What role does research play in the advanced world of strategic PR?
Written by: Paul Stallard
Strategic PR is about so much more than just getting media coverage for your brand or organisation. A strategic approach to PR looks at all communications with all of your stakeholders – customers, prospects, shareholders, employees, suppliers, the local community and the wider public. For PR to be truly strategic you need to ensure that you understand who all of the stakeholders are, how they view your brand, what interests them and engages them and how to communicate with them. It isn’t about individual campaigns, or promoting particular products, or events. It is an ongoing approach, working hand in hand with other marketing functions that, if done right, can develop your brand’s reputation and increase your brand equity.
Market research can and should be used at every stage of the strategic PR process – from defining the strategy through prioritising the target audience and exploring their attitudes and behaviours, to evaluating the success of the strategy and adjusting the approach.
There are a wide variety of market research tools and techniques that you can use at each of these stages in the process. For example, you can use qualitative techniques such as focus groups or in-depth interviews to help you explore different groups of customers, to understand why they buy from you, what sort of communications they want from you and the topics and issues that interest them.
Focus groups can be conducted in person, which can be a very immediate way of learning about the audience, or they can be conducted remotely using online groups or research communities. Online qualitative research can be very cost-effective and enable you to research larger groups of stakeholders.
You can then take what you have learned from this exploratory research and use surveys to quantify which of these issues is of interest to the most people. Again, online methods can be fast and cost effective. Using a combination of qualitative and quantitative market research can be a powerful way of developing a strategic PR approach.