Research is an important part of public relations because it is used throughout the whole process of a campaign. Research is used in the beginning to analyze the client’s current situation. From there, a strategy is formed and the goals and objectives are identified (Watson & Noble, 2007, p. 60). Research is used again at the end in order to follow up on the results of the strategy and if the goal was obtained.
Researching your client is a big part of PR. Knowing what the client stands for and what their about will help the PR practitioner come up with a strategy specific to the company so it fits their mission. Researching the client is important but so is researching the public, and understanding the company’s target audience.
“Research makes communication two-way by collecting information from publics rather than one-way, which is a simple dissemination of information” (Bowen, Rawlins & Martin, 2017).
Understanding your audience is two-way communication. Knowing what they want and what they believe in is important when communicating with them. Throwing information at them would be a form of one-way communication. Other fields may have this form of communication; Here is the one outcome so take it or leave it. PR practitioners understand that the publics needs are important, hence the name “public relations.” This form of two-way communication is beneficial for both parties, both needs are understood and a strategy will be put in place to benefit most of the target audience as possible. This technique goes back to the strategy of PR. Everything is done for a reason because of research understanding certain crowds. When strategy is done for a reason it’s because of research that has been done. PR professionals aren’t just guessing what will work for certain companies or test out a campaign they thought of 3 years ago and try it on a random company. Research is also crucial for showing the results of a campaign in numbers and how effective the strategy was (Bowen, Rawlins & Martin, 2017).
“Research shows readers that public relations practitioners have always relied on research to provide evidence of the effectiveness of their activities. […] without a research plan, practitioners cannot accurately monitor, track, measure, or evaluate their public relations programs” (Brunner 2003, p. 1). After a client reaches out to a PR firm with a problem, they hope the professionals can aid the company. PR professionals can use research to learn more about the company and its audience. After the strategy takes place, the company expects results. The best way to test if the results of a campaign it through more research! PR practitioners can research data to evaluate how effective their strategy was. In a case with social media, analytics can be tracked to see if engagements with the company has increased.
“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” (Bowen, Rawlins & Martin 2017).
Bowen, S. A., Rawlins, B., and Martin, T. (2017). 8.1 Importance of Research in Public Relations Management. Mastering Public Relations 1.0. Washington, DC. Flat World Education, Inc.
(2003). The importance of research to public relations. The review of communication. (3)4. p.1 – 1. National Communication Association.
Watson, T., & Noble, P. (2007). Evaluating Public Relations: A Best Practice Guide to Public Relations. Chartered Institue of Public Relations. Kogan Page. p. 60.