Sunday, October 21, 2012

Lesson of the day: Research, research, and then research some more.

Launching a PR campaign generates quite the excitement among the client and the public relations practitioner. As the client is focused on the end result, there is a lot of pressure put on the PR practitioner to obtain those results quickly and efficiently. In the essence of time, it may be easier to go straight to the to-do list rather than delve into the nitty-gritty sides of things, in other words, research.

Research is an essential part of any public relations campaign. I would dare to say, the most important element of the campaign. It enables you to uncover important details about your publics and the world they live in.

As Donald Treadwell simply states,” to be a successful PR firm, it’s crucially important to understand the economic, political, legal, regulatory, public opinion, social, cultural, technological, marketing, and financial components of the organization you’re working for.”

Sounds simple enough, right? How does one do this? What techniques can we use to gather detailed information about our publics and their environment?

Firstly, you could start with secondary research before conducting your own primary research. This would mean using existing information to your advantage such as reading books, newspaper articles, surfing social media sites and blogs, etc. It is a good way to assess what you’re working with.

Evidently, if you are a #plugged in PR professional, this type of research should be easy. It should be a simple matter of finding and collecting concrete facts.

Once you’ve got a better of idea of what’s out there, you may still have a few questions which can be uncovered through primary research.

Credit: CRNinc.
A focus group could be used to pretest your key messages, slogans and themes. You could uncover buzz words that resonated with them, and ditch those that didn’t.  Your questions will enable you to compile rich and qualitative data based on these individuals' attitudes and motivations. This information can help you define your strategy.

One aspect of research that cannot be overlooked is comparing your organization to its competition.

It is important to understand what the competition is doing and what consumers think of them. Why? You’re most likely both targeting the same consumers. These findings will in turn help you shape your strategy to « counter their strengths and capitalize on their weaknesses »1

At this point, you should be convinced that research is the first step when you want to create  a successful public relations campaign. 

When designing a strategic plan, you will need to determine the answers to some key questions about facts, goals, and audiences. If your research was properly executed, you will already have those answers and you can begin to craft your strategy. Not only should your strategy reflect your findings, but they should also be aligned with your organization’s business, marketing and communication objectives.

Understanding your audience can make the difference between a top notch campaign and a botched PR campaign.

Take the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. It was a bold attempt to challenge our society’s views on beauty. Dove, with the help of its PR agency, Edelman, redefined the way women should feel about their bodies.

No other beauty company had tried this before.

Credit:  Dove

It wasn’t by accident that Dove came to the conclusion that the way beauty companies were marketing to women was all wrong.

As explained by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), Dove conducted a survey and found that « 75 percent of respondents strongly agree that they wish "the media did a better job of portraying women of diverse physical attractiveness — age, shape and size." »

Without this information, Dove would not have been able to identify a clear strategy.  They wanted to generate their sales, create dialogue and debate about the definition of beauty and implement Dove self-esteem programs and they did!

It should come as no surprise that the PRSA presented them with the 2006 Silver Anvil Best of Award to fortheir Campaign for Real Beauty.

Lesson of the day: Research, research, and then research some more.


1 Wilcox, Denis et al. (2013). THINK Public Relations. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.

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