Research in the Public Relations industry
Research gives you an opportunity to communicate confidently without fear of contradiction and it is essential for any Public Relations effort. The Public Relations industry has been challenged from what has been described as a lack of measurable outcomes.
The need to get the message out to as many of the target groups as possible means that emphasis is primarily placed on outputs such as news releases or ‘publicity’, and little thought is given to the outcomes of how effective these materials influence people.
How important is Research?
Public relations research monitors developments and trends i.e. up to date trends in the public scope, insights, feedback & perceptions. It examines the current position on an issue or problem. In addition it serves to assess communication activities and functions, such as messaging, corporate credibility, trust, relationships, reputation and confidence in the organisation. It continuously and systematically measures communication effectiveness.
Research tracks perceptions over time which helps to effectively understand your target audience and consequently helps you craft a tailor-made message. It is not a one off thing. It also evaluates over time, the progress made in achieving organisational goals and objectives and offers suggestions for improved decision-making.
With these few examples, it obvious research in Public Relations should be planned based on the same decision-making process found in other areas of the organisation. It should set measurable objectives that focus on overall business objectives and goals in such a way to correlate with actual behaviour, and then determine the strategies to meet them. This process is typically divided into three phases: development, refinement, and evaluation, each having its own particular importance in the overall campaign goal.
The End Point
To assure the quality, substance of research findings and contribute to improving the public relations activities, a recommended best practice is to design the research that demonstrates the effectiveness. That is to say, show the potential impact of a message or a program and set benchmarks to gauge future performance.
It is critical that the relevant research is part and parcel of the public relations outputs (for instance, newsletters, blogs and media releases). By seeing the effectiveness of the research material then you are able to understand what went wrong, where it went wrong and how to put it right the next time.
Notably it is important to pay attention to the fact that research is a process that is continuous, meaning at every stage of a strategy or a plan it is important to do research. Many of the practitioners today focus more on putting the strategy in action and give little or no attention to research and yet it is what makes communication effective or ineffective.