Everything you need to know about how to write a great vox pop questionnaire

Vox pops interviews are well known amongst journalists and have been for decades. They became mainstream when Esther Rantzen introduced them back in the 1970s on That’s Life. Since then, as well as being used in a news capacity, they have been embraced by the market research industry. If you’re unsure what vox pop means, read this article in which we answer the question: What is a vox pop? Below, however, we will dive into some best practices and techniques to writing vox pops questions and creating great vox pops questionnaires.

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13 tips to write a great vox pop questionnaire

  1. Make sure all of the questions in your questionnaire reflect your objectives.
  2. Don’t ask questions that can be answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.
  3. Make sure questions are concise and easy to follow. If a question feels too meaty, try splitting it into two smaller, more specific questions.
  4. Phrase your vox pop questions with wording that your target demographic will understand. Avoid slang where possible.
  5. Consider including props and other ways to make your vox pops questions more creative, engaging and insightful.
  6. Come up with a few recruitment starters. How are you going to entice people to take part in your vox pops questionnaire? Plan a few opening lines.
  7. Don’t include too many questions. We think 10 is a good number, 15 is verging on too many. People will only give you good answers whilst they don’t feel like you are wasting their time. Keep it short, sweet and on topic.
  8. Test out your questionnaire with a friend or colleague and conduct practice run throughs. This will help make sure that your questions will actually illicit the kind of responses you are looking for.
  9. Take your time. We recommend working through multiple drafts of a vox pop questionnaire. After your first draft, do a practice run and adapt it where necessary. Repeat this a few times to perfect your questionnaire.
  10. Include follow up questions as probes. It’s really important in a vox pop interview not to interrupt the respondent as they speak, or your voice will be picked up in the video. You should avoid a back and forth, conversational interview. Instead, let the respondent finish speaking and then follow up with the next question. This can feel awkward but it’s key to creating clean sound bites. Pre-empting areas that may need exploring further and including follow up questions is good practice.
  11. Stick to your questionnaire as much as possible. When editing footage, it’s much easier if you have been consistent with questions when interviewing people.
  12. Note down good responses during or just after interviews. Again, this will speed up the editing process.
  13. Before you begin your vox pop interview, ask each respondent to try to begin their answer with the question. For example, if the question is ‘what is your favorite food’, the respondent would answer ‘my favourite food is pineapple, because…’

Write vox pops questions around your objectives – Context is key

When coming up with vox pops questions, perhaps the most important thing to consider is your own objectives. Is your main goal to capture new and authentic insight? Or perhaps you are aiming to create a video output to support existing market research findings? Alternatively, your objective may be purely marketing / comms related and you aren’t looking to gain any informative data at all. We’ve broken down a few common objectives below:

Vox pops questions for primary research

For pure vox pops (for market research purposes), you will need to make sure your vox pop questions are open ended. If you wan’t authentic responses you need to make sure you aren’t guiding respondents. For example:

  • Don’t ask: ‘Tell me why you love chocolate’
  • Do ask: ‘Tell me how you feel about chocolate’

Vox pops questions for presentations

If you are creating a vox pops video for a presentation, i.e. to support wider research data, then you may want to be a bit more leading. 

As a market researcher, you might feel a bit guilty about guiding respondents. But remember, your video has to meet your objectives. If you already have your data from a much larger quant study or a number of other sources, the objective for the video is to capture the key messages and present them. You already know how your consumers feel or behave. The objective of this vox pop questionnaire is to capture that on video.

  • Don’t ask: ‘Tell  me how you feel about chocolate’
  • Do ask: ‘Can you tell me what you like about chocolate’

Vox pops questions for marketing

If you are creating vox pops for marketing purposes, open ended questions may not be a consideration at all. In fact, you may decide that your questionnaire should be deliberately phrased to guide respondents into saying certain things. This is a big no no in the world of market research, but if you are creating a video for promotional reasons then there is no rule against this.

  • Don’t ask: ‘Do you ever shop at Morrisons’
  • Do ask: ‘Can you tell me why you shop at Morrisons’

This is unrelated to the vox pop questionnaire itself, but if you were to ask the question above, an obvious tip would be to set up your interview in a Morrisons car park. That way, you ensure everyone you interview does indeed shop at Morrisons.

Write vox pops questions for your audience

Another key consideration when designing a vox pops questionnaire is your audience. Who will be watching the video(s)? What do you want them to get out of it?

If you are conducting a vox pops questionnaire as research, then you (and other market researchers) are likely to be the primary audience. Your objective is to gain new insights. This means you will want to make sure that the vox pops questionnaire is robust and provides detailed insights. Include 10 or so questions to get the most from your respondents.

