When people think “Public Relations,” that thought may not often be followed by “Research,” but research is actually a large part of public relations. When you think about it, it makes sense. PR is about shaping perceptions, and research can help you learn more about the impact of your organization.
Research at all points of a campaign is valuable. There are so many benefits including defining audiences, preventing crises, remaining up to date, and measuring your success. There are also countless resources available to us for secondary research (research using existing information and data), such as the internet, news releases, and all forms of media we can get our hands on, but we do have the option of conducting our own research.
Before you compose a campaign for your organization, you have to develop a baseline. This gives you an idea of how your client is perceived before the campaign is put into action. Here’s an example: you’re organization is a dairy distributor and your target audience is families. To develop your baseline, you may look into your current customers and see how and why they consume your products. Additionally, you may look at those who don’t choose your products or who buy less often and figure out what impacts their behavior. Following the launch, you need to monitor your publics and the impact on their beliefs about your organization during the campaign. This helps you adjust your plans and make your company palatable. With the dairy example, you may analyze families’ responses to your content and update anything that seems like a flop. Following the campaign, you must evaluate how successful your it was, so that you know how to best enact change in the future. If you’re selling dairy products, the easiest way to do this would be seeing how much product was sold to families; you could also analyze consumers responsiveness and engagement to determine how successful your campaign was.
A PR professional is expected to know the ins and outs of his or her organization. You must be knowledgeable of your client, any current or future problems, and your client’s audiences and how to target them. All of that knowledge is bettered by research, so if you can’t find what you need from a secondary source, don’t be afraid to conduct your own investigation and develop your own data.
This can be done in a number of different ways. Some are less involved, like ethnographic observation. Ethnography is a type of research where the observer situates himself or herself into a naturally functioning environment and takes note of the patterns that occur. To continue with the earlier example, if you were representing a dairy company targeting families, you may go to a grocery store where your ideal consumer would shop and observe the type of dairy products they purchase and how they interact with them. This type of research can be easily and informally conducted by a PR Professional who just wants to learn a bit more about his or her organization’s publics. It is also ideal because your subjects are unaware they are being observed, so they behave more organically.
Another option is to conduct interviews to form a better campaign. The tactic of interviewing provides many options for a PR professional. You have the option of structured, semi-structured, unstructured, or group interviews. The varying ways you can interview allows for more flexibility in formality, so you can still take the initiative to learn more about your public even if it is not specifically required. This can result in rich data where you can get the exact opinions people have about your organization. You can also conduct interviews at any or each point in a campaign, so this strategy can be used to find your baseline, midpoint, and final evaluative data.
There are more than a few ways to conduct research and it can be so beneficial for your campaigns. Plus, it doesn’t have to be hard to do because there is flexibility as a PR professional. Take the time to learn more about your organization; whether that be by going out and interviewing people on the street or sitting in your cafeteria and observing how people interact within the company. Happy researching!
Joan Schneider, founder of Schneider Associates, recently spoke at Harvard about the impact that Launch PR can have on a product and its consumers. Launch PR specifically focuses on helping establish products, services, organizations, companies, technologies, and communities over a period of time. Research is key to developing a strong product launch targeted towards the brands consumers, and an analysis of the campaign is essential to determine success and impact.
Schneider was also joined by Aaron Reid, Ph.D., Chief Behavioral Scientist at Sentient Decision Science, Inc., and Don Martelli, VP and Director of Digital Integration at Schneider Associates, who discussed what drives consumers to try, and to buy, products.
- Reid analyzed the subconscious and emotional drivers of behavior, claiming that emotional connections, targeted campaigns, and prediction of behavioral actions are key factors in consumer buying habits.
- Martelli addressed the impact that social media has on a product launch. He claimed that with behavioral science, the issue was understanding what consumers do not express; but with social media, it is utilizing the information that consumers do share. Martelli points to urgency of a launch, engagement with the audience, and the presence of up-to-date media and information
The combination of behavioral analytics and social media allows for a winning campaign for new launches. The understanding of both aspects of new product launches can make or break a new product.
There are few things public relations companies value more than experience. In a field so heavily based on hands-on practice, and previous job and internship experiences, you might find yourself struggling to land that first position without prior industry involvement. This vicious cycle can be broken, though, much more simply than you think.
As a college student, you’re likely exposed to various unconventional public relations opportunities that you might not even be aware of. In addition to joining nationally renowned PR-specific clubs – such as PRSSA – become involved with on-campus clubs pertaining to extracurricular activities that interest you – if they have a public relations team, even better! They don’t have a PR team? Start one by creating something as simple as a Twitter or Facebook account for the club, where you can post meeting times and upcoming activities, or other relevant content. Engage with and gain followers with interactive posts.
Perhaps you have a hobby that doesn’t have a club; take advantage of that. Start a WordPress or Tumblr, and post content consistently. Link it to your other social media, and have your friends share your insight. Creating a unique blog does not necessarily secure you a job, but it could distinguish you from a competitor. Additionally, having a respectable online presence would be beneficial.
Another way to become involved is reaching out to companies to see if they have campus brand ambassadors. Oftentimes, larger companies will have tools and materials they use for promotional purposes. Simply passing these things out on campus and representing the brand can prove helpful; the company gains a presence on campus while you gain PR experience.
