Just how important is research to public relations you may ask? Let’s look at it this way, research is to public relations as cheese is to macaroni.
It’s pretty darn important.
Without research, PR is really just a bunch of uninformed people making guesses about what probably might work best. Nobody wants their crisis manager to pull out a giant roulette wheel when the time comes to execute a plan.
However, a little research goes a long way. In my research about research, I came across an article in the Encyclopedia of Small Business that stated, “Effective public relations requires a knowledge, based on analysis and understanding, of all the factors that influence public attitudes toward the organization. A specific public relations project or campaign may be undertaken proactively or reactively (to manage some sort of image crisis), but the first basic step in either case involves analysis and research to identify all the relevant factors of the situation” (2017).
As stated previously, “public relations requires a knowledge” and in this business, knowledge is definitely power (2017). Research gives us the ability to be knowledgeable and informed about all that is happening around us. Because technology is evolving and progressing every day, it is extremely important in PR to always be researching the next best thing in order to stay on top of old and new techniques. In this fast paced business, you have to be prepared for anything (and innovation is definitely key).
Don W. Stacks, professor of public relations at the University of Miami and author of the book Primer of Public Relations Research writes, “Any serious public relations activity must begin with the research step” (2016, p.4). Research continually shows up as the first step in every PR process. It’s the foundation of everything we do. By researching ahead of time or by simply knowing how to research, we can be prepared to handle any situation thrown our way. (In the long run this will inevitably help reduce stress and make you feel more confident when making a decision.)
But how can one make the best decision without knowledge? It goes without saying that we can learn from our mistakes, and in PR the name of the game is to not repeat those same mistakes. Often, those mistakes can be avoided with a little research on current events, the client, and how other PR firms have handled similar situations. By applying knowledge about both successful and unsuccessful campaigns, we can improve upon the foundation that others have set before and update those commonly used techniques.
Research is also the basis for making informed decisions. From research you can gather an “unbiased” opinion in a very biased profession (Symes, n.d.). It’s the only way to gather information about what the public really thinks of your client. When devising a PR plan, with research as your foundation, you can make responsible decisions that benefit your client and company as a whole.
Another important part of research in the PR field is the feedback that comes after a campaign has been implemented. It takes a lot of work to gather information and devise the right plan, but it takes research after the fact to see what worked and what didn’t. This can ultimately lead to adjustments and help formulate new ideas (Symes, n.d.).
Research is the core of public relations. Stacks writes, “Without research the professional cannot assess where a public relations program begins, how it evolves, or what the end product will be. Quite simply, without research you cannot demonstrate the efficacy of your program” (2016, p.4). Research should essentially be woven from beginning to end throughout every PR campaign and program.
With technology so accessible these days, almost everyone has access to information at the touch of a button. It’s up to those in PR to use technology to their advantage to research efficiently and effectively. After all, a little research never hurt anyone.
Public Relations. (2017). In V. L. Burton, III (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Small Business (5th ed., Vol. 2). Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=SBRC&sw=w&u=lom_gvalleysu&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CPKNAAH184191622&asid=2af9daeb154d1e37b7ec96279673a642
Stacks, D. W. (2016). Primer of Public Relations Research. Guilford Publications. Available from https://books.google.com/books?id=yRWxDAAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false
Symes, S. (n.d.). How Is Research Important to Strategic Public Relations Plans? Small Business Chron. Retrieved from http://smallbusiness.chron.com/research-important-strategic-public-relations-plans-15586.html
image by Bethany Garcia