Using research to generate headlines

When it comes to news stories and articles, statistics really get to the heart of a story.

Numbers stick in people’s minds and help them understand an issue more clearly. Numbers and figures can often convey messages more concisely than words, and go some way to help remove conjecture from a story.

Take the Daily Mail headline, ‘Quarter of food binned each year has not even been opened’. The figure ‘quarter’ helps the reader quantify and process the information they are taking in – many UK residents are aware of the problem of food waste, but the fact that such a large percentage of the food we bin is not even opened is startling.

When done right, research provides new insights on a topic or issue. It can be a great route to take for organisations to shed light on a pertinent issue while gaining headlines and coverage. A breakthrough finding in a survey can help develop the public’s understanding of an issue while affording your organisation the opportunity to comment on the matter.

There are, however, certain elements you should consider when using research to generate headlines.

While research is a great way to provide new insights on a current issue or news, it is important to stay as neutral as possible. You want to provide new information without bias. A good example of this is the headline ‘One in four European youths have snapped a selfie while driving’ generated by a Ford-sponsored survey. While the story mentions the Ford name, it doesn’t promote Ford in the article and it highlights the safety issues around using a mobile device behind the wheel, something all road users could potentially be affected by.

One way to remain neutral and for a study to carry weight is by using a large enough sample size. How large is large enough? It depends on mathematical variables such as population size, margin of error, confidence levels and standard devation but there are online calculators that can help you quickly determine the right number. However, a sample of 1,000 adults is usually more than enough.

Another way to remain neutral is by using a trusted, reputable research company or a university to conduct a survey. By doing this you demonstrate that the information has been gathered by a third-party source and the independent company or university is willing to put their name alongside the findings, giving your research added credibility.

Here at Pelican, we have found working with research companies such as Kantar Worldpanel – a global independent research company that monitors consumer behaviour – has helped secure great coverage.

Kantar findings came in useful at the start of 2014 when we provided their research for the British Frozen Food Federation (BFFF) to The Guardian and The Times. The papers reported the findings that frozen food was on the rise, with Farmfoods experiencing a 44% increase in sales while Morrisons and Tesco saw sales fall.

This piece of research enabled our client to express an opinion on the matter from their position as an expert. BFFF is the leading governing body for frozen food. In this example, chief executive of BFFF, Brian Young was able to put his view forward on why a frozen food retailer had experienced such success over the previous year.

Empirical based research and reports crop up constantly in the news. Headlines such as ‘Britons reach digital peak at 14‘ are sharable nuggets of information. If there is a hook or an angle that a client can utilise, to share a view or help with the understanding of a topic, then research is an excellent way to generate headlines.

Pelican Communications are specialists in the environmentfood and drinkoutdoor and leisure and packaging sectors and offer a range of services such as media relations, brand management, event management and people developmentContact us for marketing and communications expertise.