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.
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