if your client's brand decided to sponsor the new Garden Bridge across the Thames in London, you could commission a regular survey of Londoners to track KPIs such as awareness of the brand and how the sponsorship changes perceptions, advocacy and reputation associated with that brand.
Is speed the main advantage, or are there other reasons you might consider an Omnibus survey?
Omnibus is great for fast turnaround work, such as canvassing public attitudes to breaking news stories. But it’s also good for pitches and comms work where there is a limited budget – and we have many agencies who have used our data to win pitches.
Clients can share space on a questionnaire to reach a target group, but only pay for the questions that they need. So, for example, a charity that raises awareness and donations for a particular health condition could run a couple of questions to highlight public awareness, stigma, or misconceptions around that condition – and get national or regional sell-in for a story based around those findings. This can be far cheaper than advertising, or running standalone market research projects where bearing the entire cost of reaching thousands of people would be prohibitive.
How should you approach tracking responses in order to build a picture of public attitudes to a breaking news event?
If you know a story is going to break, the ideal thing to do is to conduct a survey ahead of time so that you have a baseline level to work from. We also have brand health measures that we track for over a thousand brands day in, day out, so we can look at how value, reputation and quality perceptions have changed, going back several years.
In terms of the research at-hand, questions about whether the respondent is aware of the event (and the brand's connection to it), are a good place to start. You can then go on to compare people's likelihood to engage with the brand among people who were aware of the event to see the extent and reach of any effect.
What else do you consider when creating questions for a survey?
A good rule of thumb is to keep it simple. It seems obvious, but often it’s important to be bold and just ask the question you want the answer to. It’s easy to get caught up trying to be creative, to build a robust picture of an audience – but if you want to know how a specific event made people feel, all you have to do is ask. Although simple may feel boring, the way you use the results certainly doesn’t have to be, and it makes the overall survey quick and engaging for the audience.
How do you ensure that an Omnibus survey is nationally representative?
Among other things, we combine census data and voting behaviour to ensure we know what a representative sample of people should "look" like. So we know how many you would expect to see who are male or female, how many are in the North-East of England – things like that. We have a team of panel experts and statisticians who target the panel – in the UK we have over 800,000 people who take our surveys for whom we've already collected all this demographic information.
We look at all the different groups, how likely they are to respond and how long they usually take to respond, and then we launch the survey. We carefully monitor who responds so that we can top up any types of people we need. This ensures the sample's results are as close as possible to what they would be if you'd been able to survey the whole population – whether that's all Brits, all SME business decision makers, and so on.
How do you ensure panellists are engaged?
People enjoy taking surveys, as long as they are easy to understand, relevant and don’t take too long. Start with an introduction so that the respondents understand how the research is being used, and to explain any terms or hypothetical situations the respondent might need to think about in the survey.
A good market researcher ensures that the survey has a "cinematographic effect" – starting on a general topic and then focusing in on the detail. That makes the survey intuitive for respondents and ensures they are clear on what they are being asked and are happy to give their answers openly and honestly.
If you do nothing else, what one thing do you need to do when planning fast-turnaround research?
Good market research is often the result of good communication – make sure your supplier takes time to understand your research needs. It sounds obvious, but if you can get as much information across to them about why you are doing the research, who will see the findings, and what message you’d like to convey with the results, then that puts the researcher in a great place to design the best possible project with you. The least effective research so often stems from a set of questions emailed across, with little conversation between the agency and the research company. Even when time is short, a phone call to go over things can be vital.
YouGov Omnibus enables you to quickly and cost-effectively find out people’s opinions, attitudes and behaviours, from next-day surveys with 2000 respondents to region-specific snapshots.
Find out more about Omnibus.
This article first appeared on PRWeek.