When someone hears the words “public relations” they often think of social media, press conferences, and celebrities who just cannot seem to get their act together. But, before any of the big events, publications, or tweets can go into making an image of a brand or person, one very important thing needs to be done: research.
Research is often done in this line of work as a way to see how to handle a situation. When clients want help with re-branding themselves or improving themselves, they ask for answers. But what they forget to think about is why there are problems in the first place. The only way this can be found out is through research.
It’s not the most exciting part of the job, but its definitely one of the most important. “It’s important to know a client’s needs, target market, and available resources in order to draw up a good PR plan” (PR Friend, 2016).However it is definitely not always viewed as important even though it is known that research needs to be done, is will sometimes not be because of monetary reasons. Because it is something that professionals often have to convince their clients that they should do, it could be seen as an added task and not something that is needed to do the job right. But, when looked at specific examples it is easy to see why someone should research.
However, it is not as easy as a simple google search to find the information needed in PR research. Many studies have been done that try to pinpoint a systematic way to get the information needed in a public relations research project, and what questions need to be asked. (Watson 2008.) These studies are either somewhat inconclusive or have such broad results that its hard to see what the specific answers are. So, part of the reason that research in PR isn’t always done is because it does not seem to be the easiest thing to do. However, that does not mean that it isn’t beneficial. In fact events of the last two weeks prove how much it can help in situations.
Recently in the news there has been a water crisis in Flint, Michigan. This would have never been the national news headline it is without the public relations research that was done by Virginia Tech. “The team ended up making four sampling and public relations trips to Flint between early August and December of last year.” (Korth, 2016). Putting in the time to get the facts and put in the work to make other people aware of what was going on is why the water crisis is still in the news.
So why research in public relations? From looking into it more it is obvious research needs to be done but why? It’s not the easiest thing to do, and sticking to clever tweets is fun. But research is the factor that takes something from being done in an okay way, and doing something perfectly. And in modern PR perfection is the expectation, not the exception.
Korth, R (2016). Virginia Tech researchers fought for Flint in water crisis. The Roanoke Times. Retreived from http://www.roanoke.com/news/education/higher_education/virginia_tech/virginia-tech-researchers-fought-for-flint-in-water-crisis/article_56fb09da-9e6a-5e11-9085-b48893e2380d.html
PR Friend (2016) The importance of research in public relations. Retrieved from http://www.prfriend.com/research-in-public-relations/
Watson, T. (2008). Public relations research priorities: A delphi study. Journal of Communication Management, 12(2), 104-123. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/13632540810881938