Research plays an extremely important role in Public Relations. Without research accomplishing even the most basic tasks in the Public Relations field would be very difficult. If public relations professionals used only their intuition to decide what the best course of action was for their clients, as a client I would be pretty scared, and I would have every right to be. Depending on only the knowledge of a single person or even a single firm to make decisions that impact the image of my business or company or even just the way I represent myself to the public would be terribly daunting. What if their intuition or their best guess is wrong? The consequences could be disastrous!
That is where research comes into play. There are two main types that practitioners in the public relations field use. The first is secondary research. Instead of trying to solve a Public relations problem or really any problem with only your brain power, secondary research is used to call upon the brain power of anyone else who has contributed to solving the same problem before you. As long as their data and their findings are legitimate you can use their efforts to solving the problem to further yours.
In the case that there isn’t anyone who has tried to solve your specific problem before, or their data is outdated or not addressing the issue you are trying to solve in the same way you are trying to solve it, you can always create your own research. This type of research is called primary research. Though using primary research can be much more costly than trying to piggyback off of others already existing knowledge on the subject, sometimes if you really want to achieve your goal and solve your problem in the best way possible it must be done.
Though research is used in most job fields, in the public relations field, research is very heavily used. Research can be used in public relations to find out answers to the many questions that fuel a campaign. Who the target audience of a company is? How does a companies’ target audience best respond to a certain tactic or strategy in PR? What are competitors of a company doing? What media channels should be used to dictate the message of a companies campaign through PR strategies? These are some of the many questions that can all be answered with research.
Research can also be used to learn from others who made mistakes or who have achieved success in the same areas. If a PR practitioner is uncertain about a particular course of action for their client, they can use research to find similar companies that have faced the same or a similar problem, that decided to take a course of action. Then, based on the data and analyzing either the successfulness of failure of the way another company handled the problem, the PR person can decide the best way to tackle the problem at hand. Though every aspect of a previous company’s campaign may not work for a new similar client, due to factors such as target audience, time frame and when the first campaign was, it’s nice to see some options that you can show to your client. With research you can explain to your client strategies that worked or failed in the past and give them examples to back up why you think your idea is the best course of action for their situation. Research can help establish a clients trust. Both primary and secondary research can be tangible evidence for a client to see why a PR firm wants to approach their companies’ problem in the way they have decided.
Jugenheimer, D. W. (2014). Advertising and public relations research (Second ed.). Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe.
Watson, Tom; Noble, Paul (2014). Evaluating Public Relations : A Guide to Planning, Research and Measurement. Retrieved from http://www.eblib.com