This is a story of how a request for a simple online survey of rural communities was, with a bit of ambition, turned into a very large nationally promoted survey that gave a voice to almost 20,000 people; publicised and reported on by the BBC.The backdrop to the research was one of budget reductions, a government review of the police funding formula and a growing focus on urban areas.The brief from the National Rural Crime Network (NRCN) was simple. It evolved – what briefs don’t – but in essence it was simple.

“We believe that the rural crime and policing in rural areas of England & Wales isn’t given sufficient weight in policy making”.

“We want you to measure the TRUE cost of crime; financial and emotional, to the people living and working in rural areas of England & Wales”

”We have some anecdotal evidence but what we want now are some facts and figures to help us build our case for more support for rural areas.”

“We have limited budgets so you will have to build a cost effective approach that can still provide robust figures”

“We’re thinking an online survey promoted by and through our member organisations”

 So, with a relatively small budget and big ambitions we set about our work. This wasn’t a job for random probability sampling and strict sampling controls; if you lived or owned a business in a rurally classified postcode then we wanted to hear from you. To be honest we’re used to having a bit more control over who and how many people answer our surveys so this ‘open to all’ approach was a bit of a step into the unknown for The Buzzz. Just how ambitious should we be? We wanted to generate significant amounts of data to counteract the lack of sampling rigour, we wanted to give as many people a voice as possible and we also knew that a large response would add weight to the resulting messages, whatever they might be.

Between ourselves, the NRCN and PR company Acceleris the survey was publicised via local media, social media, email, posters and good old word of mouth, and the responses came rolling in. The PR around the survey culminated in a spot on BBC Country File on Sunday 14th June which not only accelerated our numbers in the following week but also provided the NRCN with a platform for communicating the headline findings a few weeks later. Overall we received a massive response which is testament to the concern felt by rural communities around this subject matter.

We end our story with a client who now has the body of evidence required to petition central government (including some unexpected findings), and a research company who now know a whole lot more about creating and managing large ‘open access’ surveys. We must also say a big thank you to our friends at Omnisis Research in Manchester who programmed and hosted the survey and whose patience was tested on numerous occasions as the project went through various changes.

At The Buzzz we have always worked collaboratively; this was a great example of how we extended that thinking to other support agencies who were critical in achieving the success we finally delivered.