Choosing an omnibus survey can be a simple approach to getting survey data, because it is usually inexpensive and fast, and involves asking just a few questions. But there is sometimes a downside to simplicity: You have just a few questions to get that nugget of data you’re hoping to use as a news hook or to provide insight to your client. If your key questions are off target, you can’t turn to other content in your survey to find something usable.
Here are four tips for writing omnibus survey questions to ensure that your effort is successful:
1. Tailor your questions to the interview mode. Some omnibus surveys are conducted by phone, and some are done online. Each mode requires a different style of asking questions. For example, having an agree/disagree scale with seven points would work well for an online survey. But on the phone, each of those points would have to be labeled with words and read out loud to the respondent.
2. Ask the right number of questions. If you ask too many questions, you may be defeating the cost advantage of an omnibus. But if you ask too few questions, you will not get enough depth and leverage to tell a story. Usually you need points of contrast or context, so you will need to ask more than just one or two direct questions. Plan on asking five to eight questions for an omnibus survey.
3. Keep a broad focus. Most U.S. omnibus surveys include 1,000 respondents representing the full adult population. Ask questions that will apply to all or most of them so that you are taking advantage of the full sample size.
4. Ask questions that relate to your campaign. Your goal is to highlight the product or service you are selling. Sensational, funny, or outrageous questions and survey findings will sometimes give you a quick flash of attention, but not the kind of substantive leverage that will truly carry a message into multiple forums over the course of several months.
At Versta, we will work with you on all phases of the omnibus process, including concept development, design, drafting and revising the questions, and then analyzing and reporting the findings in a way that helps you tell the story. Have more questions? Give us a call — we are happy to help.
—Joe Hopper, Ph.D.