To make public relations effective, research is the first step. There are four steps to this process (Research, Planning, Communication, and Measurement), however Chapter five covers research, its function, and the importance of said function.
Research in the public relations realm is all about gathering information that is reliable and rightfully accessible. Public Relations affiliates gather research for a wide spread of different projects. Because the nature of the projects are so different, research is therein used in a multitude of different ways. For example, research is used to: gain credibility with management, define what audience the organization is marketing for, come up with a strategy, test messages, help the organization stay in touch with their audiences, crisis management, competition monitoring, influence the public opinion, generate publicity, or to measure success.
In order to assess what type of research needs to be done for certain projects, people in PR positions have a list of questions that they ask, which include: what the problem is, what kind of information is needed based on that problem, how will the research be used, what specifically should be researched (is that public of private?), should the organization hire within the organization or outside the organization to do research, how will the data be reported, how soon does the organization need the data, and finally how much it will cost.
There are three different types of research that the chapter lists: secondary, qualitative, and quantitative. Secondary research is the analysis of data that is otherwise collected by a party that is not the organization. For example, this can range anywhere from an archive of files to data from news articles to online searches to books. Qualitative research defines the analysis of behavior tendencies in an audience. This includes the perceptions of their audience. Usually, these are conducted in surveys to their audiences, and are useful for assessing how effective an organizations messages are. Quantitative research relies on hard evidence to define an organization’s success. This means that they use numbers to explore the success of sales. For example, analyzing who bought what can define a demographic.
Chapter six describes program planning, and cleverly puts “before you start any serious action in public relations, you must have a plan.” Which also ironically is the motto for any college student aspiring to graduate and get a job, however they generally do not actually create a plan.
The chapter describes a couple approaches to planning, which include an analysis of research. These analyses include: client/employer objectives, audience/publics, audience objectives, media channels, media channel objectives, communication strategies, essence of the message, and nonverbal support. Essentially, an analysis of the entire satiation is needed before going into a plan.
The book also provides a model for strategic planning. This model breaks down the planning process into four categories: facts, goals, audience, and key message. Facts define what trends are happening, what significant characteristics of the product stand out, and who the competitors are. Goals describe the managerial objectives, the role of public relations, and the sources of new business. Audience defines the organization’s target audience, their current, and desired mindset. The key message is the main point of the plan.
The chapter then describes the basic elements to a successful plan: situation, objectives, audience, strategy, tactics, calendar/timetable, budget, and evaluation.