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.