You can stray from campus to get involved, as well. Interested in entertainment or music PR? Various companies, media conglomerates, and record labels offer street team opportunities where you can promote artists, album releases, and concerts in the area. This type of involvement is much more hands-on than other traditional practices, as you’ll be consistently interacting with consumers. Hanging posters, passing out fliers, attending shows with promo materials, and other “missions” are common with street team work. Similar to being a brand ambassador, this involvement is mutually beneficial as well.
These are just a few simple, unique ways to gain experience that will set you apart from other applicants, and hopefully help you break into the field with that first internship.
If you aren’t a fan of oddly cut pomeranians, then I might encourage you to skip this post. However, if you find them cute, adorable and perfect in every way, you’ve stumbled onto the right page. I’m talking about Boo, the self-proclaimed “World’s Cutest Dog”.
My obsession with Boo began a little earlier this year and has been growing with each mobile upload by his owner, who he warmly refers to as “human”. Boo has his own public figure account on Facebook which is where I found him. His about me says it all: “My name is Boo. I am a dog. Life is good.” However, Boo can fool you. He’s quite the busy puppy making appearances left and right, releasing books and modeling products. After a more in-depth analysis I’ve found that Boo can teach us a lot about personal branding and how to keep that momentum rolling. I’ve found that Boo stays true to his unique personality, expands into various industries and networks like crazy. Maybe you can’t teach an old dog a new trick, but this young puppy has a lot to teach about personal branding.
In regards to his unique personality, Boo is not the perfect puppy. He is lazy, vain and somewhat superficial not to mention his crazy haircut! Boo prefers nothing more than to sleep, cuddle and occasionally play, but mostly sleep. He loves to be the center of attention even if he tries to deny it. On Wednesdays he celebrates “Naked Wednesdays” which are days when he shaves his entire body except for his head. Even if he does resemble a fluffy basketball, Boo owns it. Boo teaches us all how important it is to embrace what makes you quirky, memorable and unique. His characteristics are not necessarily positive or admirable, but at the same time he’s hard to forget. It’s easier to for other people to become more interested or involved in your efforts if they feel like they know the real you, not just some robot in the social media world. So take Boo’s lead! Embrace all your characteristics, good and bad. It’s what makes you, you.
When Boo hit it big on Facebook, he knew it was time to venture into other areas so his fans could adore him in new ways. Published on August 3, 2011, “Boo: The Life of the World’s Cutest Dog” became the world’s cutest book. Even puppy with a love for sleeping can tell you it is no easy task to enter other industries. After his successful book release, Boo partnered with GUND to create an 8″ stuffed animal identical twin.
Throughout this entire process, Boo has also managed to network his tail off. Everyone from George Stephanopoulos (as seen on Good Morning America!) to Doctor Dre seems to want a piece of Boo and he’s been working hard to maintain those good relationships. He’s also entered the retail market with American Apparel and Tory Burch. American Apparel has created “Dog Hoodies” which are basically sweatshirts for puppies (best idea ever) and Boo is their number 1 model. When Boo isn’t modeling for American Apparel, he’s modeling for the ultimate fashionista, Tory Burch and he also models for Beats by Dre. No wonder this little puppy’s favorite activity is sleeping!
Who knew that a cute pomeranian with a weird haircut could create such a buzz? Although Boo likes to pretend that all he does is sleep and pose for pictures a lot of hardwork goes into maintaining his image and personal brand. Boo can teach us all that in order to develop a successful personal brand you have to be true to yourself, explore other areas to enter and network your tail off. Of course, being cute doesn’t hurt either.
On Thursday, October 3, 2013, Boston University and the Council of PR Firms hosted a career event entitled “Take Flight With PR.” The event consisted of three keynote speakers and five panelists, all of whom are true thought leaders in the field of public relations. Here is some great advice that they had to share with students:
“This is the best time ever to be in the public relations business,” said Jens Bang, Chairman at Cone Communications. He said that clients are looking for solutions and PR is proving itself to be that solution. Public relations has the power to affect brand identity and build a reputation of authenticity for a company. Bangs’ advice for people whose public relations careers are just beginning is to take responsibility for their professional development. He also urges pre professionals to continue to improve as professionals, even after getting out into the field, by staying current with their sector. He left students with these words of encouragement: “I think it’s your time to shine.”
The second speaker, Gail Moaney, Managing Director and Partner at Finn Partners spoke about the many specialization options in public relations. Professionals can specialize by sector, by discipline or choose not to specialize at all. Moaney’s advice for students who are thinking of specializing is to take their time, explore their options, and specialize in something they love.
The third person to speak was Edward Boches, an Advertising Professor at Boston University’s College of Communication. Boches warned against thinking of the field as advertising versus public relations versus digital media. He said the three can work together and accomplish great things when we let them. According to Professor Boches, the three most important things to bring with you into the field are courage, creativity and collaboration.
Below are some great quotes of advice from the panelists:
- Joe Baerlein, President of Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communication told students, “You’ve got to figure out the first break because nobody is going to figure it out for you.”
- Phil Nardone, CEO and Founder of PAN Communications words of advice were to “Be honest. Be passionate. Be proud.”
- Laura Tomasetti, CEO and Founder of 360 Public Relations, advised students to “be comfortable being different.”
- George Snell, Senior Vice President of Weber Shandwick, encouraged students to “Always be curious. Always ask questions.”
- Ken Peters, Senior Vice President of Text 100, assured students, “There is not a more exciting career to be in.”