Don't call them Public Radio Listener Surveys
Every once in a while you'll see a post on one of our list servs or Facebook pages asking for examples or help in formulating public radio listener surveys. I'll often offer advice based the surveys we did at my station which I think provided us with helpful information as well as the opportunity to cultivate non or expired members.
These really aren't 'Listener' surveys. If you do them right, they'll tell you more about your market and why non listeners don't listen and why non member listeners don't contribute. They'll also tell you what issues are important to your community so you can adjust your content to better serve them.
The first question you have to yourself is why you want to do a survey. After talking to several folks who asked for advice; many folks are trying to prove their position in an internal argument or they don't believe Neilson ratings or other research products. Obviously these are not good reasons to conduct a survey.
The best reasons to conduct a survey is to add information to the other research your station has at its disposal. Maybe your not sure that your editorial team is covering all the issues your listeners are concerned about. Maybe you're wondering why more listeners aren't becoming members. Maybe your wondering why attendance at your events are lackluster. You may also want to try to quantify the financial impact of your events on your community.
There's a lot you can learn. There is one caveat. The survey you're going to do is not going to scientifically (unless you're going to hire a research firm at a big price tag) sound. The information can be used to inform your judgement and maybe even be a good sales tool for your underwriting staff, but it should not be used exclusively to make changes in your station's focus, schedule or other decision.
A Few Don'ts for Public Radio Listener Surveys
Don't ask "When Do You Listen?" questions. Your Nielsen ratings will tell you that. Of course if you're in an unmeasured market then you might consider asking this question.
Don't ask "What other stations do you listen to?" Same reason, you have that information already. We're not looking for behaviors--we're looking for the why behind the behaviors.
Don't ask for feedback about specific reporters or hosts. Under NO circumstances should you share any comments about personnel with staff. It will cause an HR nightmare not matter if the feedback is positive or negative. Been There... Done That.... Got The Scars.
Don't ask which malls or shopping centers they visit. You have this information in Tapscan or Media Audit. If your station doesn't subscribe, use the effort your own survey would take to convince your GM to buy one of these products.
A Few Dos for Public Radio Listener Surveys
Do ask questions about the important issues facing them personally. You may be surprised that you've overlooked an important issue in your editorial planning.
Do ask them about their satisfaction level with your station along with a space for feedback. You're going to get very high ranks here since you're pool of response is filled with listeners who love you. The feedback can be helpful to learn what you're doing well. You'll need a way to quantify the intensity of the comments.
You might ask them about your events and how much and where they spend money before and after the event to demonstrate the financial impact your station brings to an event.
In the next post we'll tackle the tools you'll need to accomplish Public Radio Listener Surveys and then we'll tackle question construction.