Alternatively, you may be planning to incorporate your vox pop video as part of a presentation. In this instance, the video is going to be serving a specific purpose. Your vox pop questionnaire should be short and sweet and specific to this purpose. Include 6 or so questions to ensure you can interview as many people as possible and increase your chances of capturing highly relevant sound bites. 

Including props in your vox pops questions

Including props in your vox pops questions can be a great way to get the respondent engaged whilst providing great insights. Are you investigating packaging or taste of a new food product? Bring the product along. Ask respondents to engage with the product, maybe even to try it. A famous example is the classic Pepsi vs Coke taste test. Filming first-hand reactions is a really authentic way of capturing insights. Reactions are un-filtered, so go deeper than written or verbal responses.

One of our favourite techniques is flip-boards (mini whiteboards). Ask a respondent a question that they must answer in 1 word, written on a whiteboard. Then ask them to flip the whiteboard over to reveal their answer. Capturing responses like this enables you to edit together answers from a large group of people in a very fast paced edit.

Another favourite of ours is the example video below, in which our client at Lelo asked respondents to identify a ‘mysterious’ object. Can you guess what it is?

 Consider the tone of your vox pop questionnaire

The tone of your vox pops questionnaire is particularly important if you are planning to share the final video(s) with an audience. This might be an external audience, another team within your business or key stakeholders.

If you are sharing the final videos(s), you will want the content to be engaging and interesting. To achieve this, get creative with your vox pops questions. Think outside the box. Be funny. If you want to include clips of a respondent laughing, engaging with props or even some outtakes or bloopers then you will need to consider how to illicit these responses.

Perhaps you want to hire a presenter to ask the questions within the shot. Interviewing people in pairs also allows for great energy and dialogue between respondents. This can also help with recruitment as people feel more comfortable together. Finding alternative and creative ways to ask your vox pop questions can make your final product more engaging and interesting. 

Write vox pops questions for your target demographic

You also need to take into account the demographic that you are planning to interview. Word questions using language that the respondent will understand. It’s important that you engage with the person you are interviewing and that starts at the recruiting stage – you need to persuade them to take part in the first place. This has become harder and harder, and even more so with Covid restrictions. 

It’s a good idea to have a few opening lines in mind for recruitment purposes that you think will draw in your target demographic.

Is the topic of your vox pop questionnaire personal or sensitive?

Finally, think about the topic of your vox pop questionnaire and how you would feel if someone was to approach you with these questions. Some topics are lighthearted and fun, but others can be much more sensitive. It’s notoriously more difficult to interview people about their finances, for example, than to ask for an opinion about a popular TV show.   

If you are investigating a sensitive or private topic, make sure your questions are worded respectfully and give people the option to not answer. You will also likely need a shorter vox pop questionnaire, so that you aren’t putting people under too much pressure.

How to ask vox pops questions

This isn’t about witing the vox pops questionnaire, but how you conduct an interview is equally important. Remember, it’s not about you as the interviewer, your role is to facilitate and obtain clips than can stand alone in an edited video, so keep quiet and encourage responses by using body language. You don’t want to hear your voice in the edit so try to let people speak uninterrupted. 

Another tip is to try and not get side tracked.  If you need to find out what people think about the music in an ad, don’t let them talk about the actor, go back to the point, make sure you get the answer you need. 

Create a release form for your vox pop questionnaire

In the modern day and age, it’s essential to acknowledge and work in line with data protection standards. This means a few things.

You will need to be upfront with the respondent about where the footage will be used and for what purpose. If it’s going to be used in social media they need to know. If it’s for internal research purposes to support other data, tell them, a lot of people like to have their voices heard and feel that their input might help a company with their strategy. The last thing you want is for a respondent to unexpectedly see their face front and centre on an ad campaign without their consent!

You will need to obtain consent from the respondent for the footage to be used in line with this purpose. You will also need to explain how a respondent can revoke their consent. 

We manage data protection via the use of a release form that every respondent must sign before taking part in an interview. This also covers data protection information such as who is the data controller and who is the data processor. As well as declarations that data will be stored securely and used outside of the agreement. 

Download our release form template here.

Vox pops questionnaire template

If you feel like you still need a bit more guidance or inspiration on how to write a vox pop questionnaire, fill in the form below to download a vox pops questionnaire example that you can use in your own projects.
How we can help

Vox Pops International innovated the use of vox pops interviews for market research purposes. We have been conducting vox pops interview for over 30 years. If you are unsure about anything and want advice, or would like a quote for us to conduct your vox pops for you, get in touch to talk to one of our team.


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