Monday, October 22, 2012

Research...A Vital Step

How do you compete in a marathon if you haven’t trained, you don’t know where the starting line is and you don’t know what route the race will take?  My guess is that you won’t succeed in crossing the finish line.  This analogy can be applied to a PR campaign.  Your race training is like the research to prepare for your PR campaign.  The race route, aka your PR Plan, is the route you’ll take to the finish line or your goal.  The only way to be well prepared is to put in the leg work through research.  As time-management author Alan Lakein said, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

                                                                          Credit :  Nwardez

Research can be categorized as either primary or secondary.  “Examples of primary research include in-depth interviews, focus groups, surveys and polls.” 1   The advantage of primary research is that you can tailor it specifically to your needs.  The downside is that it is more costly and time consuming than secondary research.  Secondary research is data that has been gathered by someone else and reported through periodicals, journals, online, etc.  It’s relatively easy to acquire but you may not find exactly what you’re looking for leaving you to extrapolate based on similarities or opt to go the primary research route.  To be thorough, a combination of primary and secondary research would be ideal in most situations.

Research can further be classified as quantitative or qualitative. Quantitative facts are reliable because they are measurable and “allow for greater extrapolation to large populations.” 2  Qualitative research allows you to focus on more specific groups but it is less dependable because there is more room for interpretation than when you’re looking at hard numbers.

A thorough mix of research methods should leave you with a clearer picture of how to proceed.  You’ll either have affirmed that you’re targeting the right audience or you’ll tweak your target group based on your findings.  You should be left with a sharper image of which approach will be most successful with your stakeholders.  Research is the foundation without which a PR plan would be a course into the unknown.

1 & 2 Wilcox, Denis et al. (2013). THINK Public Relations. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.

Monday, October 15, 2012

PR: A Professional Perspective

Jonathan Hildebrand is the Regional Director of Communications, Media, Public and Government Relations for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority(WRHA).    As I work for the same organization, I was able to find his email address in our employee directory.  Via email, I explained the reason for my contacting him and he graciously agreed to a phone interview.  His sense of humor was evident from the get go when he inquired about the nature of the questions to be asked due to his lack of expertise in photosynthesis.
Credit:  WRHA FLS archives
Mr. Hildebrand graduated with a Master’s Degree in Business Administration  with a focus on Marketing.  Though he acknowledges that his education “provided the right foundation,” he maintains that “there is a phenomenal amount of learning that has to happen on the job.» He started out his career with the Province of Manitoba before moving on to the WRHA.  The last six years of his career have been in a leadership role.

A typical week day for Mr. Hildebrand starts out at 5:30AM checking email and news sites.  This goes on late into the night and on weekends.  “It’s busy.  It’s intense.  PR is addictive.”  He recognizes that once you gain an appetite for it, it’s tough to pull back.  “You have to be careful not to let it pull you in too much.”  He’s at a loss to identify a specific project he is proud of but rather finds that whenever an issue plays out in the public domain and the reports read out pretty much what you were trying to accomplish, it’s very fulfilling.

To keep current in the PR industry, Mr. Hildebrand reads books on the subject but mostly closely watches what private and public companies are doing in every medium of news.  “You learn by watching what’s done right and what’s done wrong.”  He’s not involved in any professional organizations.  What has surprised him the most about PR is how omnipresent it is.  “It covers and touches many parts of an organization.”  “Technology has compressed time and space.”  Technology, both the physical technology and social media, have been the greatest changes since Mr. Hildebrand entered the PR field.  The degree to which the complexity of issues has increased corresponds to the time and space to explain these complexities have decreased.  Whether something has happened in Canada, the USA or elsewhere in the world, they are expected to respond.  “Technology increases the time pressure to respond but also provides the avenue to respond to meet that time pressure.”

Mr. Hildebrand sees writing as very important in his career.  “Not only do you have to be able to articulate but you must have an ability to respond in fresh, new ways.”  He advises people starting out to always be creative, to commit to being a continual learner, to always watch what’s going on around you and to be prepared to work hard.

Though he doesn’t hide the fact that his job is all-consuming, Mr. Hildebrand’s enthusiasm for what he does is very apparent.  As someone contemplating this field, I have to consider whether a career in PR would be compatible with a healthy family life.  How much is being all-in a requirement for success versus a by-product of the “addictive” nature of this field?   No doubt there are differing answers to this depending on the line of work and other variables.  Is it enough to scare me off?  It’ll take more than that to scare me off.  I live with two teenagers; now that’s scary!
Credit:  Maurizio Abbate,