Imagine: a school where the focus on importance of research was not defined, a student did not understand the necessity of research and was unsure of how to conduct it. Got it? That school was my high school; I was that student. Upon entering Grand Valley State University, I did not know the effects of research on any topic, I assumed research was left to the science and the pre-medical majors and my major, public relations and advertising did not involve research. However, within my three semesters at Grand Valley I have learned how necessary research is, especially in the field of public relations. The ability to research is a crucial topic that simplifies the problem solving process of public relations.
The first and most important thing about research that I learned is that, college classes require it; for any subject, concentration, or assignment, it is good to have a strong overall understanding of topics that are going to be covered. Without research it is hard to develop an argument for a discussion based class, or understand the difference between scholarly references and Wikipedia. In THINK: Public Relations, the authors introduce six essential abilities that individuals who seek careers in public relations should have. The second ability is “Research Ability” and the description states, “A person must have the persistence and ability to gather information from a variety of sources as well as be able to conduct original research…” (Wilcox, Cameron, Reber & Shin, 2013). This essential ability re-installs the idea that many careers require research abilities in order to be successful. This is most likely a main factor as to why Grand Valley requires courses such as CAP 115: Research Basics for Advertising and Public Relations for degrees in advertising and public relations. Research can be a hassle, but it significantly helps simplify the process of problem solving in a public relations issue, therefore leading to a successful public relations career or campaign.
In public relations there are a variety of issues that can arise through the process, these issues all stem back to research. There is no surprise that quality research leads to a job-well-done. Research allows individuals to obtain introductory information which is the starting point to a good process. When creating a Public Relations campaign, it’s important to know if a campaign similar to yours has been done before, if it has, research is important to see if that campaign failed or succeeded. This preliminary research can help determine whether it will be beneficial to continue on or if it is a better idea to seek out a different campaign.
Moving on with a project requires more extensive research to discover what the campaign wants to achieve. A target audience is a topic that plays a huge role in public relations. For example, an environmental public relations campaign may not do so well in an area that does not consider environmental issues valuable, it may fail due to the fact that not enough research was done about the geographical location and the demographics. Without knowing how to research, an individual looking to launch a campaign may be unsure of local culture, education, values, etc. which causes difficulties. However, considering the opposite view, a campaign that has done major research on their target audience will find the most successful results. The BullDog Reporter published an article written by the CEO of the public relations agency, Strategic Vision LLC., about the importance of target audience in a public relations field.
David Johnson, CEO, concludes the article with,
“The bottom line is this: effective communications are those that work. To drive sales, change behavior or diffuse a crisis, messages must first reach their target. When we remember to take ourselves out of the equation — and see things from the perspective of our audience — we stand a greater chance of success” (Johnson, 2012).
There are many online databases, government documents, and annual reports that are released and can be accessed in order to help identify the target audience for a desired area. Researching target audience is not just an issue for launching campaigns, this is an issue for many career fields, which is why it is important that research, both primary and secondary, are taught in schools.
Ending a campaign does not mean research is done, in-fact, evaluation is arguably the most important part of public relations research. Evaluation research is vital to determine the return on investment for public relations. It is important to see if similar campaigns had more success by competitive research. Research using Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can help determine if a campaign has raised awareness for the cause or product. English Communications released a report specifically covering the topic ‘public relations research.’ In this report, Laurel English, the author, discusses how CEO’s want to know the overall effect of a public relations campaign, she says, “Public relations research is a fundamental part of… measuring the impact of those programs on the organization…Without research, practitioners cannot show how public relations makes a difference” (English, 2005). This research is vital to determining a program’s success.
Research is used to help identify problems, expand knowledge, and evaluate; it is important that research becomes a part of education at a young age so that it can be used during the future career. Although I have yet to take it, Grand Valley provides classes like CAP 115 because it teaches basics and most likely will allow students to grasp a better understanding of researching before moving on to more difficult courses. Without quality research, the industry of public relations would, without a doubt, fail.
English, L. (2005). Public Relations Research in the Real World of Business (1st ed., p. 3). Morristown, New Jersey: English Communications. Retrieved from http://english-communications.com/downloads/WP_Research_chapter.pdf
Johnson, D. (2012). Your Target Audience Is Always Right: The Best PR Campaigns Always Rise Above Your Personal Preferences — And Your Clients’ | Bulldog Reporter. Bulldogreporter.com. Retrieved from https://www.bulldogreporter.com/your-target-audience-always-right-best-pr-campaigns-always-rise-above-your-personal/
Wilcox, D., Cameron, G., Reber, B., & shin, J. (2013). THINK: Public Relations (2nd ed., p. 28). New Jersey: Pearson Education.