Month: September 2014

Purposes of Research

The importance of research, not only in public relations but in nearly any other aspect of life, is key because it all breaks down to three simple words: numbers never lie. Facts. Truths. Raw data. When one implements the support of statistics or fact-based details, the upper hand more often than not sways in his or her favor. Public relations are a process that often uses the acronym RACE (Research, Action, Communication, Evaluation). In order to complete said process, the first step of research must be completed and must be completed correctly. Faulty research can lead to lawsuits, labeling, and embarrassment of the face of a company or individual. Campaigns, relationships, and much more can be strengthened through the proven facts and raw data research can provide.

 

An article I came across, written by Assistant Professor Brigitta R. Brunner of Auburn University, recounts Don W. Stacks Primer of Public Relations Research (2002). Brunner (2003) summarizes many key parts of Stacks’ piece,  saying “Stacks emphasizes that without a research plan, practitioners cannot accurately monitor, track, measure, or evaluate their public relations programs.” Stacks is quoted in the article, writing “think of research (and data) as a part of continuous feedback/feedforward function: research planning and accurate data lead to valid assessments and analyses of public opinion, program effectiveness, and in the end may help to predict behavioral outcomes.” Another strong piece to remember that Brunner brings up in Stacks’ work is the importance of ethics in research; that researchers need to keep in mind what type of information they are organizing and releasing and the reactions and consequences that come with doing so. I strongly agree with the statement Stacks gives about the feedback/feedforward function. Organizing and planning accurate research in a proper way can validate exactly what clients and organizations are looking for, while at the same time giving the media something to chew on as well. Yet ethics must be paid attention to because there are always one too many people trying to find a way of crossing those ethical borders, or point the finger of saying the public relations practitioner stepped over the line when discussing controversial topics (race, gender, religion, etc.).

 

Another imperative point was produced by an article written in the Houston Chronicle by Steven Symes. Symes brings up that research provides unbiased information, or information that is not swayed to one side or the other. Unbiased information is more desired because then neither the client/organization nor the media can point and say “you’re only saying this because you’re opinionated that way!” It actually provides clear back up without taking one side of an argument/point of view or another. Symes brings up another good point in his article, stating “If the leaders and public relations workers in a company were to rely solely on their own biased opinions of how the public views the organization, they would risk not really knowing if the organization’s public image needs to be improved.” I wholeheartedly agree with this. It is as if using one’s own biased opinion puts on a blindfold to what’s really going on.

 

Finally, Rose Ross of Omarketing says it short, sweet, and to the point. Ross (2010) poses the question “why use research?” and answers it with the simple response, “because research achieves amazing results in the press and gives substantial value beyond pure coverage.” Ross also points out what research can do for both campaigns and relationships with clients and media. “Clever campaign construction ensures it can yield high-quality leads” and with valid research comes said campaign construction. As far as relationships, Ross wraps it up with a well structured position: “most importantly, solid research findings make two crucial statements about your organisation. First, you listen to your customers, actual and potential. Second, you are a demonstrable thought-leader who can provide your own expert take on the results.” Showing your current and possible future clients that you flat out know what you’re doing and have the data behind you provides strength and support that is necessary in the PR world.

 

Research is the base in which the practitioner creates the stance of the organization/client. Without the facts, the numbers, the support to back you up, you have nothing to go off of but either biased information, or nothing at all. One must always remember, though, that the research must be legitimate, ethical, correct findings. Sources are quite often not reliable, and one small slip up can cause a world’s worth of looking down upon due to wrong research.

 

References:

 

Brunner, B. R. (2003). The importance of research to public relations. Review of Communication, 3(4), 419-423. Retrieved September 19, 2014, from the GVSU Library database.

Ross, R. (2010, January 4). Fresh Business Thinking, Information, advice, ideas, inspiration from practitioners. Fresh Business Thinking, Information, advice, ideas, inspiration from practitioners. Retrieved September 19, 2014, from http://www.freshbusinessthinking.com/articles_print.php?CID=19&AID=5215

Symes, S. (n.d.). How Is Research Important to Strategic Public Relations Plans?. Small Business. Retrieved September 19, 2014, from http://smallbusiness.chron.com/research-important-strategic-public-relations-plans-15586.html

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Pre-PR Thoughts

To be completely honest, my pre-PR thoughts were/are that public relations were solely based on handling media and the method of communication between businesses and clients. Being a communication studies major with an emphasis in advertising and public relations, coming into college my thoughts were that that would be exactly what I would be doing; preparing big companies or franchises to address questions or comments or concerns, conveying the meaning behind the message the employer wants to give off to its clients, among other things. Am I positive that that is what public relations consist of? Not exactly. However, that’s what classes are for, right? 

After scanning through some of what the GVSU Library has to offer, I came across an article I believe not only speaks what I personally believed (but with just a little more flare to it) but what I have seen through countless hours of watching SportsCenter, since the sports media industry handles some of the more interesting attention in my opinion. Former executive vice president of public relations for communications giant AT&T, Dick Martin, writes that in the eyes of many CEO’s, public relations are all a matter of “message management”, whether it be covering controversy or portraying the brighter side of the company (Martin, 2013, p. 70). Martin goes on to cover New York Times reporter David Carr’s point of view that public relations, in the eyes of a CEO, are to do “whatever it takes to make reading the morning paper an indigestion-free exercise.” In all essence, if the company or client is under fire or looking like pig slop, it’s the job of a PR person to either do everything in his or her power to clean that up, or be responsible for why the company is in such mess in the eyes of the media. Unless, per chance, I completely misinterpreted this article.

 

However, on a possibly lighter hand, the PRSA, or Public Relations Society of America, released what they decided was a formal definition for public relations. The definition reads as follows: “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics” (Staff, 2012). This I could also agree with, as the face of most Fortune 500 companies and others are mostly well represented. The key word being ‘beneficial’, a good PR specialist can and will create not only level ground between business and the public, but find and create opportunities for both of which to advance as well.

 

One thing I came across that I did not particularly think about was the difference between an advertising agency and a public relations agency, or the simple difference between advertising and PR. An article on Forbes states that “PR agencies, as opposed to advertising agencies, promote companies or individuals via editorial coverage” (Wynne, 2013). Maybe something that just had not crossed my mind was that advertising companies use “paid media” or advertisements, where as PR agencies promote theirs through what Wynne defines as “free media”, such as “stories appearing on websites, newspapers, magazines and TV programs.” The final part that I believe Wynne says well is that “articles or TV appearances in respected publications have the advantage of third-party validation and are generally viewed more favorably.” When an individual or organization is, for lack of a better phrase, thrown into a famous magazine or newspaper, the public seems to be more attracted and supportive if the story or article is positive, and vice versa.

 

Public relations consist of a much broader spectrum than I had anticipated. I can’t say I was definitively wrong with my pre-PR thoughts, but I also agree that I underestimated the grand views, both positive and negative, that surround public relations. After a bit more research, I am much more comfortable with my knowledge about PR.

 

References:

Martin, D. (Spring 2013). What’s Public Relations Really About?, 70-71. Retrieved from http://web.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.gvsu.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=b5aa505d-f6dd-4795-97b8-1f84b6fdf59d%40sessionmgr111&vid=1&hid=127

Staff, PRSA (April 11, 2012). Public Relations Defined: A Modern Definition for the New Era of Public Relations. Retrieved from http://prdefinition.prsa.org/index.php/2012/04/11/the-modern-definition-of-public-relations/

Wynne, R. (April 10, 2013). What Does A Public Relations Agency Do?. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertwynne/2013/04/10/what-does-a-public-relations-agency-do/