Mastering the art of survey writing

If a butcher is six feet tall and wears size ten shoes, what does he weigh? How much dirt is there in a hole that measures two feet, by three feet by four feet?  When do you stop at green and go at red? 

You’re probably wondering why we’re asking such confusing questions. Rightly so, as they are the last thing you’d want to include in a survey.

By Leah Elston-Thompson, account executive at Stone Junction.

Once you’ve established you want to incorporate a survey into your PR strategy, you need to plan questions to meet your defined goals.  Before you start writing, use background research to plan the specific issues you will be addressing.

For a PR survey, this can include researching and identifying trends that your customers are interested in. After all, marketing is about your customers future.

Short and sweet

To achieve higher survey completion rates, keep your survey short and to the point. An effective survey generally has between five and ten questions. If the survey is too long, you risk having fewer responses and therefore less data to play with. For your results to be credible, you need to have the largest possible sample size.

Keep it clear

When writing questions, be sure you’re only asking one specific thing at a time. Asking about too many things at once will confuse your customers and impact your data.

Questions must be written in an impartial way so they do not impact the responses of your audience. Particularly for customer surveys, objective feedback is useful for your business, so make sure you set it out in a way that will achieve honest answers.


To get the best out of your results, it is best to use a scale that can be numerically defined. For the questions to be viable, all potential answers must be covered. Many companies do this by including a ‘don’t know’ option in a closed question.

A better way to scale your answers is with a Likert Scale, offering the options; strongly disagree, slightly disagree, neither agree nor disagree, slightly agree and strongly agree. This scale will give better results for PR stories than a closed yes or no question.

If you’re looking for specific feedback, you could introduce an open question. This may give you an insight into the rationale behind the numbers, which can be extremely valuable when analysing why you obtained a specific result.

Test it out

Before sending out a survey, it is extremely important to test it out, for example on your colleagues. This way you can identify any errors or confusion that may arise during completion.

By doing this, you are also able to establish how long it will take to complete the survey, so that you can give your customers an accurate completion time when asking them to take part.

If you’re still puzzled by the questions I asked at the start of this article, the answers were that there’s no dirt in a hole, a butcher weighs meat and you stop at green when eating a watermelon.

Once you’ve put your survey together, you need to plan how and when you will distribute it. If you need advice on how to write questions for a survey, get in touch with Stone Junction on 01785 225 416 or e-mail us at

Leah Elston-Thompson

Stone Junction is a cool technical PR agency based in Stafford. We work for all sorts of businesses, with a particular focus on technology, technical and engineering companies. We like being sent cake and biscuits by clients, journalists and prospects.

No comments: