Let’s play a game. I promise it’ll be interesting, and I promise I won’t kidnap you SAW style either. It’s a simple guessing game, and the title may or may not have given it away, but let’s pretend like it hasn’t. It’s a vital facet of public relations, and it takes on the role of the unsung hero. It may take a lot of time, or it may take hardly any time at all. It should come first in the PR campaign process. Have you guessed it yet? Well ready or not, here comes the answer: research. Research is the first jumping point in PR. It lays a foundation on which you can build anything. Dipping our toes in, let’s delve further.
Research is arguably the most important part of PR. Without knowing what you’re talking about, how can your campaign wedge any credibility? With the graces of research on your side however, you can form a sound campaign. Sanchez (2013) writes that research “can help you target the appropriate audiences, find the right influencers and even determine the most cost effective budget” (p. 1). Research is such an integrated part of the PR field; it helps with almost every aspect. From audience selection to budgeting and funds distribution, research aids you with an informed opinion. Prior to pitching an idea for a project, utilizing research can increase your success rate as a professional.
Before a campaign is built, a mastery of intelligence on your client is essential. To know your client inside and out demonstrates a proficiency in your career as a PR consultant. Client mastery can only be acquired through thorough research. Waltzing into a meeting without your client’s message directly under your thumb is a laughable blunder. Knowing the key messages that your client wants to provide, and knowing the best way to provide said messages, is what makes research your closest friend (Johnson, 2013, p. 1). Describing the key messages with the support of a credible source or two makes your client or boss that much more likely to rely on your ideas. Having some beef behind why you think the way you describe them is best is what sets you apart from the rest.
Keeping credibility in mind, research also serves another purpose. Completing your background knowledge can help you save money. Before you go with your gut and make an uninformed decision, you should do your research to change uninformed to informed. When you don’t, after setting up all the campaign plans and working with your team, you may find a snag in your plans. Research drags you away from the snags. In a more specific zone, segmented research can help cost effectiveness as well (Kim, Ni, & Sha 2008, p.751). Separating your audiences, and knowing who belongs and who doesn’t, is possible all through research. Compiling a list of factors of persuasion for a specific public, or getting that extra fact about your target audience can save you both time and money.
It’s obviously inarguable that research is an essential primary function in PR. It should come first, for it prevents a waste of time and money. Credibility comes with knowledge. Research might be boring, but boring your colleagues with old news is even more dry. The unsung hero can be your biggest aide. If you don’t take advantage of it, the only thing scarier than SAW might be your superiors.