Public relations professionals often find themselves in the position of having to convince management to fund research, or to describe the importance of research as a crucial part of a departmental or project budget. Research is an essential part of public relations management.
Here is a closer look at why scholars argued that conducting both formative and evaluative research is vital in modern public relations management:
Research makes communication two-way by collecting information from publics rather than one-way, which is a simple dissemination of information. Research allows us to engage in dialogue with publics, understanding their beliefs and values, and working to build understanding on their part of the internal workings and policies of the organization.
Scholars find that two-way communication is generally more effective than one-way communication, especially in instances in which the organization is heavily regulated by government or confronts a turbulent environment in the form of changing industry trends or of activist groups.See, for example, Grunig (1984), pp. 6–29; Grunig (1992a; 2001); Grunig, Grunig, and Dozier (2002); Grunig and Repper (1992).
Research makes public relations activities strategic by ensuring that communication is specifically targeted to publics who want, need, or care about the information.Ehling and Dozier (1992). Without conducting research, public relations is based on experience or instinct, neither of which play large roles in strategic management. This type of research prevents us from wasting money on communications that are not reaching intended publics or not doing the job that we had designed them to do.
Research allows us to show results, to measure impact, and to refocus our efforts based on those numbers.Dozier and Ehling (1992). For example, if an initiative is not working with a certain public we can show that ineffectiveness statistically, and the communication can be redesigned or eliminated. Thus, we can direct funds toward more successful elements of the public relations initiative.
Without research, public relations would not be a true management function. It would not be strategic or a part of executive strategic planning, but would regress to the days of simple press agentry, following hunches and instinct to create publicity.
As a true management function, public relations uses research to identify issues and engage in problem solving, to prevent and manage crises, to make organizations responsive and responsible to their publics, to create better organizational policy, and to build and maintain long-term relationships with publics.
A thorough knowledge of research methods and extensive analyses of data also allow public relations practitioners a seat in the dominant coalition and a way to illustrate the value and worth of their activities. In this manner, research is the strategic foundation of modern public relations management.Stacks and Micha
The importance of research in public relations; How research can help you promote your business
Many public relations practitioners count communication and strategy as the most valuable skills in their field. But in practice, one cannot put those skills to good use without a foundation of research and information gathering.
It’s important to know a client’s needs, target market, and available resources in order to draw up a good PR plan. For example, before submitting a story to a magazine, you have to know its readership and editorial standards to make sure your piece will fit in.
There are various types of research involved in PR, such as market research, industry research, news tracking, and competitive analysis. Each project requires different research methods, but one thing is constant: all PR projects involve research to some extent. Here are some of the ways that research can help improve PR practice:
Knowing your client – When you present your PR plan to a client, you should be prepared to justify your ideas – why you chose a certain medium or publication, how you came up with the tagline, or how you think a certain step will contribute to the overall plan. If your plan is substantiated by research, you shouldn’t have trouble answering such questions.
Finding your market – One of the first things you need to know when promoting a product or service is who your market is. Are you selling the product to teens or adults, males or females, students or professionals? Market research involves more than demographics – you have to analyze the behavior, lifestyle, and preferences of your audience.
Knowing your target market will help you determine what your message is and how to design it in a way that your audience can understand and appreciate.
Choosing your media – When you’ve put your message together, the next step is to choose a medium for sending it.
You need research to find out which media your client can afford, and which ones will bring in the most returns in the shortest time. If you’re looking into field sales or promotion, you also need research to stay updated on industry events that can be useful for your PR campaign.
It also involves a bit of market research, because you have to know which medium is preferred by your target market. You wouldn’t run a news release if your research shows that your audience doesn’t read newspapers.
Finally: Making your pitch
If you want to promote your business in the media, you will have to pitch your story to editors, producers, or reporters. In most cases, other PR firms or businesses will be competing for the space or airtime.
Your pitch has to be well-planned and well-researched for it to stand out from the other pitches. Look up the magazine’s reader profile and editorial policy, or find out the ratings of the station or program you are pitching to.
Be prepared to answer questions about your client’s business. This can make you appear more knowledgeable and responsible, and helps build credibility for both your firm and your client.