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When should you use a survey?

When should you use a survey?

Surveys can be incredibly useful tools to any organization to receive quantitative, objective data about a variety of topics, however many organizations will elect to use surveys over other methods of data retrieval in situations where surveys aren’t as effective.

What do you want to learn?What do you want to learn?

Surveys are optimal when you want to hear general perspectives about specific topics. Is your organization treating its employees fairly? Do your customers like your products and services? How does your audience feel about a new proposal being developed to add additional products or services?

Likert rating scales where respondents rate their responses on scales from strongly disagree to strongly agree allow your organization to easily analyze data to get a 30,000-foot view of what your respondents think about a variety of topics.

However, where surveys don’t succeed is when your organization is seeking subjective opinions. Where do you think the organization is doing good work? Where do you see the organization needing improvement? How do you feel about the organization’s leadership? What suggestions do you have for additional products and services? These questions are challenging to ask in a survey as many respondents either won’t fill out open-ended responses or respondents may provide vague or short answers that need additional explanation and follow-up which isn’t possible in a survey format.

In situations where follow-up is necessary to find out what your audience truly thinks, other methods of reaching out such as in-person stakeholder interviews are far more effective as the interviewer can specifically ask what makes the respondent feel the way he or she feels, diving deeper into the background of the opinion.

Who is your target audience?Who is your target audience?

Surveys are optimal when an entire target audience can participate. For example, if an organization wants to hear from their employees, a survey can be easily sent to every employee to ensure that everyone who would like to participate has the opportunity to do so.

If the entire audience isn’t reachable or is too large, such as when researching a community or a customer base, then random sampling can help reduce the number of respondents necessary for accurate data.

Organizing and amassing a truly random sample is key to retrieving accurate data, and this can be challenging and, in certain cases, downright impossible. For instance, if your target audience includes the general population, and your organization would like to use an online survey, you will be ignoring a large portion of the population who doesn’t have access to computers or the Internet.

Missing out on the opinions of any portion of your target audience may provide inaccurate results. You may think you know what your audience believes, but, in reality, your survey may have missed important viewpoints which could dramatically change the survey’s results.

Surveys can be effectiveSurveys can be incredibly effective when used in the right circumstances.

Properly-executed surveys can be incredibly effective at providing general objective data for further analysis and an overview of the topics discussed as long as the respondent audience is carefully selected and the questions are properly worded.

If your organization needs guidance about its future rather than opinions about specific ideas or concepts, other methods such as Key Stakeholder Interviews often yield far more effective results.

What are Key Stakeholder Interviews?What are Key Stakeholder Interviews?

In addition to having edTactics conduct your organization’s surveys for a broad view, we recommend using our Key Stakeholder Interview Process to provide in-depth, qualitative analysis of your audiences.

edTactics’ Key Stakeholder Interview Process uses multiple steps to ensure your organization receives in-depth information including helping identify your key stakeholders, interviewing them, and developing methods to share the results with your leadership and audiences.

The Key Stakeholder Interview Process can help you identify ways to reach your entire audience with the right messages through strategic communication plans which edTactics can help your organization develop and implement.

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Let edTactics help you!Do you need help learning more about your audience?

edTactics can help you identify and reach your audience using surveys, the Key Stakeholder Interview Process, and through strategic communication strategies. edTactics offers free consultations where our experts can discuss your organization and what you want for its future.

We encourage you to contact us by phone (800) 983-8408 or learn more by visiting our Facebook ( or Twitter accounts ( edTactics will provide you with our experience and expertise so you can focus on what matters – student learning.


Art Edgerly and Eric Jacobson