By Kristen Rumberger
When the term research comes to mind, most people think of science, medical data, labs and a whole lot of work they don’t want to do.
“When I think of research I think of medical research or researching a topic about human behavior,” said Laura Wilhelm, a junior majoring in public relations.
Research is not disciplined to just the sciences. Research has several disciplines outside of scientific studies such as journalism, advertising, broadcast and public relations.
“The term research never seemed like a critical part of a PR professional’s duties in my opinion,” said Wilhelm.
Research is the first step involved in the PR process and quite frankly the most valuable. It is the collection and interpretation of data, which entails studying different publics, monitoring social media and keeping up with trends. It allows PR professionals to provide a foundation of effective outcomes to their clients.
“It allows you to confidently answer questions posed by clients, it tests and clarifies your assumptions, it guides you to opportunities for you and your clients and it helps you form your strategy, monitor its progress and evaluate its performance,” Valerie Leverett, a senior majoring in Public Relations, said.
Researching on a daily basis has become second nature to Leverett. She finds herself researching more than three or four times daily especially now with all of the current election coverage.
“There are so many fake news stories being posted on social media that I have to check credibility often,” Leverett said. “People can only believe half of what they see and none of what they hear, so research is necessary in order to get all the facts.”
There are four steps to effective PR: Research, Planning, Communication and Measurement. And, within research there are six sub steps:
Step one, define the audience by researching the demographics, lifestyles, characteristics and consumption of the client’s publics.
Step two, apply the characteristics to determine what is working, what isn’t working, what threat might exist and how to continue any successes.
Step three, test messages through pilot studies, focus groups, surveys, social media questionnaires and hiring professionals to test the message.
Step four, prevent a crisis by monitoring complaints, internal complaints, blogs and tweets.
Step five, monitor the client’s competition. Ask consumers to comment on competing products, conduct content analyses of media coverage regarding the competition and monitor industry reports and trade journals.
Last step, six, measure the research through research techniques. There is primary research, which involves original information taken from subjects directly relating to the topic, secondary research, which is information taken from books, articles and academic journals, and formal research, which is taken in the form of qualitative or quantitative data.
Not all research has to come from a database. Research can be measured through a variety of sources and platforms such as Business Wire, Codes of Ethics, Media Insider and PR Daily.
“Research is the most important aspect of the process.” Wilhelm said. “It is the first thing that should be done before any action is made and it holds the entire process together. Without research the PR process would fail.”